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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Selectboard Meeting Notes - Roundabouts and Compassion

Slightly revised and streamlined plans for Putney Road improvements were presented to the Brattleboro Selectboard at Tuesday’s meeting. Bike paths, sidewalks, and traffic circles are all part of the proposed plans, but work won’t start for years and faces many a challenge.

Brattleboro proclaimed adoption of principles set forth for Compassionate Cities. We will all try to be a bit better.

We also have a new Energy Coordinator, the board applied for grants for the skatepark, paving and wall contracts were approved, the pumper rescue is ordered and will be here in a year, goals and operations were discussed, and marching bands galore are expected next week on Main Street.


Chair Kate O’Connor began by mentioning two “happy things” for the town, the ribbon cutting at the West Brattleboro Fire Station and the open house at the Library.

Town Manager Peter Elwell said that he was pleased to announce that the Vermont All Star Music Festival was coming to Brattleboro next week, and will include an evening parade May 10 at 6:45. The parade will feature multiple all star state bands, and there will be other musical events as well.

He also congratulated everyone involved with putting out the fire on Main Street last week.

David Schoales had the only selectboard comments, mentioning that the farmers’ market would be opening this weekend and would feature the annual May Pole.

For public participation, Dale Joy continued her series  with a discussion of landlords that vacate people for bad reasons or no reasons at all. She read a letter she had sent to her landlord, asking if her complaints about health issues and neighbors had led to her eviction. She hoped the board would regulate landlords.

Putney Road Reconstruction Project

VTrans and Green International gave a special presentation to the Brattleboro Selectboard regarding proposed changes to Putney Road (Route 5).

As some may recall, in 2006 or so plans were presented that showed a series of roundabouts replacing the traffic lights on Putney Road as part of a renovated Route 5. Since then, plans have been refined and progress has been made, and the designers came to ask the board for their approval to proceed.

The roundabouts remain, but the plans have been simplified, adjusted, and updated according to Ken, Eric, Jason, and Tom, who have been working on the project.

Imagine, if you will, a sidewalk and bike lane beginning at the West River Bridge and continuing all the way on the west side of Putney Rd. to almost Exit 3. There will also be a sidewalk and bike lane on the east side of the road, but the sidewalk might start near Peoples National Bank.

Northbound, there would be two lanes for most of the way - the left for turning and the right for passing through. Southbound would be a single lane.

Four new roundabouts would replace traffic lights at Noah’s Lane, Technology Drive, Hannaford Plaza, and Black Mountain Road. There would be crosswalks for pedestrians, single lanes for reduced confusion, and opportunities for bike riders to share multipurpose pathways at these circles.

Bus access would be improved, and the amount of current access on and off Putney Rd would be reduced in places where cars currently can enter a parking lot at very wide entryways, such as Brattleboro Tire or Top of the Hill Grill. 

A wide green space would divide the north and southbound lanes, and landscaping would include a row of new trees down the center. The speed limit will remain 40, but they expect people to go slower.

There were a few questions, such as whether they had considered anything other than roundabouts. (They did, and rejected them.)

The presentation ended with some computer animation showing a “typical” high traffic afternoon time, and the animation showed everything working smoothly.

Pete Dickerson suggested the plans had a fatal flaw by not considering the impact of autonomous vehicles. He also wondered how many businesses would be put out of business by this plan.

He was told that every big project has an impact on business, but that they try to reduce and minimize impacts.

From here, the designers return and refine plans further, which they expect to take 18 months or so. They need to negotiate right of way agreements with approximately 50 property owners along that stretch of road, and apply for permits including an Act 250 approval.

No one was comfortable suggesting any real start date, and all seemed simply hopeful, at this point, that property negotiations and permits will work out smoothly.

The board voted to support the project as it stands.

Liquor Commissioners

The selectboard, acting as Liquor Commissioners, approved of Special Event Permits for the Strolling of the Heifers annual event on Friday. Caledonia Spirits, 14th Star Brewing, Groennfell Meadery, Hall Home Place, Matt and Harry’s Hard Cider, Stonecutter Spirits and Vermont Distillers will be allowed to give samples and sell their goods at the River Garden event on June 2. One other vendor from Bennington might be added.

