The Town of Charlotte, VT

Monday night’s Selectboard meeting began with the much-anticipated vote on the West Charlotte village wastewater ordinances. Chair Matt Krasnow opened with a recap of the work the wastewater committee and board had done to date. He noted that if the board passed the ordinances, more work is to be done. “There will still be some heavy lifting needed to get them to be effective in generating and calculating the fee schedule,” he said.

The fees continued to be the focus of the discussion, with Vice Chair Frank Tenney asking, “Why isn’t that going to be enacted when fees are being enacted at the same time?” He continued, “When you are doing these ordinances you have a complete plan. You have a fee schedule. You have your ordinances, how to use it and how to allocate.”

Krasnow responded, “Setting the fee schedule in concert with [the ordinances] created way too many moving parts.” West Charlotte Village Wastewater Planning Committee Dave Marshall said most town sewer ordinances don’t include a fee schedule because conditions change over time. He noted that putting in a specific dollar amount would mean the ordinance would have to be changed each time the fees changed. Selectboard member Louise McCarren cited her experiences in setting rates, suggesting that hook-up, usage and customer fees and rates could change annually or biannually.

Compared to last week’s working session, dialogue moved fairly quickly toward a resolution. McCarren motioned and Fritz Tegatz seconded adopting the town wastewater ordinances effective Jan. 6, 2020. The motion passed 4-1, with Tenney against. The date specifically chosen by the board provides enough time for a petition to be submitted to the town to reverse the board’s decision. Under state law a petition must be submitted no later than 44 days, and a town vote held no later than 60 days, after the ordinances go into effect. The Jan. 6 effective date would allow, if a petition is successful, a town-wide vote to be held on Town Meeting Day, March 3, 2020.

Solar RFP and the Charlotte Library
Energy Committee member John Quinney appeared in front of the board with Sam Carlson of Green Lantern Solar, the contractor selected to design the proposed solar array on the Charlotte library. Quinney said he would not be seeking a vote because “The project no longer makes economic sense.” Carlson explained that the 34kWh design was reviewed by the state fire marshal, whose recommended changes shrunk the design to 26kWh. “This changed the economics of the project. We can’t come up with investor financing,” said Carlson as he formally withdrew from the project.

He noted the RFP also included a proposal for a group net-metering agreement for town buildings. The board asked questions about the agreement, including the percentage of net-metering credits the town would potentially purchase and anticipated annual cost savings. Quinney said the agreement could save the town $2,000 a year on energy costs. No motion was made and Krasnow thanked Green Lantern and the Energy Committee for their work.

FY2021 budget
The Selectboard sharpened their pencils and devoted the bulk of the meeting to reviewing the proposed FY2021 budget. Town Treasurer Mary Mead suggested changes to several line-item revenues and offered several reductions in expenses, specifically around transfers to reserve funds, which the board considered and accepted. According to Town

Administrator Dean Bloch said that, as the result of the discussion, total expenses were trimmed from $3,686,613 to $3,510,873. The budget will again be on the January 13 agenda.

Other business
The board approved the Thompson’s Point Leaseholders Association request to expand the easement for the water treatment system to include the caretaker’s cottage. The board also procedurally approved several Thompson’s Point lease renewals.

The Selectboard reviewed the draft warning for Town Meeting and proposed including two additional articles. The first will be about distributing donations to agencies and organizations and the other about appropriating to the trails reserve fund. The board also approved a contract with StageWorks, a preferred vendor, to provide the sound system for Town Meeting.