Aldermen eye economic group

VERGENNES — In an annual goal-setting session at last week’s Vergennes city council meeting, Alderman David Austin suggested that the city look to form an economic development committee that could work to improve the area’s business climate and offer support and information to potential new ventures.
“I think we really need a local economic development committee,” said Austin, a Main Street business and property owner. “I continue to believe there is economic opportunity here in Vergennes.”
Such a committee, he said, could offer prospective investors “an unbiased look” at the economics of Vergennes, but probably could not thrive without “some level of direction from the city in an official capacity.”
The committee should also “reach out to major employers” such as Goodrich Corp. and Country Home Products, Austin said, to strengthen ties and make sure Vergennes is doing all it can for them.
Mayor Michael Daniels said aldermen should consider seriously Austin’s suggestion.
“I’d be more than happy to help you spearhead something there,” Daniels said.
Each alderman took a turn stating his or her personal goals, which Daniels said should be revisited in mid-summer to check for progress.
Senior Alderman Randy Ouellette said he would like to take a larger role in planning and operating the city’s growing “Haunted Forest” Halloween celebration. That event lured 400 visitors a year ago, up from 150 the year before, but he said after the meeting it experienced some minor organization problems last October.
Alderwoman Ziggy Comeau said she would like to continue to serve as the council’s liaison to surrounding towns, and Daniels said he would join her in attending local selectboard meetings. Aldermen seek better communication as well as possible cost-savings through joint purchasing and cooperative projects, such as paving.
Alderman Joe Klopfenstein, who did research and advised aldermen before and during the city’s takeover of the Vergennes pool, said he would like to stay involved during the first year of direct city pool oversight. Klopfenstein also said he would like to continue to work on “community outreach” through continued articles in the city’s newsletter and elsewhere, possibly in the Addison Independent.
Alderwoman Christine Collette said she would like to continue her focus on the city’s farmers’ market. Collette has served for the past two years as the council’s point person in dealing with the organizers of the market, which will move from Monday afternoons and early evenings to Thursdays this season.
Alderman Lowell Bertrand also said he would like to continue working “to utilize the Basin more, and bring more events down there.” Daniels said the Otter Creek basin dance card may be nearly full, but that it would be a good idea to work to grow and improve existing events.
Daniels went last and said he would like to hold more “cracker barrel” meetings, both “at the citizen and business level,” that would allow local residents and businesspersons to speak freely about the issues affecting Vergennes. 
Andy Kirkaldy is at [email protected].

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