Trails construction again dominates Selectboard agenda

FY21 budget requests from Planning, CVFRS and others

Monday’s Selectboard meeting included updates from the Trails Committee on the construction of the State Park Road path, as well as budget requests and presentations from the Board of Listers, Planning and Zoning, the Trails Committee, the Charlotte Library and CVFRS.

State Park Road path and ROW
Members of the Trails Committee updated the Selectboard on actions that had been requested at the previous meeting. These included meeting with concerned landowners, estimates on construction materials and a list of volunteers for the project. Laurie Thompson informed the board that the committee met with landowner Josh Goldek to address concerns he raised at the October 14 meeting. On behalf of the committee Thompson requested and received authorization to have TCE Trudell Consulting Engineers survey and stake the right of way (ROW) along State Park Road so the trail could be better visualized. Goldek said the discussion was helpful, and “the money spent on staking the right of way is critical, not just for me but also as part of the (Act 250) permit conditions.” Along with providing a list of volunteers, Thompson also mentioned the tree warden’s public hearing, held last Thursday at the Town Hall, on the anticipated removal of 11 trees as part of the project.

The bulk of the topic was devoted to the estimates on construction materials. According to one of several handouts provided by Thompson and circulated only to the board, estimates for materials was $25,782. Chair Matt Krasnow explained the town’s purchasing policy: Any item over $1,000 is to be competitively bid, and if over $5,000 it is put out as a request for proposal (RFP). He added, “Asking the town to reasonably and responsibly do a construction project in a four-week period of this size is really unprecedented.”

“I don’t want to see us rush into construction that’s going to slow down future development of trails because it hasn’t been done properly,” he said, and asked, “Has the Trails Committee thought about doing this in two sections?”

Krasnow then proposed a phased approach that would utilize volunteer efforts to clear and create a mowable trail in November and use the time to plan for the construction portion for the spring. Thompson responded that spring is the busy season for some of the volunteers and there would be “no guarantees” they’d be available. Other residents, including Jim Donovan, Jack Pilla, Mike Russell and Trails Committee Co-Chair Margaret Russell, urged the board to move the project forward. “This Town Link Trail has been going for 20 years now,” said Pilla. “I find it pathetic we can’t just do it. We just have to get out and do it.” The topic will appear again on the November 4 agenda.

Review of FY19 financial audit report
Rick Brigham of Sullivan, Powers and Company, provided the Selectboard with a “clean” opinion on their audit of the town’s 2019 financials. The town ended the year with a general fund balance of $160,061. The $51,000 decrease in fund balance “was in line with what was planned,” Brigham said, noting that the shortfall in revenues was likely attributable to property taxes coming in a little lower than expected and delinquent receivables going up slightly.

Selectboard member Louise McCarren noted the audit did not include a review of internal controls. Brigham responded that, while it is not part of the purview of the audit, he recommended the board review the system currently put in place by the town treasurer.

FY21 budget requests
The Selectboard heard another round of budget requests, this time from the Board of Listers, Planning and Zoning, the Trails Committee, the Charlotte Library and CVFRS. Head Lister Betsy Tegatz requested $61,005, a $6,016 decrease from the previous year. She also discussed the Board of Listers’ recommendation to eliminate the office and appoint an assessor. She cited issues with being able to staff the board as well as the general trend of similar towns moving towards the same model. “It is our opinion as the board this is a very practical way to move forward.” Krasnow acknowledged the recommendation and said it will be discussed at a future meeting.

Planning Commission chair Peter Joslin presented the zoning and planning budget request, a decrease to $129,447. He anticipates that an $8,700 increase in revenues to $57,640 will offset increases in two of the budget items, septic engineering and legal.

The Trails Committee re-presented their budget request to the board. They are requesting to keep its operating budget at $1,500 and to add $62,240 to the reserve fund each year over five years, for a total of $313,200. “If you want to attract younger families into this community, you need to have opportunities for them to recreate, and transportation other than the street for people to get through town,” Thompson said. “This is a real asset for our community,” she added. “I think for many people in this town, the sooner, the better.”

CVFRS requested an appropriation of $745,218, an increase of $84,154 from the previous year’s $661,064. Corporate Board President Tom Cosinuke explained that the board wants to convert three per-diem positions to part-time positions. “Every month we are struggling to fill shifts,” he said. “We think it would be more attractive to a subset of a declining pool of EMS staff.”

Business manager Patrice Machavern added that “the increase in wages is not solely attributable to the three permanent, part-time positions.” She said the increase also includes paid time off, paid holidays and a wage increase/market adjustment performed in the spring. Fire Chief Dick St. George spoke about ongoing hiring challenges and wage pressures, saying, “Finding people is going to be a dollar item.”

Having listened to a recent Hinesburg Selectboard meeting and receiving an RFP, Cosinuke discussed the potential to provide rescue services to Hinesburg “At least in the short term, they are seriously thinking about partnering with Richmond and Charlotte to provide EMS services to the town.” Krasnow asked to be kept up to date on the process.

Other business
In other business, the Selectboard heard from resident Eli Lesser-Goldsmith during public comment. Lesser-Goldsmith read from a prepared statement outlining planning and zoning challenges he’d experienced over a two-year period as he renovated his property on Hills Point Road. “There is a culture of ‘no’ in a lot of Vermont communities, including this one,” he said. “Nimbyism is a dangerous mentality…. Nimbyism is hypocrisy at its core, because the people opposing projects live in houses that at one time in history were not there.”

Lesser-Goldsmith did not stay for the board’s discussion, which included a recommendation from Selectboard member Fritz Tegatz to come up with a planning and zoning checklist. The idea was supported by the board and by Planning Commissioner Chairman Peter Joslin, who was present. Vice Chair Frank Tenney acknowledged that changes in town staff and inadequate transfer of knowledge may have caused some of the delays, adding, “What people don’t realize is the zoning board for the most part doesn’t write bylaws, we just follow them.”

The board approved the request for proposal for net-metering agreements for solar panels on the library roof. Energy Committee members John Quinney and Deirdre Holmes presented the RFP to the board along with an estimate of savings of $2,100 in the first year. Quinney explained the change to the RFP included an additional net-metering agreement for town buildings and facilities, including the Town Hall, the Senior Center, CVFRS and the Thompson’s Point wastewater building. “The reason to add in extra solar is to make it more attractive to more developers,” he said. He noted while there wasn’t sufficient time for the CVFRS board to make a determination, the conversation would continue.

The board approved a request from Heather Stewart, operational manager for Lake Champlain Ferries to place two directional signs, one at the corner of Ferry Road near the ferry entrance and one at the intersection of Cedar Beach Road and Converse Bay Road.

The board also heard from Charlie Baker who gave the annual report from Chittenden County Regional Planning Office, approved a finance and maintenance agreement with the state for reconstruction of the railroad crossing at Thompson’s Point Road, approved HVAC contracts for the Town Hall and Senior Center and selected a printer for the town report.

The board objected to the reduction of the decommissioning fund balance requested by Charlotte Solar LLC for the solar field on Hinesburg Road. McCarren said, “These guys have not lived up to their obligations.” The board also did not sign the final acceptance letter on the Route 7 reconstruction project. Tegatz said he attended the final inspection and objected to the design of the left turn lane on State Park Road. “I made the objection and the state did nothing,” he said.

Finally, in Selectboard updates, Tegatz said he received the West Village wastewater ordinances from the town attorney. Krasnow proposed a joint review of the feedback during the November 4 meeting.