By Juliann Phelps
The April 13 Selectboard meeting marked the third meeting held virtually and moved through a full agenda at an effective clip, spending the majority of its time discussing austerity measures related to the current and next year’s budgets. The board also re-scheduled the Australian ballot vote for the budget to June 23. The informational hearing will be held the night before at the regularly scheduled Selectboard meeting.
Current year budget and ash tree removal contract
Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow opened discussion saying, “The whole idea of austerity – I’ve heard from the board and residents. It’s a good exercise to do.” He said while he had initially broached the topic with Road Commissioner Jr Lewis about possibly deferring some paving and trimming the road maintenance budget, he felt “it was important the town look at the budget globally – not just look at one item and call it a day.” The board reviewed an email from Town Treasurer Mary Mead where she noted, “When I look at the entire revenue budget at this point in time, we are approximately $320,000 short; mostly as a result of outstanding taxes.”
Suggestions and observations from board members included keeping legal costs down, reducing seasonal recreation staff and reviewing Senior Center maintenance. After a bit more discussion about road maintenance, Lewis said he was fine trimming the paving budget – which he said hasn’t changed in 22 years. “I am willing to give up some of the paving money, but I don’t want to be the only one taking a hit.” Krasnow said, “If everyone makes a small sacrifice, it will add up in every department.” The board approved asking every department to withhold five percent of their budgets or provide an explanation why if they can’t make those cuts.
Toward the end of the meeting, the budget discussion came up again, this time related to the recently signed $19,500 contract for the ash tree removal on Ferry and Greenbush Roads. Selectboard member James Faulkner questioned why the town signed the contract, noting the topic of budget austerity was brought up by the chair in the same meeting last Monday. “The timing was not ideal, given the present situation,” said Faulkner. “I think we could learn something from that.” Lewis agreed, saying, “I think it’s too late, we already okayed them to do it. It should have been stopped at the last meeting.” Krasnow responded with the suggestion to cancel next year’s ash tree removal appropriation.
Appointments and town committees, boards and commissions
The Selectboard appointed Richard Tonino to the Thompson’s Point Wastewater Advisory Committee and reappointed Cali Griswold as canine control officer, Mark Dillenbeck as tree warden, Matt Zucker to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Kevin Burget to the Conservation Commission. The board also approved the temporary appointment of Betsy Tegatz as town assessor.
The board also revisited the recent meeting notice requirements passed at its April 6 meeting. According to the town administrator’s report, “There was concern expressed that going above and beyond the statutory requirements makes it harder for committees to operate, and this was particularly frustrating during a time that is already difficult.” The Selectboard approved going back to the 48-hour requirement for warning a meeting with an agenda and asked town committees, boards and commissions to draft one year of proposed meeting dates, times and locations so they can be added to the town website calendar.
The Selectboard approved a road maintenance plan and renewed the local emergency management plan for various grant requirements. Town Emergency Management Director Chris Davis briefed the board about the plan as well as some of the activities he’s participated in supporting emergency management locally and statewide. The board approved a request for authorization to drill a well to serve Lots 194-197 on Thompson’s Point. After further discussion the board also agreed to not approve any further request for wells drilled on Thompson’s Point and added it to their work plan for future discussion.
The board approved delaying the start of the town mowing contract to May 1 to honor the contractor’s request to institute safe procedures for employees, including providing one truck per employee and equipment cleaning.
The Selectboard approved Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom’s request to place conduit for underground fiber optic cable along Dorset Street near the intersection of North Olde Carriage Road; approved KR Properties’ license agreement to install utilities under Mount Philo Road to serve a development and an amendment to the Road Naming Ordinance to include the naming of a private road into the Parkview Place development; and approved Addison County Relocalization Network’s request to use town highways for the Tour de Farms fundraising bicycle ride on September 19.
Convening as the liquor control board, the board also reviewed and approved liquor license renewals for PBM Acquisition, LLC d/b/a Point Bay Marina, Tenney Enterprises, and Whit’s End, LLC d/b/a Old Brick Store.
The next Selectboard meeting is scheduled for April 27 at 6:00 p.m.