GR414 was granted a second class liquor license for their convenient store at 414 Canal Street (the Gulf station).

Police and Fire Facilities Update

Town Manager Elwell gave the board a very brief update on the two remaining emergency facilities projects, saying things were continuing and there was nothing new to report beyond what was in his written report.

All of this was an effort to move things along, with the clock already well past 8 pm.

Rules of Conduct for Meetings and Hearings

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved of their Rules of Conduct, with minor changes from previous years. The new rules suggest that the Chair not make motions, and clarifies that the board uses Roberts Rules of Order’s “Informal Procedure for Small Boards.”

John Allen and Kate O’Connor were uncomfortable with the suggestion that the chair be discouraged from making motions, but went along with the compromise. Tim Wessel explained that it simply put in writing what had been in practice for years.

The Informal Procedures mean that members can speak without being recognized by the Chair, motions need no seconds, members may speak as much as they want to any issue, subjects can be addressed without a formal motion pending, proposals can be voted on without a formal motion, and the Chair can participate in debate.

Other than some date changes, the other rules for meetings and hearings remain as before.

At this point in the meeting, the Chair’s promise to make Allen and Schoales make all motions (since they were absent from the last meeting) arose.  It was not enforced.

July 2017 Meeting Schedule

The board voted to have a single meeting in July, rather than the typical two.

Instead of meeting July 4 and 18, the board will meet on July 11.

Charter for Compassion Resolution

Peter Elwell explained that he had met with James and Dora Levinson, a father and daughter team working together, to craft the resolution. He said that the statement would help make the Town more mindful, and should impact how we conduct ourselves.

He said that Brattleboro is committing to the intents and principles expressed in the Charter for Compassion without creating formal structures or budgets. That is, the Town is committing to acting, whenever possible, in accordance with the principles that everyone should be treated with justice, equity, and respect, and that living in a community requires us to be as concerned for others’ welfare as we are for our own.

The resolution affirms the inviolable sanctity of every single human being and says that we need to “make compassion a clear, luminous, and dynamic force in our polarized world.”

Dora Levinson said that this means that Brattleboro is making a commitment to act compassionately. Elwell said they’d work closely with community groups to collaborate whenever possible.

Pete Nickerson said he lived down south for 66 years and has lived here for four. “Is there any wording about dissent in the charter?” Elwell said dissent was a part of town government, and that this should increase hearing of contrary opinions and respecting everyone involved in a project. He said different perpectives can help them arrive at the best outcomes, and thought the resolution could help show us how to treat ourselves decently in public decision making.

Jim Levinson said he hoped there would be monthly stories of compassion in local newspapers, and programs for school children. “There are lots of ideas kicking around.”

Paul Cameron Resolution

Resolution in Grateful Recognition of Paul Cameron, suggested by Richard Evers and approved at Representative Town Meeting.

This resolution thanks Paul Cameron for his service to the Town as Energy Coordinator, and wishes him well on his return to North Carolina.

Among the accomplishments listed, Cameron is thanked for forming Brattleboro Climate Protection and the Energy Committee, saving the town money on energy bills, working to convert streetlights to LED bulbs, tackling energy audits for municipal buildings, and more.

Appoint Energy Coordinator

Three applications were received and interviews were held for the volunteer position of Energy Coordinator.

Tom Franks, Phoebe Gooding, and Kio Okawa applied, but Franks withdrew at the last moment.

The board used their system that favors the first nominated along with a recommendation by the Energy Committee to appoint Phoebe Gooding to the position. They also hoped that the other applicants would consider joining the Energy Committee.

Guilford Street Paving Bid

Vermont Roadworks will receive $35,728.45 to do the work of Guilford Street paving.

Highway Superintendent Hannah Tyler said seven bids were received, ranging from the winning low bid up to a $98,281 bid that showed signs of a math error. 

Bonnyvale Road Retaining Wall Bid

Bernie LaRock & Sons is approved to do the Bonnyvale Road retaining wall repair at a cost of $118,400. This was the low bid of four (the highest being $252,000). Funding comes from the Capital Fund and a state grant.

