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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Selectboard Meeting Notes - Panhandling, and A Big Ol' Meeting To Catch Up

The Brattleboro Selectboard returned from summer break to a full agenda and long meeting. A continued discussion of panhandling provided updates on efforts now underway as well as a new suggestion for a sign explaining “the rules.”

The panhandling discussion led some to a discussion of drug use on Flat street, which the Chief of Police says is on the rise and spreading to adjacent areas.

Other matters included grants, proposed parking and speed limit changes, bigger acts possibly coming to the Latchis, new bus routes and schedules, and much more.


Chair Kate O’Connor gave her time to the Town Manager for his long list of announcements.

Town Manager Peter Elwell’s long list consisted of five items. The first was mention of the sudden and severe storm on Tuesday, noting the damage to the northern areas of town.

Next was an announcement that the data gathering and outreach in the quest to better understand diversity in Brattleboro is wrapping up, and a final report should be ready for review by the middle of this month.

Planning meetings open to the public for the new Hinsdale Bridge were item number three. Vermont and New Hampshire are working together and will have some preliminary designs to review next Wednesday in Hinsdale and Thursday in Brattleboro (in the Selectboard meeting room, starting at 6:30 pm.)

Item four was mention of improvements being discussed for the train station. More details will be forthcoming.

Finally, “the wall.” It’s the area adjacent to the Preston parking Lot, near the Co-op and Experienced Goods. Activity there, Elwell said, is increasing and spilling out into adjacent public spaces. He asked Police Chief Fitzgerald for more information.

Chief Fitzgerald said that in the last 90 days, there have been 139 total calls, 46 arrests, 17 trespass affidavits and 8 overdoses. “We won’t arrest our way out of this,” he told the board. He also said the police were limited because much of the activity is on private property. “Adjacent property owners have given us permission to make arrests.”

Moving on to the Hinsdale Bridge project, O’Connor wanted the public to know that the bridge design is a real collaboration, and encouraged people to come and express their opinions. “You do have an impact.”

For board comments and committee reports, John Allen noted the passing of Peter Diamondstone. “He brought a lot to Brattleboro. A great character to have and he’ll be sorely missed.”

Tim Wessel agreed. “A sincere, great guy.” Wessel also noted two examples of “Brattleboro coming together  to take care of the most vulnerable” - the opening of the Welcoming Place at the Retreat and Groundworks moving to Winstion Prouty for the winter months. Welcoming Place provides temporary childcare for people being treated for addiction.

David Schoales said that many braved the elements to attend the Tiny House festival, but lamented that there weren’t many posters or much visible support for it around town.

Public Participation

Hannah Neff said that she and others discussing parenting in a social media group had concerns about the safety of children at NEYT and the Boys & Girls Club due to the nearby drug use. She said she hoped it would be an agenda item in the future, and said parent perspectives were different than business points of view.

Robert Stack, board president for Brooks Memorial Library, invited everyone to the 50th anniversary of the current library building, to be held on Saturday, September 23. He also thanked the DPW for helping them find a leak near the Mystery section. Mystery solved.

Starr Latronica said that the five year strategic plan is available, if anyone wants to read it.

Liquor Commissioners

Acting as Liquor Commissioners, the Brattleboro Selectboard approved a First Class liquor license for the Latchis Pub, a new establishment located where Flat Street Pub used to reside. They have a bit more work to do before opening, and the license is contingent on passing fire inspection when ready.

David Ingerman was excited about new uses for the space. He said wanted to encourage music and arts. Local bands could use the downstairs for weekend music events, and he hoped the upstairs Latchis stage could be used for large venue bands. He said he and others in the music business thought it could work.

Water & Sewer

The board approved of a bid to repair the 16 inch water main at the Western Avenue Exit 2 I-91 overpass. Haluch Water Contracting of Ludlow, MA will get $320,210.10 to do the repair.

Steve Barrett said $460,000 was budgeted and the total for engineering and repairs will come in less than $375,000. The $86,000 or so in savings will revert to the fund balance in the Utility Fund.

