Vergennes aldermen opt for Donnelly

VERGENNES — In what Mayor Bill Benton said he and all five sitting aldermen felt was a tough decision, the city council on Tuesday chose longtime Vergennes real estate broker Lynn Donnelly over former alderman Peter Garon to fill the one-year vacancy created on the council in March when Benton was elected to his office.

Although the decision was technically unanimous when it was made at the end of the aldermen’s Tuesday meeting, it came only after a fairly long closed-door session at the city’s fire station.

“They both brought good things to the table,” Benton said. “It was difficult. We were in executive session for 20 minutes, and it could have been longer.”

Donnelly, who was sworn in by Wednesday morning, had emphasized in a brief presentation on Tuesday and in a letter to the council what she said would be her “common sense” approach to issues, and that she was “born and raised in Vergennes and have lived most of my adult life in Vergennes and Panton.”

She also cited her background serving on other boards and her strong support for a new police station, which she said was “not only needed but deserved” for a “department that brings pride and dignity” to the city after having “struggled in the past.”

Donnelly would also like to work on economic development and “encouraging more public input on money issues.”

Garon, who lost his bid for re-election in March after one term on the board, emphasized in his Tuesday presentation and letter his “direct experience” over the past two years, including that he had “always tried to be direct and honest in discussing the issues” that came before the board.

“I don’t beat around the bush. I think it’s been a productive role,” he said.

Garon also pointed to another attribute that he said has been and will be helpful.

“The best qualification which I will bring to the council is an open-minded approach to the issues the city has faced, and will face,” he wrote.

He also cited his service on the Vergennes Development Review Board and as the past president of the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad, and as a St. Albans zoning board member and Milton school board chairman, and said the knowledge on how different towns handle issues has been and would continue to be helpful.

Before Benton announced the decision to the two candidates after the executive decision, Benton asked them both to consider staying active in Vergennes civic life in the future.

“I told either one of them (to run again),” Benton said on Wednesday. “They both are qualified … I hope they both stay involved.”

In other business, aldermen:

•  Adopted a warning for a May 14 bond vote to fund a new police station (see story, Page 1A).

•  Heard from Addison County Transit Resources director Jim Moulton that ACTR would be seeking an increase in funding from Vergennes when aldermen sit down to craft their annual budget before the June 30 deadline. ACTR has upped its service level to the city, Moulton said, and will be asking for the same level of higher funding to which other Addison County communities agreed on Town Meeting Day.

•  Tabled a discussion of a formal Water Tower Fund policy until their April 23 meeting. Aldermen are nearing completion of the project, but want to be sure the policy is both comprehensive and flexible before they sign off on a final draft. The fund is fed by cell phone companies who hang broadcast equipment on the city-owned former water tower behind city hall. It nets about $100,000 a year and has been used to provide matching grant funds for downtown projects, among other things. Aldermen plan to tap it to help fund a new police station if residents support it on May 14.

•  Heard from Alderman Joe Klopfenstein that a final estimate for a new toddler park should be ready by June. Aldermen backed spending $2,900 to create a design for a facility to be built between the city pool and East Street. Officials said a formal design and estimate would be needed to obtain grants.

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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