John Allen expressed concern about what seemed like an unusually low bid. “Rocky, I hope you read the whole thing,” he said. Elwell said they checked it out and reviewed it with him to make sure he understood the specs. 

Rescue-Pumper Truck Purchase Approval

The Brattleboro Selectboard took the final step of approving the purchase proposal from Pierce manufacturing to pre-pay for a new Pumper-Rescue vehicle for the Fire Department. 

By using the pre-pay option, the truck will cost $535,496, a savings of just over $27,000 over normal payent methods. 

Kate O’Connor asked if it came with all the “bells and whistles,” then apologized and used the more formal terminology “fully outfitted?” Fire Chief Bucossi and Assistant Chief Howard said it was. John Allen said it was appropriate to talk of “bells and whistles: if it is a fire truck.”

For your own personal reference, if you want to buy a fire truck, it will arrive about a year after you buy it, due to the customization required to build it to your liking. Hence, the time to buy is long before you actually need one.

Skatepark Grant Applications

The board approved of two more grant applications to, if granted, help pay for design and construction of the Brattleboro Skatepark at Living Memorial Park. Brattleboro is requesting $45,000 from the TD Charitable Foundation of TD Bank, and $25,000 from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation.

“A significant step toward funding of the park,” noted Elwell, if it is approved.

John Allen thanked Melissa and Jeff Clark for their continued efforts to make the skatepark a reality.

Rental Housing Improvement Program Loan Committee

A bit of committee business was attended to Tuesday evening. Jon Hoover was appointed to the RHIP Loan Committee to take the place of retiring member Annette Cappy.

Hoover will act as representative to the loan committee from Brattleboro Area Affordable Housing Corporation.

Annual Update to Comprehensive Review of Town Operations

The Comprehensive Review of Town Operations, Brattleboro’s big to-do list, has been updated for the first time since it was fist presented last year. Town manager Elwell said that it was really just a six month update this time, and will be more full in future years.

He explained that some of the previous in-progress items on the list have been moved to the category of “Accomplished,” including the Long Term Financial Plan, review of non-tax revenue, review of non-resident recreation fees, and reconfiguring the library.

Some short term goals are now “In Progress,” including increasing Town communications with State government, increased oversight of large capital projects, space analysis for some departments, increased funding for pedestrian and bike safety, updating the employee handbook, succession plans for all departments, creation of a records retention policy, and exploring use of interns and volunteers.

New “Short Term” items have been added to use the Library’s foundation center to research grants, and to transition to an All Hazards Approach for emergencies (away from a radiological emphasis).

Stopping provision of winter sand to residents has been removed from the “Short Term” list. Elwell said he wanted to admit that he was wrong about this and everyone else was right. Sand is restored.

Brandie Starr said this was her favorite town document. “Really? asked John Allen.  Really.

Wessel cautioned that while the Town was moving to an all hazards approach, the risk of radiological emergency remains. Elwell said they’d still be prepared for those types of events, but other hazards would get more attention than before.

You can read the complete CRTO document at the Town of Brattleboro’s website. www.brattlboro.org

Selectboard Goals

The Brattleboro Selectboard did more work on their own board goals for the year.

This list includes developing a plan for restoration and future use of the Municipal Center, ongoing energy efficiency issues, improving the Town website, updating policies and procedures, looking at PILOT programs, and working on regional hub economic issues.

Starr suggested adding Town staff diversity to the list. David Schoales has a few items from last year’s list that he wanted to see continued, such as utility rates, programatic budgets, and continued economic outreach.

New members Starr and Wessel were reassured that they could add things any time to the list, and both appreciated more time to think about the goals.

John Allen noted that goals sometimes just pop up and present themselves during the year, such as during public participation.

Goals will be discussed again at the next meeting.

Diversification of Staff Discussion

The topic of staff diversification was raised during candidate forums earlier this year. David Schoales asked to bring the matter up for a broader board discussion.