Tim Wessel asked if traffic would be disrupted. Barrett said there would be times when 91 would be reduced to single lanes in either direction. Not much disruption, other than possible ramp backups, are expected on Western Avenue.

A $20,000 grant for Drinking Water Asset Management was accepted by the board. This project will help Brattleboro better understand the drinking water system and position the town to plan for repairs and renovations in coming years. Inventories, Life Cycle Cost Analysis, and Risk Assessment are just a few of the reports expected to be delivered. The funds come from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

John Allen wished there was state funding to do this kind of work for all town departments.

Police-Fire Facilities

Town Manager Elwell gave the Brattleboro Selectboard their regular update on progress with the police and fire facilities projects.

Overall, he reported, everything remains on schedule. 

The Police are moving in to the new facilities gradually, and should be fully operational there by September 17. They are throwing away some old things into a dumpster at the Municipal Center, and moving others. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, September 15 at 3 pm, with an open house from 3 until 7 pm.

At Central Fire Station, construction work interfered with firefighter safety, so a deal was struck with Brattleboro Housing Partnerships for a 4-bedroom apartment at Moore Court. Firefighters will eat and sleep at Moore Court until late September. “An unintended consequence of flexibility,” was the way Elwell described it.

The Spring and Elliot street intersection has been modified to allow for a larger turning radius.

He asked for and was given permission to proceed with expansion of the the Plymovent vehicle exhaust system at Central Fire. The cost is $33,000.

The selectboard also approved of plans to demolish the old fire station in West Brattleboro and convert the land to a parking lot at a cost of $55,000.

About $200,000 should remain from the bond when all work is completed.

The final bit of facility-related business was a request for changes to parking on Elliot and Church Street. We’ll get to that in a moment...

Panhandling Discussion Continues

The Brattleboro Selectboard took the proverbial pulse of four panhandling-prevention initiatives approved earlier in the summer. Town manager Elwell gave a stutus update on each.

Elwell first described research into trying a jobs program to provide day labor to those panhandling who would prefer to work. Research into similar programs in Albuquerque, NM, and Portland, ME showed that it can be successful, but in each, the town contracts with an outside entity to provide placement (and handle the paperwork and risk). More research into both programs will occur, and ideas for possible financing will be explored.

The board’s second idea, to provide drop boxes in parking areas for people to make donations to help those homeless or panhandling, nudged forward with a decision to investigate having a new, box installed in lots, similar to the parking ticket payment boxes. Ideas about directing the raised funds will be decided later.

A roaming outreach task force consisting of a police officer and experts in mental health, recovery, and medical issues was next. Chief Fitzgerald volunteered to explain progress with the group.  They have assembled and begun exploring similar programs in other locations. This led to working with the Police Assisted Recovery Initiative (PARI) and looking at their models for outreach. The Chief said he plans to join the organization. He said they were finding their way and plugging away.

The final selectboard action to report on was a survey, and Michelle Simpson-Siegel of the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance was able to report that a survey was in development. More importantly, she said, her task force of downtown organizations had developed a small poster of “rules” that they hoped would be displayed in lots and near ATMs.

The poster, she said, explains that panhandling becomes illegal when it is near parking stations, ATMs, or when someone enters or exits a car. Otherwise, the poster states, asking for money is protected by the 1st amendement. Numbers for service organizations, such as 911 and 211, were included, as were the logos of the poster’s sponsors.

Tim Wessel questioned whether panhandling was automatically disorderly conduct and illegal by virtue of location only. The police chief said technically it “could” be disorderly conduct, or not, but that it depends a lot on perception. “You “can” call the police in certain circumstances,” he explained. “If someone is concerned for their safety, then it is disorderly conduct.”

Simpson-Siegel said she passed five guys doing bong hits while on the way to Hazel for a burger before the meeting, then on return saw a man with a sign saying that she was lucky he wasn’t robbing her. “It’s a small step to educate people,” she said, referring to posting the sign in a parking lot. She hoped the board wouldn’t waste time “wordsmithing” the poster.

Wessel said that whatever was done, it would need to be both legal and compassionate. “Language is important to me.” he said signs were not required for everything that is illegal. “We need to respect rights,” he said, ”and look at gray areas.”

