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.