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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Selectboard Meeting Notes - The Great Bridge Walk and Liquor Stings

As elections wrapped up in the Municipal Center, the Brattleboro Selectboard (minus John Allen) met at Brooks Memorial Library. They carried on regular business at a long table, with Selectboard at one end and Town staff at the other.

The board had much to say about the recent walk across the I-91 bridge. They also granted three liquor licenses, learned about a new financial report to aid them through facility construction, and set in motion a plan to change the speed limit along a portion of Rt. 142.


The recent walk on the I-91 bridge was the main topic of preliminary discussion. Chair David Gartenstein said it was “the best” that so many people came out to walk the bridge. He said close to 900 people braved the high winds and cold weather for an experience they’ll never forget. 

He said he saw both young and old, and some who recalled riding bikes across the original bridge before it was opened.

Town Manager Peter Elwell shared Gartenstein’s impressions. “The only downside was the weather, but everyone had such a good time that it didn’t matter.” He spoke of the collaboration among town staff, bus company, high school, police, and construction officials required to pull it off, on very short notice. He thanked Patrick Moreland, Chief Fitzgerald, town staff, and those who suggested the idea. 

For selectboard comments and committee reports, Dick DeGray said that panhandling is on the rise downtown. He also thanked retiring-Chair David Gartenstein for his “hard work and commitment to the Town of Brattleboro,” and his years of volunteer service. 

He mentioned that they sometimes disagreed, but that “things get better with differing points of view.” 

“You will be missed on this board,” said DeGray.

“The bridge thing was really cool,” said Kate O’Connor.

The public failed to take advantage of their public participation, and no non-agenda items were raised.

Liquor Commissioners - Discussion of Liquor Practices

Two local establishments with multiple violations of serving to minors in the previous year were summoned to explain themselves before the Brattleboro Selectboard, acting as Liquor Commissioners.

Ramunto’s at 1111 Putney Road and Vermont Country Deli at 436 Western Ave came to address their violations. Both explained how they had fallen for “stings” and that all proper corrective actions, re-certifications, re-trainings, and policy updates had taken place.

Vermont Country Deli’s owners had some interesting explanations of what happened to them. In one case, a microbrew resembled an ice tea and was sold by mistake (they now have a system to flag all ID-required products). In another case, the cashier was dyslexic and misread the date (they now have two cashiers confirm.)

The board found their visits and reports credible and granted them their license renewals.

Liquor Commissioners - Avenue Grocery

Avenue Grocery, at 82 Western Avenue, has new owners, Katharine Bachler and Scott Berzofsky. The store also has a renewed Second Class liquor license approved by the board.

The couple says they plan to preserve the store as a both a retail establishment and community space where neighbors meet to share conversation. It will stay about the same, with perhaps more local products.

Dick DeGray used the license request as a chance to raise an entirely different issue - sandwich board signs. “I have a concern with the taco signs,” he began. He said it was a violation of the sign ordinance and it “always offended” him when he drives by. 

DeGray said that he just wanted them to know, and that he would be stopping buy as a customer for creamies. “I have an addiction,” he admitted, revealing that he drives around and buys them from different locations to hide his consumption.

Police and Fire Facilities Updates

Town Manager Elwell gave his usual update on the progress at the three facilities projects.

West Brattleboro fire station will be in operation by March 20 if all goes as planned. The demolition of the old station will occur after Central Fire Station is renovated, so that the older station may be used for storage during construction.

Central fire station’s steel frame is still going up, soon to be followed by masonry walls.

The Reformer has moved in at the Black Mountain Road police station, and interior demolition is underway in the police station space.

A new project finance report is now being created for the selectboard. It shows off a combination of numbers - an overall total, project subtotals, money allocated but not spent, unencumbered funds, contingency funds remaining, and high priority contingency items being considered. The numbers will change each month, Elwell explained, as contracts are signed and bills paid.

He said that as projects such as West Brattleboro station are completed, any balance leftover will be available to spend on other project expenses or counted as savings.

Gartenstein said a similar project finance sheet was available when the Waste Water Treatment Plant was built, and it was useful.

Route 142 Speed Limit

Rt 142 may see an increase in the speed limit, from 25 to 35 mph between Royal Road and the edge of town.

Town Manager Elwell said that a request by Dick DeGray led to reconsideration of the speed limit along a portion of Rt. 142. He said that near town, the speed limit would remain 25, but from Royal Road southward the speed limit could safely be raised to 35.

Elwell added that it’s just about what traffic studies show people drive anyway along that stretch, there are few pedestrians, and it helps provide a transition to and from the higher speed limits of the state road as it enters town.

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved in concept, and Town staff will work on a revised ordinance to make the change legal at some point in the future.