O’Connor said that the owners and businesses could do different things. “We don’t want to hold them back.”

Stephanie Bonin from Duo restaurant said merchants hoped the Town would state the obvious to help deter things. “It is okay to say it is illegal to do something.”

Brandie Starr said it might provide some comfort if the sign was worded in the right way, indicating that as community, we are looking and noticing, and working on it. “Language is everything,” she said, “ and in a Town place it needs to be done right.”

John Allen disagreed, saying that Brattleboro has avoided and sugarcoated the issue for far too long. “We’ve tried to appease everybody.” He said he looked out for the well-being of the majority of the people in town. ‘I’m sick of pushing this under the table.” 

“I know we have a Constitution,” continued Allen. “We have so many agencies in this town. You don’t need to panhandle in this town. You just don’t.” He said sane people feared for their life at the Co-op, and people aren't coming to town any longer.

O’Connor disagreed. “We’re not shoving this under the table.”

David Schoales said people needed to become engaged, and more money might need to be allocated to policing. He said the board needed to take concrete steps, and that the problem “is poverty and a lack of hope.”

“There’s more to it,” said Allen.

A few members of the public pushed for more to be done, citing anecdotal evidence of tourists swearing they’d never return, or our own enabling of panhandling by being compassionate to panhandlers. One suggested using the donation boxes specifically to fund the jobs program vans, so people could stop giving out money that are used for drugs. Another suggested investigating the hiring of a relocation counselor.

Starr said she was less concerned about claims of tourists as she was about residents of town.

One person said she was new to town, found it all nerve-wracking, and wants to help panhandlers but didn’t know what to do. “I want to help them get better but don’t know how,” she said.

Simpson-Siegel pushed for the sign, but the board wanted to fix some of the wording. They agreed to work together on a new draft, and find a way to help them post the sign.

O’Connor wanted to let it be known that many tourists dropping in the Chamber of Commerce come from all over the world and love Brattleboro. “Not everyone is seeing a bad side,” she said. “Keep it in mind, too.”

Wessel said he was most excited by the task force idea, and said it showed another community commitment, and not sweeping the issue under the rug. “Just because we want to address it and talk about it,” he said, didn't mean it was unique to Brattleboro. “It happens everywhere in the U.S. If you’re not seeing it, you aren’t looking.”

Monthly Finance Report with John O’Connor

The Brattleboro Selectboard heard the monthly finance report for the month of July from Finance Director John O’Connor. With just one month of the fiscal year to review (8.3% of the year), the report is a snapshot of the fiscal starting gate.

The General Fund stands at 11.2% of the annual budget, but this includes some semi-annual insurance payments and such, and would be closer to 7.6% if those were removed. But they aren’t, so it is 11.2%.

The Utilities Fund is at 10% and Parking Fund at 9.2%.

Brattleboro has loaned out just over $4 million and has just under $450,000 available for additional grants and loans.

There are 34 active grants and 13 more being prepared.

David Schoales suggested using some of the grants and loans funding for small business seed grants.

Chair O’Connor asked Director O’Connor about the year end finance report. O’Connor told O’Connor that it would be out tomorrow, and looked better than expected. Both O’Connors seemed pleased with that news.

Ordinance Amendments - Parking on Elliot and Church & Speed Limit on Vernon

The board held first readings of two proposed ordinance changes. The first is the above-mentioned changes to parking on Elliot and Church Streets to help accomodate the traffic flow of the renovated and expanded Central Fire Station.

Four spaces are being relocated and three added on Elliot Street to accomodate the fire vehicles necessary turning radius, and three metered spaces will be added to Church to help make up for it. Some additional work at the corner of Church and Elliot will result in new sidewalks and curbs.

Wessel suggested adding a crosswalk from the sidewalks on Church to the other side of Elliot.  John Allen suggested it and the other corner repairs could come from the $200,000 expected to be left in the Police Fire project. This idea seemed promising and will be further investigated.

The second is a proposal to increase the speed limit on Vernon Street, from 25 to 35, an idea previously approved by both the Traffic Safety Committee and the Selectboard.

