Selectboard focused on 2021 budget, ambulance services and wastewater ordinance

The Town of Charlotte, VT

At its Jan. 13 meeting, the Selectboard meeting focused again on the FY2021 budget, interspersed with routine motions and approvals on a highway access permit, the Thompson’s Point wastewater budget, system contracts and leases. The board also received an update from CVFRS on the potential to provide ambulance services to Hinesburg and discussed the West Charlotte wastewater ordinance petition.

Trimming the FY2021 budget
Discussion of the FY2021 budget opened the meeting and continued with two additional agenda items. The Selectboard, with Town Treasurer Mary Mead and various town representatives present, reviewed individual budget line items, especially those with large year over year increases, and requests for transfers into various town funds, including the conservation fund and improvement and repair fund.

The board heard from members of the Trails Committee on a proposed article to be included in the warning for Town Meeting. Trails Committee co-chairs Laurie Thompson and Margaret Russell asked for time to present information about trails during Town Meeting and indicated their intent to present each year for the next five years an article requesting $57,000 to be transferred into the trails reserve fund. Russell said, “It might be easier for the town to pass one year and see what we have done in one year. We can come back next year and say ‘this is what we did.’ It’s a little bit more work — but it’s fine.” In addition to asking back various town committees, the board will take up the budget again at its January 27 meeting.

CVFRS update on ambulance services
Chair Matt Krasnow added an adjustment to the agenda: an update from CVFRS on the potential of providing ambulance services to the town of Hinesburg. CVFRS Board President Tom Cosinuke and Business Manager Patrice Machavern provided a handout to the board that including scope of service, anticipated call volume, coverage area, anticipated revenue and a “back testing process.” Cosinuke described the process as a way to see “if we were out making calls in Hinesburg, would it conflict with calls that we had to make in Charlotte.”

Machavern provided context, explaining St. Michael’s College Rescue notified Hinesburg that they would no longer be providing ambulance service starting in June. She said members from CVFRS and neighboring fire and rescue outfits would attend the Hinesburg Selectboard meeting on Wednesday the 15th to present their proposals. Machavern also noted in the handout a matrix outlining the mutual aid agreement among neighboring towns. She said Charlotte is second on the list to respond if St. Michael’s cannot. Cosinuke said, “The duration (of services) is to be determined. We think it’s probably more of a short-term engagement, but it’s possible the Town of Hinesburg could decide this is an economical way to provide it. It could potentially extend beyond. What are the financial considerations? How do we expect to be paid? And how do we make it fair to Charlotte tax payers?” The board asked to be kept in the loop during the proposal process.

Wastewater ordinance petition
During the review of the warning for Town Meeting, Carrie Spear asked the Selectboard, “Can we put the wastewater ordinances as an article and have it voted from the floor?” In response, Mead said that a resident can request the Selectboard to put the question on the warning for Town Meeting, which the board would have to approve, or a resident can draft a petition and collect 175 signatures (5 percent of registered voters) and submit it to the Selectboard at least 44 days before Town Meeting.

Louise McCarren said, “Even though I totally support the wastewater ordinances, I would also support putting it to vote at Town Meeting.” Krasnow said, “This is crossing two statutes.  I don’t know how they intersect. One statute is the process for repealing the state’s process for allowing the repeal of a town’s ordinance. The other is a state’s process for allowing the town to vote on things at Town Meeting as articles. I don’t know which takes precedence and how.” He reiterated that the timing of the Selectboard’s vote on the ordinances was so that it could be discussed at Town Meeting if a petition is filed. Mead requested the board pose the question to the town attorney.  “There’s a population out there that would like to be a part of the discussion,” she said.  Mead continued, “There are certainly enough people out who have no idea there was any kind of sewer ordinance or sewer allocation even discussed.”

Other business
The Selectboard approved a request for a Highway Access Permit (HAP-20-01) on Dorset Street for George and Claire Aube and approved amendments to the Highway Access Policy and Procedure. In addition to several Thompson’s Point leases, the Selectboard also reviewed and approved the FY2021 budget for the Thompson’s Point wastewater system, including a fixed fee of $750 per connection and a per gallon fee of $0.61. They also approved contracts with Civil Engineering Associates as the system engineer and SJW Docks as the system operator.

The Selectboard approved the grant and installation of an EV charging station at the Town Hall parking lot. The vote was 4 to 1 with McCarren against. According to the Town Administrator Dean Bloch the Charlotte library applied and received a $16,934 grant from the state towards the cost of the $18,963 system. The $2,029 difference is to be split between the library and the town.

The board deferred action on an application for a traffic-calming study in East Charlotte Village, on a request for bids for bridge repairs, and for quotes to replace lighting in the Town Hall and in parking lot. It will take up these matters at its next meeting.

After a brief update from Louise McCarren on Charlotte Solar, the board voted to go into executive session for a personnel issue with no action expected. The next Selectboard meeting is at 5:30 on January 27.