By Mara Brooks, Editor
At the regular Selectboard meeting Monday, May 24, members discussed installing a vehicle charging station on North Shore Road, complaints about poorly mowed town fields and park grounds, the Clemmons’ Family Farm’s proximity to a proposed public trail, and whether or not to resume in-person board meetings at Town Hall.
Citing time constraints and a full plate of agenda items, members scheduled a special Selectboard meeting for Thursday, May 27. Topics slated for that meeting include the Village Center Designation application, the purchase of an electric bike with the library and Energy Committee, an update on Plouffe Lane, summer construction and parking, speed bumps on Lake Road, Selectboard Rules of Procedure, and Selectboard attendance at an upcoming town personnel meeting held by management consultants Gallagher Flynn & Co.
Resident requests personal vehicle charging station
The Selectboard discussed resident Carol Conard’s request for permission to install power for an electric vehicle charging station in a parking area across from her camp at 260 North Shore Road. The parking area is on Thompson’s Point, which is owned by the town. The charging station would be for Conard’s personal use.
A visit to the site earlier that day was attended by Town Administrator Dean Bloch, Cory Sullivan from Green Mountain Power, Selectboard member Louise McCarren, Selectboard Vice Chair Frank Tenney, and Conard.
Based on discussions with Sullivan and Road Commissioner Jr Lewis, Bloch said the best solution would be to bring power from Conard’s camp across the road to the parking area.
“Being that it’s Thompson’s Point, which is all town owned, we would normally do a license agreement for the road only,” Bloch said. “But this one would be for that whole stretch from the structure, which has electricity, to the vehicle charging station.”
Conard would be responsible for all aspects of the work, including cost, Bloch said, with Lewis overseeing the contractor’s work. She would also be required to sign a licensing agreement to install the utilities in the road right of way and on town property.
Selectboard member Jim Faulkner asked Conard to provide a sketch for the town file with details such as the distance from the meter to the parking station, the depth of the excavation, and other relevant measurements.
Krasnow asked Bloch if a licensing agreement could be prepared in time for Thursday’s special meeting and Bloch said it probably could.
McCarren said the town should also request “something in writing” from GMP confirming the distribution system has the capacity for multiple charging stations.
“We’re going to take an action that would set a precedent,” McCarren said. “If there are multiple people who want charging stations, we need to make sure the distribution system can handle it.”
Selectboard member Frank Tenney said any construction on Thompson’s Point would need to be completed before July 1, the cutoff point for road work in the area until after Labor Day.
Conard said although the Selectboard members described the project as a “charging station,” it is actually “just a 240-volt plug.”
“We have a charging station at Town Hall now, and we’re moving in this direction, so I’m glad you’re taking the lead,” Krasnow said.
The board agreed to continue the discussion at the Special Meeting on Thursday.
No bids for repair work at Senior Center
Selectboard members came ready to discuss the opening of bids and selection of contractors for siding repairs at the Senior Center. There was just one problem.
“We don’t have any bids,” Town Administrator Dean Bloch reported. “We put this out to bid twice, thinking if we extended the date both for submitting bids and for doing the work that might lure in some contractors, but it doesn’t appear that was successful.”
Bloch said he and Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair Lane Morrison discussed soliciting contractor Peter Denton, who previously provided a cost estimate of the repairs, to do the work “because we don’t seem to be able to attract any other bidders.”
Morrison said he recalled Denton’s estimate from a year or two ago had been for $9,000 to $10,000 but could now be as much as $15,000 “because the deterioration has advanced.”
Krasnow suggested rolling the Senior Center Project into a Request for Proposals for roofing repairs at the Town Hall to attract more bids. The Town Hall project is estimated to be a $70–90,000 project, Bloch said.
“We could be pushing a $100,000 project if we combine both (the Senior Center and Town Hall) projects,” Krasnow said. “That’s got to be way more attractive [to contractors] than a $12,000 project.”
Morrison pointed out roofing work requires “a different skill set” than siding and trim projects and said the two projects should remain separate.
“I’d like to get going on the siding and the trim as early as next spring, so I prefer to go to Denton,” Morrison said.
Morrison agreed to reach out to Denton to see if the contractor was available to do the work. An update was scheduled for the Special Meeting on Thursday.
New appointments to Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRCP)
Interviews were conducted for appointments to the CCRCP, with all terms ending May 31, 2023.
Town Administrator Dean Bloch announced the seats would be uncontested because Jim Donovan had withdrawn his name from consideration.