Chamberlin Farm First Refusal and Tax Waiver

Phoebe Chamberlin, owner of Chamberlin Farm at 22 Kelly Road, asked the Town to release (or exercise) the right of first refusal on her property, at a price of $250,000. This right comes from the farm having a Farm Tax Stabilization agreement with the Town, said Elwell. The board voted to release the property, not buy it.

It’s a single family dwelling with barns and outbuildings on over 51 acres and is being sold to a couple from Providence, R.I. Part of the property is an animal cemetery which is protected against development. The farm has been operated by the Chamberlin family since 1883, and 76 year old Phoebe is the last Chamberlin to make a living there. She raised, boarded, trained and raced standardbred horses for the harness racetrack.

She also requested a waiver or reduction of the rollback tax recapture payment. The rollback tax is also part of the Farm Tax Stabilization agreement. It’s a clause that says if the farm is sold within 15 years of the agreement being signed, the owner owes a portion of the taxes on the full value of the property. 

The clause says the Town can waive the rollback payments if there is a serious illness, disability, death, natural disaster or other hardship, and Chamberlin’s lawyer has attested to declining health.

The amount of rollback taxes in question here is $14,858.28.

Layers and realtors also reduced their fees to help. And the board voted to fully waive the tax payments.

Connecticut River Transit Update

Randy Schoonmaker of CRT, operators of The Current bus in Brattleboro, gave the board an update on a project to review and revise routes and schedules. Public views are being gathered, he said, and a preliminary report on improving ridership should be available in October and in effect before the year is out.

He said ridership has been declining in recent years.

Kate O’Connor noted that the east side of Main Street has no bus stop, and Schoonmaker said it was a problem, especially for riders using wheelchairs.

He’ll return in October to discuss what has been learned about ridership.

Downtown Brattleboro Alliance Update

Michelle Simpson Siegel and Stephanie Bonin gave the board a short, semi-annual update on the downtown organization.

They’ve increased social media reach, sent emails, planted flowers, displayed holiday lights, helped with facade improvements, held events and meetings, got some special media attention and more.

They are raising money to help increase what they can afford for staffing.

Tim Wessel asked about their participation in the Parks & Plaza program (to raise money and build a park behind the Brooks House). Siegel said the owners had another idea - to buy the adjacent building and fold the funding into its financing, and the project is currently on hold.

WEX Fuel Services Contract

The Brattleboro Selectboard authorized Town Manager Elwell to add an addendum to the fuel card services agreement between WEX Bank and the State of Vermont. This will allow Town vehicles to get fuel at commercial stations at a discounted price, and if all goes well, allow the DPW to decommission the Town’s gas and diesel fuel tanks and pumps at Fairground Road - a long term operational savings.

Staff get PIN numbers and vehicles get cards to pay for fuel.

Brattleboro will get an annual rebate check depending on volume purchased. The fuel will cost about the same as it does now.

VCDP Grants

The selectboard accepted a grant of $420,000 for the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust “Brattleboro Permanent Supportive Housing Project.”  This is the project to convert the Lamplighter Hotel property into a site of transitional housing and services. 22 units are planned, with 11 of them specifically for homeless people. Full occupancy is expected by August 2018.

Money comes from the Vermont Community Development Program.  The board approved Elwell to sign related documents in support of the project.

The board also held a Public Hearing to close out the Portfolio Enhancement 3 Project which renovated five multi-family properties (29 rental units) in Brattleboro, on Canal, Cross, Green and Clark streets.


The Selectboard had a pile of grants and grant applications to approve, and approve they did.

Brooks Memorial Library’s First Wednesday speaker series received $650 from the Vermont Department of Libraries.

Applications for a $15,000 Radiological Emergency Response Plan grant from Vermont Department of Public Safety (mobile radios and communications equipment), a $17,264 Justice Assistance Grant (policing, IT and forensics), a $15,000 Community Wellness grant for the skatepark from the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and a $5,000 Rural Fire Protection program grant(a dry hydrant at 87 Goodenough Road,) were all approved.

