By Chea Waters Evans
It was a long one on Monday, May 11, even as the Selectboard postponed several agenda items due to time concerns. At one point, Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow asked who had the next item on the agenda and a patient Zoom meeting participant chimed in with, “Your dad! Otherwise known as Eddie.” Ed Krasnow, along with other understanding Charlotters, was willing to wait until the next meeting to raise his question before the Selectboard. Expenditure concerns, Ferry Road traffic, and the uncertain future of Recreation Department programs managed to make the cut Monday night.
Public comment happened to roll into an agenda item: a Ferry Road safety audit. Dale Knowles, who lives on Ferry Road, said he’s noticed in the past few weeks that because of the coronavirus-related Stay Home, Stay Safe order, more children and families have been riding bikes and walking in that area. He requested that signs be placed in the area reminding motorists to slow down. Megan Price, a frequent advocate at municipal meetings for slowing traffic on Ferry Road, also mentioned the need to slow traffic in the area.
Though the results of the audit will not give VTrans the authority to change the speed limit, Chair Matt Krasnow said, they could always recommend other safety measures. Town Administrator Dean Bloch is going to schedule the visit for either July 23 or 28.
Chittenden Solid Waste District representative
Though interviewee Ken Spencer joked that his reason for wanting the position of CSWD representative is, “I have nothing to do. I’m bored,” he said he’s actually passionate about litter cleanup. He said he invented a litter-pickup device, to which board member Louise McCarren said, “Are you the guy we see walking along the road?” Spencer confirmed that he is “that guy,” and thanked her for not running him over; she in turn thanked him for his efforts to keep the town clean.
Spencer was approved 5-0 as the new representative, and the prior CSWD contact from Charlotte, Abby Foulk, was unanimously confirmed as the alternate representative. Both terms expire on May 31, 2022.
Request to use old flea market as Charlotte Crossings parking
Debra Kassabian attended as a representative for the Charlotte Crossings property on Route 7; it borders the town-owned land that was the former flea market. The owners of Charlotte Crossings are interested in possibly using the flea market area for overflow event parking.She said her request was not specifically to use the land soon, but rather to find out, “How do we do that? Would the town be open to it? We’re looking for direction on that; what would be the next steps or requirements?” Kassabian, along with her husband and business partner Mike Dunbar, are currently in the midst of a Planning Commission request to allow them to change town parking land use regulations.
Krasnow noted that though the land is town-owned, “The town is required to go through same planning process through the Planning Commission or Zoning Board as any other landowner; the town would have to look into it more than just approving it.”
Krasnow also mentioned that before the matter goes too much farther, other requests to use that land have also been made. The land has been floated as a possible alternate location of the town garage, a park and ride location, and a possible solar site for town energy.
A site visit was scheduled during the May 18 Selectboard meeting at 6 p.m.; adjacent property owners will be contacted, and Road Commissioner Jr. Lewis and Energy Committee members will be included.
Homestead declaration deadline extended
Town Clerk and Treasurer Mary Mead suggested that late fees for filing Homestead declaration be waived; the deadline has been extended already from April 1 to July 15. She said it seems an “unnecessary penalty” and suggested the board waive it for FY21. The motion was approved 5-0.
This is where the lengthy part of the meeting came in; with 25 minutes allotted to the matter, discussion went on for over an hour. The jumping-off point was a bill submitted to the town by the Energy Committee, represented in the meeting by Chair Rebecca Foster, for $500, as well as a $900 request from the EC for a new computer.
On April 23, the $500 expenditure was approved by the Selectboard as part of the EC’s operating budget. The money is to be paid to the Transition Town Charlotte group, which will use the funds to install energy-saving window dressings in homes of low-income residents. On April 27, the Selectboard voted unanimously that budget austerity measures are necessary due to potential financial stress resulting from the coronavirus epidemic, and that all commissions and committees should make every attempt to reduce their expenditures by five percent.
The resulting questions centering on EC budget questions reflected the bigger issue: How much town money be spent when the financial future of the town and its residents is so uncertain?
Krasnow said he thought that philosophically, the money was actually part of the austerity measures. The idea of the Energy Committee donating $500 to save taxpayers money is part of the austerity effort, the money spent will save people with a tax burden.”
Mead expressed concern that the window treatments are to be installed in FY21, which starts in July, and that the bill shouldn’t be submitted and paid now when there are no receipts for materials as of yet. Foster agreed that the amount didn’t have to be paid now but would be paid as part of the EC’s budget in advance of the winter season.
Foster also noted that now that the $500 had been removed from the EC’s budget for FY20, they were coming in with at least a 34 percent reduction in their budget for the year, “Much better than the five percent, I have to point out,” she said. This turned out not to be enough of a reason to approve the EC’s next request quite yet.
The Energy Committee hopes to purchase a computer, to be installed and used at the Charlotte Library, and operated with the assistant of library staff, that will be used for energy-related matters and research. It will feature the Brighter Vermont Community Energy Dashboard, a web site and online tools operated by the nonprofit Vermont Energy Action Network.
Foster, along with Library Director Margaret Woodruff, explained during the meeting that the current library computers aren’t capable of running all the tools the Energy Committee would like to have available, and that the purchase of a $900 Dell computer would solve the problem.
Foster said the dashboard will “help towns monitor energy goals and their progress toward them. We’ve been struggling trying to figure out how to get people to use the tool and engage the community,” she said, “ and the library is providing computer and technical support to help people use it. The Energy Committee has been talking about it for years; it’s quite frankly an efficient and cheap way to get it done. I think it’s good value.”
Though discussion indicated that the Selectboard members see the value in such a program eventually, they were not sold on the idea enough to approve it and scheduled further discussion for the May 26 meeting. Foster agreed to provide further information about the computer ahead of time.
Recreation Department and Rec Commission
The Charlotte Beach is closed, and Recreation Director Nicole Conley said she doesn’t anticipate that it will be opening on its traditional Memorial Day season start date. Compounding the COVID-19 directives from the state to remain closed are the issues surrounding maintenance even if the government allows beaches to open.
One problem, Conley said, is that the restrooms, which are currently closed, would need to be cleaned adhering to specific cleaning protocols, and that even if staff were available to do so, the required materials, such as disinfectant wipes, are scarce.
Conley, along with Recreation Commission Chair Bill Fraser-Harris, said that they are currently in a holding pattern, and in the absence of preparation for the season with hiring and supplies, she doesn’t anticipate a formal opening any time soon.
The tennis courts are open, though the playground will remain closed.
The Selectboard went over the finer points of a request for proposals for the Tails Committee work on the next section of the Town Link Trail; it will be published for bids and a May 20 site visit was scheduled.
The board aims to interview candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant town planner position during the first week of June, with the intent of making an offer on June 8. They agreed to advertise in Seven Days, indeed.com, and a town planner listserv.
A formal motion was made and approved, 5-0, to thank departing town planner Daryl Arminius for his hard work, and to let him know how much he is appreciated.
The board quickly convened as the as the liquor control board in order to renew liquor licenses for wine, beer, and spirits, both inside and outdoors at Philo Ridge Farm.
After deferring several agenda items, the board finished up with agreeing to suspend the requirement to record all town commission and committee meetings with the exception of Selectboard and Planning Commission meetings.
Also, meeting attendee Susan Smith said early on in the evening, “It’s good to see you people; I’ve missed what’s going on in the town.”