Matt Krasnow motioned to appoint Dana Hanley as the representative to the CCRPC and Deidre Holmes as the alternate. Both Holmes and Hanley were present on the call.
Selectboard member Lewis Mudge and Vice Chair Frank Tenney raised the issue of conflict of interest. Mudge asked Holmes and Hanley if they agreed to declare a conflict or step aside in the event of “any sort of perceived or real conflict.” Both said they would.
Tenney asked what other boards or committees the two prospective appointees might be associated with. Hanley said she was formerly with the wastewater committee but was not currently serving on any town boards. Holmes said she is currently serving her third term on the town energy committee.
After a brief discussion where Selectboard members concluded no obvious conflicts existed, a motion was unanimously approved to appoint Hanley as representative and Holmes as the alternate on the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.
Krasnow next made a motion to appoint Larry Lewack, who was not present on the call, to the Planning Advisory Committee for a term ending May 31, 2023. Bloch said Lewack previously confirmed he was “willing and interested” in being appointed. The board unanimously voted to approve.
Krasnow then motioned to appoint Marianna DeBrul to the Clean Water Advisory Committee for a term ending May 31, 2023. DeBrul said she is a swimmer and canoeist who previously served on the Charlotte Conservation Commission. DeBrul’s appointment was unanimously approved.
Bloch said Holmes expressed interest in being appointed to the Tech Advisory Committee and said, “I think that could work well in terms of both being an alternate to the board and also serving on the Tech Advisory committee.”
Krasnow made a motion to appoint Holmes to the Tech Advisory Committee and to appoint Bloch as the alternate. Both appointments were unanimously approved.
Louise motioned to re-appoint Mel Huff to the Conservation Commission for a term ending April 30, 2025. Huff was present on the call but could not connect to audio. The board agreed it was not necessary to conduct an interview with Huff because it was a reappointment. Huff’s appointment was unanimously approved.
Concerns raised about town mowing and land maintenance
During public comment at the meeting, resident Vanessa Knowles stated concerns that town mowing and land maintenance was not being performed to contract specifications.
Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow said Town Administrator Dean Bloch is working with new contractor Dylan Guilmette and the board would revisit the issue at a special meeting Thursday.
Selectboard considers hybrid meetings mid new COVID-19 guidance
Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow raised the question of normalizing Town operations based on new COVID-19 guidance. Krasnow asked the board members if they “wanted to adjust” the way in which public meetings of the Selectboard and other boards are held in light of new state guidance that fully vaccinated Vermonters no longer need to worry about masks or physical distancing.
“One suggestion that was brought up was kind of a hybrid model until we get to the July 4 benchmark,” Krasnow said.
In a hybrid meeting scenario, committee members would meet in person at Town Hall with the public continuing to participate via Zoom “until the vaccination rates get closer to the 80 percent,” Krasnow said.
Vice Chair Frank Tenney said he was “all for the boards meeting at Town Hall.” Selectboard Member Louise McCarren said she would feel “more comfortable” sticking to Zoom-only meetings until July 4.
Tenney suggested the decision of whether to meet in person or have hybrid meetings should be left up to each board or commission individually.
Planning Commission Chair Peter Joslin said while he was in favor of “getting back to normalcy and meeting in person,” it was hard to ignore the benefits of Zoom. He noted the “significant uptick in participation” at town meetings during the pandemic, “which I think is a big benefit to the Selectboard and the town in general.”
Krasnow asked members if the question of whether or not attendees had been vaccinated should be addressed through “the honor system.”
Selectboard Member Lewis Mudge noted that it might not be legal to ask people if they had been vaccinated.
“I think we as the Selectboard need to be slightly careful in these early days,” Mudge said. “I know a lot of private enterprises are starting to craft the language around ‘don’t ask people’ because it could open up potential problems down the road.”
Bloch suggested using equipment provided by The Media Factory to create a hybrid model where Selectboard members and the public could choose to attend in person or via Zoom without technical difficulties.
“We may decide it’s desirable to buy some additional equipment, have a few microphones on the table and one for staff so that everyone can be picked up,” he said.
Krasnow called Bloch’s idea a “great suggestion” and asked him to consult with The Media Factory to obtain an updated proposal.
“I think it sounds like we’re ready to invest some money to make sure [hybrid meetings] happen, not just for Selectboard meetings but any meetings that happen at Town Hall,” Krasnow said.
Tenney made a motion to allow the Selectboard, the Zoning Board and the Planning Commission to meet in Town Hall if desired, with a hybrid Zoom setup. The board unanimously approved.