A dry hydrant is one that connects to a lake or pond rather than a town water system.

The skatepark, by the way, has just under $100,000 in grants, donations, and pledges to date, plus $20,000 from Representative Town Meeting in 2015.

A first - all were approved as a block. Elwell read them as such, and Allen made the bulk motion.

VLCT Delegate for Annual Business Meeting

The Vermont League of Cities & Towns has an annual Town Fair. It’s their annual business meeting and training workshops, not rides and games. The selectboard appointed Town Manager Peter Elwell to attend as voting delegate. 

Schoales encouraged him to advocate for Act 46 assessment.

Committee Appointments and Vacancies

The board made a few committee appointments. They are as follows:

Marsha Bard to the Town Arts Committee, Donna Rathbun to the Brattleboro Housing Partnerships Board of Commissioners, Conor Floyd to the Recreation & Parks Board, and Denise Glover and Erin Weaver to the Tree Advisory Committee.

There are also more vacancies awaiting members of the public to apply. A full listing will be published soon.


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People "fear for their life"

People "fear for their life" going to the co-op? Really? What people? Maybe it's just the prices that frighten them. This is one of those totally exaggerated and inflammatory statements that some people affiliated with the past and present Selectboard like to make. And,is panhandling illegal in Brattleboro? If it is, when was that law passed and what does it say? I'm not sure you can put up signs saying something is illegal on town property if there isn't an actual law against it. And, I'm hoping the that the woman who is so anxious to get these signs up doesn't actually believe that a sign is going to deter a person from asking for money if they're desperate.As seen in every instance where the problem of panhandling is discussed at a SB meeting the focus is on getting rid of the problem -not addressing the cause of the problem.
Jon Allen seems perturbed that people are still panhandling when there is "no reason" for it because Brattleboro has so many services available. Brattleboro has a decent amount of services, yes, and they are all stretched thin with helping people. Often times there is a waiting list just to get an appointment at a social service agency- let alone actually get help. Despite Mr. Allen's previous statements that there is "too much affordable housing" in Brattleboro there is actually very little affordable housing here and even less if you are low income. And again, the waiting lists for housing can be 2 - 3 years. I would think he would know these things since he lives here and is a member of the Selectboard. Aside from overworked service agencies other issues come into play with people that are homeless or home insecure; mental health issues often prevent people from seeking help so do we persecute those people who suffer from a horrible disease because a couple of tourists from Virginia decided they didn't want to see someone struggling in their life?
If you take a look at our downtown area it is heavily suited to appeal to and appease tourists. Over priced "gift" shops; restaurants with $18.00 burgers; stores that sell baby bibs that cost $20.00. None of that benefits the people who actually live here. With the exception of Sam's and Brown and Robert's it is nearly impossible to purchase an item that you need for everyday life on Main Street. This town spends way too much time catering to tourists and not nearly enough taking care of it's residents.
And, just to clarify: five guys smoking a bong ( FIVE guys!?) does not mean they are panhandling. It means that they are five guys getting high. Let's keep our lines of various offenses clear- people standing around doesn't necessarily mean they are out to harass, intimidate,cajole or threaten you out of your money or make you "fear for your life." It just means they're hanging out- offensive to some sensitive eyes, perhaps but not always a danger.
And, that idea about hiring a 'relocation counselor"? What a fine idea- take our problem and just move it to another town and let them deal with it. What do we care as long as those pesky poor people are out of sight.


Suppose an otherwise sane

Suppose an otherwise sane person "fears for their life" when motorcyclists in black leather jackets disembark at the co-op? Or suppose they are fearful at finding themselves in the presence of people with a different skin hue than theirs? Or if an older person is simply scared out of their wits when a group of young people walk by?

We already have laws against anti-social behaviors: Do we also want to criminalize certain people because some people fear them? Or is fear of "the other" a personal problem in the mind of the beholder?

I never understood why John Allen, who regularly makes the most inane statements, is so electable. Apparently a large segment of Brattleboro's population feels that he does a great job representing their views. Allen clearly lacks empathy and he has a shallow analysis of public policy matters. He is an excellent builder though, proving that being an expert in one area does not mean that you will be a good addition to the governing body of our town. 

