The beach, a budget, and payroll: with the exception of the ever-changing Morningside Drive driveway dispute (see front page), the Aug. 10 Selectboard meeting moved things forward on issues big and small.
Recreation Director Nicole Conley said that over 1,000 permits were sold for the Charlotte Beach this summer, and that all is going well there. Whiskey Beach—the dog beach, as some call it—on Thompson’s Point came up with meeting attendees Dean Williams and Dick Tonino bringing up the dog poop/bacteria in the water issue.
Conley, or a beach attendant or volunteer, tests both beaches regularly for e. coli bacteria and cyanobacteria in the water. If there’s an elevated presence of either, the beach must close. Tonino pointed out that a recent incident involved a high level of bacteria from a Friday test, but the results came back in time to close the beach on Saturday and Sunday, when the water was actually back to normal again.
Recreation Commissioner Bill Fraser-Harris offered to come help clean up any feces left by errant dog owners; though there are disposal bags and a trash can at the entrance to the beach, dog poop is still frequently left behind and can alter the cleanliness of the water.
Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Corporate Board President Tom Cosinuke presented a wrap-up of the FY2019-20 budget. “It was a pretty good year from a revenue standpoint,” he said, despite the fact that they ended up slightly over budget. “It’s important to note that this report reflects the 25k pandemic concession as part of the overall town effort to reduce expenses,” he said. He also noted that in addition to the town-wide effort to reduce expenses, the unexpected expense of hazard pay for EMS workers during the initial days of the coronavirus pandemic was something CVFRS “couldn’t have anticipated.”
Business Operations Manager Patrice Machavern also pointed out that over $16,000 of COVID-19-response supplies such as personal protective equipment and disinfectant were part of the overage, but that they are anticipating a portion of that to be recouped through FEMA funds.
Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow said he thinks it would be prudent to account for coronavirus expenses in the budget moving forward. “I’d recommend that CVFRS present this line item as something that might stay and propose an expense for the town to appropriate annually.” Though it was unexpected this year, he said, it will “not be a surprise for FY21 and it would be wise to plan for it.”
The Selectboard approved up to $5,000 to be spent with human resources consulting firm Gallagher Flynn to help develop a system to reevaluate and reconfigure the way the town pays and evaluates town employees and to develop a custom evaluation and salary system.
With the current coronavirus situation and a lot of uncertainty about what the winter and following spring will bring, the Selectboard discussed March 2021 Town Meeting Day. Town meeting is traditionally held in the school, but strict rules limiting access to the building because of the pandemic mean that the location will have to be elsewhere. Without knowing what infection rates will be like and whether an in-person meeting will even be allowed, the Selectboard is beginning the process to explore alternative locations such as a large event tent on town property, which could be a chilly, wet business during a Vermont March, or in the Old Lantern on Greenbush Road, which is the town’s next-largest indoor space aside from the school. Plans for a virtual town meeting were also discussed, should the need arise.
Board member Louise McCarren also brought up her “pet peeve” that people are allowed to bring up issues with “no warning…and some of these are pretty controversial, and somebody will just read it and expect everyone to just vote on it.” She said she’s not sure what the solution is, but said, “We need to get our arms around it.” Board member Frank Tenney agreed and noted that these non-warned issues get voted on at the end of the meeting, when many Charlotters have already left, pointing out that those remaining and voting are a “small fraction” of the town.
McCarren proposed that the Selectboard investigate whether or not these advisory motions should or could be warned before the meeting. She volunteered to work on the issue and get back to the Selectboard with her findings.
After last year’s twists and turns regarding town donations to nonprofit organizations, of which The Charlotte News has been a beneficiary in the past, board member James Faulkner came up with a list of questions for nonprofits, that will be under revision by the Selectboard, to assess whether or not an organization is appropriate to receive taxpayer money in the form of a donation.