The triggering issue was the fact that the Town has no employees of color. Starr said that it can be challenging for people to apply if they don’t see someone like themselves already represented. She said it can perpetuate a situation.

John Allen said he wanted to word it carefully, but thought that there was already diversity in town and felt if no one applied, no one would be hired. He worried about setting quotas, and felt to some degree we have the situation we have because of where we live.

O’Connor thought it might be helpful to get further information from the Town Manager, and Elwell suggested he report on how they currently recruit for open positions so that the selectboard could assess the process and suggest changes.

Starr suggested getting the word out to groups with good mailing lists that reach audiences they hope to reach. Wessel added that enlisting community expertise in the effort could be useful.

Allen was uncomfortable narrowly focusing on minority groups. Starr said it was simply casting a wider net.

Elwell agreed, saying that the wider the net, the better off we are.

One audience member asked Allen for his definition of diversity, and suggested that having this item last on the agenda, discussed at 9:45 on a weeknight, showed the importance of the topic. (Allen explained that the town is more diverse than when he was growing up, but the Town had work to do in hiring.)

Wessel pointed out that they had two non-white non-male applicants for the Energy Coordinator earlier in the evening. “We want to see it more and more. It’s similar to the Charter for Compassion. Intentions can help us reach our goals.”

The diversity discussion will continue at future meetings.


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(Allen explained that the

(Allen explained that the town is more diverse than when he was growing up, but the Town had work to do in hiring.) Saying that the town is more diverse than it used to be is like a woman saying her second husband beat her less than her first husband. Trying to justify a bad situation by comparing it to a slightly less bad situation is a feeble way to avoid moving forward. Having moved here after living in Boston for 40 years in a wonderfully diverse neighborhood was a shock- Brattleboro is the whitest place I have ever lived in and I say that with some degree of sadness. Diversity brings a variety of riches to any city or town. We could stand to be a little 'wealthier".



I wish there were some way to get all the banks in town to match, or at the very least pad the amount TD offers.
I'm not good knowing ways to go about asking for this, but connecting these dots would indeed be...

“A significant step toward funding of the park,” noted Elwell, if it is approved.


round and round

The roundabout discussion was very interesting.

It does look like they've improved things a bit over previous plans. The new proposal has single lanes in the confusing areas. Still, 5 roundabouts in a short span of road. Overkill? And, it's 2017. Where's our monorail and peoplemover stations?

There's a stretch of road I know near Buffalo that has a series of tight roundabouts that replaced intersections. Traffic does seem to move smoothly, but it is also like an amusement park ride to drive through - you get whipped side to side with quick turns.

I feel for Dan, who has been working on this since at least 2006. He seemed both happy to have gotten this far, but depressed at how much still needs to happen. He put on a good face, but I'm sure he has his doubts as to whether it can all come together anytime soon.

Good question from Pete about the possibility of stores going out of business during projects like this. It's one of the dangers in Vermont especially, where there are often no side street alternatives. It would almost be worth connecting everything back behind Staples, the car places, the hotel and Hannaford over to Black Mtn. Rd. in advance of the project. We have time now...

Re: Diversity - it was a tough conversation for John... he took a very long time choosing his words and wasn't completely comfortable with the ones he chose. He wanted to avoid hiring people based on their appearance, and seemed to feel that things are the way they are because it's just the way it is.

It seemed likely others on the board will be able to help find ways to change the status quo - and wider distribution of job openings seems likely to be a part of it. We offered the Town free job listings years ago, but it was never used. And personally, I've missed seeing job openings with the Town that I might have considered. I know a position is going to be open (someone is retiring), and then I report on who has been hired. The "call for entries" is good for volunteers and committees, but we rarely hear of "real" positions. If we did, we could send them along to people we know, or apply ourselves. They should be sent out like press releases.

Re: skatepark - I think you are seeing the train roll right now. Grants for the SP at the last two meetings, and more likely at future mtgs. I get the sense this is really a priority now. The West River park is out of the way, the dog park is all but fenced... it's skatepark time.

Grants can take a bit of time to come through. There may be grants and requests to other banks in town.

(We have skateboards for those who are tired of waiting, btw)


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