In the 1950s and 1960s the Episcopal Church ran the Joint Urban Program, which was meant as an outreach to communities which have not shared in the wealth and privilege of the traditional Episcopal constituency. One of the in Urban Program's initiatives was meant to open up priests to increased understanding and empathy. The idea was a recognition that the mental wall dividing "sinners" from those who consider themselves to be Godly could not be dissolved through theology alone: These priests -- many from upper class backgrounds -- could only gain understanding through experience. 

The candidate priest would be taken to a big city with which they were unfamiliar, and let out on the street with no food and no money, wearing old clothes. The rules were that they must not contact anyone they knew, but must survive for three days completely on their own. Whatever might happen during that three days, and whatever the incognito priest might resort to in order to survive would, in effect, be intensive education which could never be duplicated by taking notes in a classroom.

Oh, how I wish we could enroll the John Allens of this world into the three-day on-the-street educational program!


I agree/ that would be a

I agree/ that would be a valuable and humbling experience for all those that fear and revile " the different" among us.
I also wonder - as I have since moving here a decade ago/ how several members of the Selectboard continued to be elected.
I fear it does speak to a disturbing set of beliefs in this town.
This is the same person, after all, that believes that even though there is not a single gle person of color employed by the town government there is still a lot of diversity within the work force.
Not much you can say about that kind of twisted reasoning.


The Hungry Heart

I highly recommend seeing the documentary "The Hungry Heart" ( once previewed at Latchis and sponsored by the Brattleboro Retreat) interviewing and tracking the stories of actual individuals from all walks/struggles of real life situations afflicted and caught up in the wide spread Opioid Addiction Epidemic they find themselves another casualty of when forever seeking a deeper insatiable relief/high by checking out in a drug induced and altered state to nowhere.
This chosen path quickly transforms into the heart wrenching devastation left in these addicts "tracks" they and loved ones will suffer the impact of for some time coming if not forever. Worst case scenarios are ones that often end up causing lethal consequences to the taker when lacking proper extensive (not turnstile) professional treatment and intervention programs now in severe shortage or unavailable when they need it most. This represents one of our most urgent social crisis continuing on the rise right here in Vermont.

Anyone who thinks the image of homeless and destitute people resorting to the desperate actions we see as full-time panhandlers, often times the result of the affliction of self destructive drug use practices, can be simply categorized and stigmatized by banishment, or thrown on a work truck to clear the streets as if the 1930's, is sadly mistaken. Many are incapable of working even one day shift in their condition and it may endanger others if they did.
Those who can only see this growing portion of the population as just annoying and intrusive, pathetic degenerates, juvenile delinquents, derelict bums, forlorn fugitives from reality, disorderly numkins, human trash, or seething beggars obstructing are pathways, will be guaranteed a new found perspective after watching this (FrontLine-like quality) documentary.These individuals are most times unable to work with any kind of stability and need help not unrealistic short term goals to appease the higher ups.
With some of the attitudes or misconceptions coming from the select board on this issue, I wonder if they are truly aware of where the need and root of the problem lies and what direction it will take to actually address the heart of the problem here in town and elsewhere. No disposable band aids here.


I have seen this film and it

I have seen this film and it is heart wrenching. I know from my own extended family how drug addiction can rip away any semblance of a functioning human being and leave a desperate, wanting shell behind.
I did want to point out that some of the folks panhandling in town are not addicts.
They are often out of work and/or homeless: sometimes they have a family they are trying to raise money for.
The common denominator among them is that they are in need and living in a desperate situation - whatever their particular situation might be.


It's like one of those young

It's like one of those young people profiled in the documentary had said, " Everyone has at least one person they know who is afflicted" and with the drug overdoses and related suicides prevalent among our youth, even here in Brattleboro, I'm sure this is truer for this certain younger age bracket.
I agree there are many facets of the homeless face and condition including those who have physical limitations and can not hold a steady job and support themselves without some form of assistance, however are not drug addicted or dependent. Many of these people have given up to a degree trying to break out and overcome the state of hopelessness associated with their dire situation sometimes suffering complete abandonment. People with a certain superiority conflict/complex because of their esteemed positions in the community should take a deeper look and thoroughly evaluate the issue before they pass final judgement, hear their stories and treat these people like the human beings they are, that's a start.