Brattleboro Community Justice Center Memo of Understanding

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved of a memo of understanding with the Brattleboro Community Justice Center, and authorized the Town Manager to sign the agreement. This provides for continued community justice services with the organization.

Elwell called BCJC’s services “valuable” to the town and said they had worked for a year with BCJC staff to craft an efficient, brief, and clear agreement. Brattleboro’s role is to support the service with in-kind office space and financial services.

Homeland Security Equipment Special Operations Grant

The board gave the Fire Department permission to apply for a grant in the amount of $28,085 from the Vermont Division of Emergency Management to pay for a battery-powered extrication tool, often referred to as “jaws of life.”

If granted, the money will be spent to replace a current, outdated model, said Elwell.

BASIC Committee Changes

The skatepark committee, BASIC, asked the board to remove a member (Joe Bushey) from the committee due to his relocation out of the Brattleboro area. They reluctantly complied.

“Joe Bushey has relocated so we need a motion to remove him...” said David Gartenstein.

“That sounds mean,” said O’Connor.

“We could make him move back,” suggested David Schoales.

“It’s sad not to see him around on the street,” said Gartenstein. “He was a major contributor to the town.”

 In addition to the vacant seat on the committee, other committee vacancies were announced, and the deadline for application to become Brattleboro’s volunteer energy coordinator has been extended.

Tour of Library Renovations

Library Director Starr LaTronica, we assume, provided the Brattleboro Selectboard with an off-camera tour of the recently-renovated Brooks Library.


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Perhaps Mr. DeGray would be

Perhaps Mr. DeGray would be less offended if he tried one of these exceptional tacos the next time he's driving by. Perhaps he could trade one of his creemie stops for a taco stop? This is a great little business run by a fine , hard working man and it should just be left alone. Those signs aren't a hazard to anyone and this is the first person I've heard complain about them. How will people know that great tacos are ahead without a sign?


Let's be fair here

Ordinances exist for a reason, and the sandwich board issue is one that has a long history in this town, and was enacted due to complaints from many residents and businesses.
If the signs are not following the ordinance, it's an easy process to bring them into compliance to make it fair for all businesses and safe for all pedestrians. It seems to me that Mr. DeGray is doing his job here.
By the way, I'm a huge fan of Tito and his delicious tacos. Here's a campaign to help him afford a taco cart, for anyone who is interested!


I can understand not having

I can understand not having Main Street, for instance, covered in large, unwieldly sandwich board type signs because that would impeded walking and and could be a safety issue. But, a small sign on a street that has little foot traffic doesn't seem like it should be a big deal. Have you ever tripped over Tito's sign when you stopped for a taco? Has it distracted you so much that you swerved off the road?
I'm guessing the answers are no and no. Amy's Bakery has a sandwich board sign out in front of her business and has for years and I don't know of any problems with it. There are so many other things wrong in this town that need the attention of the SelectBoard - maybe focus on the more pressing problems is a thought.


Meet for lunch?

It gets applied a bit unevenly. Recall Alici being harassed about his sign, while about 15 or 20 others were up around town without issue. (We took photos at the time).

Grafton Cheese has put out enormous signs from time to time... and no one seems to mind.

Of course, there's no such thing as bad publicity, and now more people than ever know that there are tacos and burritos at Avenue Grocery. Perhaps there's a way to add some signage to the storefront (if it were my store I'd work on the outside and signs a bit to try to stand out better.

One other option, perhaps, would be to get some magnetic signs and put them on parked staff vehicles.

I know Ave Grocery has tried for years to get a crosswalk near them... with that cars would slow and customers could cross more safely. Maybe a deal is in order.

Anyhow, I've been told they are excellent and not too expensive, so perhaps the best way to respond is to just go buy one, sign or no sign. : )


Avenue Grocery has new owners

Avenue Grocery has new owners so maybe they will revamp the signage of their building and let Tito put something up. I know he is currently trying to raise finds for a truck which would solve the sign dilemma. They are very tasty burritos and tacos and definitely worth the stop or walk. I think the store probably benefits from him selling there because I've seen many people go in to grab a coffee or water when they get their taco. In terms of the offending sign- I think this is not an easy town to run a single ownership business in. Rents are high; food traffic is necessary and , of course, getting the word out. If someone is trying to open and operate a very small business that provides a great product /service; is not doing anything offensive or endangering anyone and is adding something to the town ( in this case delicious tacos) why not try to make it a little easier for them to stick around rather than nit picking them about small issues that- in the grand scheme of things- really don't matter. I do feel that things like signage and tables outside, etc. are looked on more favorably if you are an 'insider" in this town and , if you happen to know some of the "right" people. Otherwise there'd be a lots of signs coming down.


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