Little bird tells me

... that Mr. Allen doesn't plan on running again after this term.


If this is true that's good

If this is true that's good news for the community, in my opinion.
Hopefully we'll have some younger more forward thinking candidates run for the board.


Brooks Memorial Library's correct party date is Sept. 23rd

Thanks for including the announcement of the library's birthday party in the ever-helpful Selectboard Meeting Notes. The correct date for the event is Saturday, Sept. 23rd, with events happening all day, 10:00-6:00. It's a celebration of 50 years in the current library building. See you there!


Questions, and a suggestion

One question that wasn't asked or answered regards the property where the drug activity is centered. In the meeting they called it "the wall" but it's properly known as the back of the Dunklee Machine Shop.

The Chief said that "adjacent property owners" had given permission to make arrests, implying that they did not have permission to go onto the Dunklee property.

So, question 1 - Do the police have permission to go to the Dunklee property?

Question 2 - If not, why not?


It would seem that Brattleboro should consider opening a safe, clean location for addicts to shoot up. This would help reduce overdoses, help keep them off the streets, and perhaps change the dynamic of what's going on currently.


Panhandling Legalese


The First Amendment interest in protecting the public’s right to freedom of speech

https://www.acluvt.org/en/news/panhandling-ordinances-across-vt-likely-i... An ACLU-VT review of panhandling ordinances on the books in several Vermont municipalities shows that local laws contain provisions that are similar to panhandling laws in three other states recently thrown out by three different federal courts. In September, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Portland, Maine, ordinance that banned performing any activity on city street medians other than crossing over them. Despite alleged safety concerns, the ordinance was widely known to be targeted at panhandlers. After an ACLU of Maine First Amendment challenge, the court agreed that Portland “chose too sweeping a means” of trying to promote public safety “given the First Amendment interest in protecting the public’s right to freedom of speech.”

In October, two federal district courts ruled against municipalities with so-called “aggressive panhandling” ordinances. A district court judge in Massachusetts overturned anti-panhandling ordinances in the city of Lowell because they unnecessarily proscribed the public’s freedom of speech.

While the judge recognized that some panhandling bans could be justified on public safety grounds in certain areas such as near banks or ATMs, he cited recent Supreme Court precedent to make clear that panhandling bans are unconstitutional because “panhandling is an expressive act regardless of what words, if any, a panhandler speaks.”


No begging

My comment above this wasn't about panhandling, but here's what Brattleboro says:

"Sec. 13-2. Begging prohibited.
No person shall beg in or upon a street or other public place within the town. A person who violates this section shall be removed immediately by an officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, or state police."

Perhaps this will be revisited.


No person shall beg in or upon a street

I see that now. Thanks.

However, that's very interesting. Begging might be considered a form of freedom of expression also, if asking for money (panhandling) is protected as indicated by the ACLU article.

Enforcement is stated clearly, but it doesn't say what kind of removal.


Hmmm...so what if someone

Hmmm...so what if someone were standing by the entrance to a bank or store that was property owned by that establishment. That would not be a "public place" so would contradict the desired wording on the posters that are being considered that says no panhandling near ATMs or banks, etc. Or would it? This is becoming quite interesting and might turn into a bigger issue of what is a freedom of speech issue and what is a person's right to stand in or on a poublic spot exercising that freedom.
Anyway, I'm sure once those posters are up the entire problem will become
nonexistent... :-)


Good Questions Cgrotke

I wondered the same things as I was reading the article. Obviously they're not going to open a designated space to shoot up, but transforming the approach towards addiction into a public health issue, rather then relying on mass arrests and costly incarceration, is the right thing to do. Our officers seem to get it too, as they acknowledged it's "not a problem we can arrest our way out of." Addiction is a disease, and more people are seeing it as such. I'd much rather see addicts offered treatment before and jail as a first intervention step. Helping people get off drugs instead of immediately throwing them in jail for years gives them a much better chance of actually being rehabilitated, and saves society the massive cost of locking them in a cell where they are likely to get worse.



Glad to hear the Latchis may be exploring "large venue" bands. Brattleboro used to attract them (Flat Street), and we remain in a good location for bands touring the NYC- Boston- Burlington- Albany vicinity.

No reason for Northampton to be the exclusive music center...


I have seen the roaches,

I have seen the Roaches, Suzanne Vega, and almost Richie Havens before he up and died before concert, so the Latchis has served very well in the past for these big name events.


Another chime in

Hi! Just want to quickly say that there was no talk of a "relocation counselor" rather a "vocation counselor" was recommended to the Board by Pete Knickerson.



Sure sounded like "relocation" to my ear. I didn't think he was serious about it.... we'll need to check the tape or ask him.


He said he used to do it for

He said he used to do it for a living (vocation counseling that is) and thought it would be a useful addition to Gunny's task force. I thought it sounded like a good idea; I would never nod along for a relocation counselor I promise! LOL

I am not sure that he stayed at the mic when speaking, and maybe I will bring that up as an example Tuesday, as to why speakers should stay at the mic. Pete gets really nervous though, and it was a packed room.



Thanks for that important correction!


The comments made by anyone

The comments made by anyone during a SB meeting really need to be heard and recorded accurately.
There is a huge difference between a vocation counselor and relocation counselor- not only in definition but in intent.
If it's at all possible to have people speaking stay at the he mic for their entire comment and to clarify what they said if it wasn't heard clearly then that should become a requirement of the public speaking portion.
I also think it's pretty telling that no one questioned the idea that someone in town would suggest hiring a relocation counselor.


My fault.

"no one questioned the idea that someone in town would suggest hiring a relocation counselor."

Cuz I misheard it. Sorry about that.


No, I think nobody questioned

No, I think nobody questioned it or it didn't raise any alarms in people's minds because to many people a relocation counselor would be a good answer to having to walk by or- God forbid- look at the folks who panhandle. Think about it- quick, quiet, tidy. You have somebody divvy the homeless and the addicts up; decide where they should go( hire a few buses; give them a bagged lunch and a bottle of water and..poof!!
A neat, pretty, uncluttered town all ready for those tourists.
And nobody has to fear for their lives any longer when they go to buy almond butter at the co op.
It could work!


Compassionate Approach

I have mixed feelings about panhandling in Brattleboro, but I'm impressed by the thoughtfulness, empathy and sensibility that went into Elwell's proposal for dealing with it. Their research into day labor opportunity programs initiated in other communities addresses one of the roots of the issue, widespread poverty and lack of jobs. The town also had a task force to work with the police on addressing "mental health, recovery, and medical issues," three primary obstacles many face in the path towards gainful employment. Adding a vocational counselor (as commentators have noted) helps provide a more comprehensive approach, and gives me hope that our town's plan may really pay off in the long run.

I also love the idea of putting up signs that clearly define the pandhandling rules. It can be a grey area, so clarifying what's acceptable and what's not should be helpful at reducing instances of aggressive panhandling that are most concerning. A good compromise between protecting the 1st amendment and helping people feel safe.

Our country is obviously extremely divided right now, and reading this piece highlights what I like most about Brattleboro- a majority of leaders and residents demonstrating empathy and respect for diversity, handling typical town problems with a forward thinking, intellectual and grounded approach. I don't see it as a liberal/conservative issue, but more as a matter of respect, compassion, and general human decency. Yeah, we have our issues, but Bratteboro's still a special place.

On a completely different note, who is this Michelle Simpson-Siege and her need to point out she saw some people smoking weed? It's decriminalized, relatively harmless, and many people in Brattleboro have medical cards. I'm not even sure what point she was trying to make, it's 2017, we don't live in Alabama (no offense to Alabama but they did elect Jeff Sessions, I think it's safe to say it sucks)... is seeing some people smoking herb one time really tearing the fabric of society enough to warrant mentioning at a town meeting with actual issues being discussed?


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