Vergennes to pave roads in northwestern section

VERGENNES — Paving in Vergennes this fall will largely focus on the city’s northwestern streets, City Manager Mel Hawley told aldermen at their meeting on Tuesday.
Due to be resurfaced are all of Comfort Hill and High Street and two portions of MacDonough Drive: one from Main Street to Battery Hill, which Hawley said was the final topcoat on a stretch rebuilt in recent years, and the other being two-tenths of a mile long and running from the west end of the Northlands Job Corp campus to the city line.
Those projects, to be completed before snow flies, will chew up roughly $100,000 of the city’s $150,000 paving budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Hawley said, with Pike Industries the low bidder.
All of North Maple Street is the final “for-sure” project, Hawley said. He told aldermen he had hoped to have enough money left to tackle Ice House Court, but that cul-de-sac would have to wait until next year.
Aldermen also decided to give the owners of the 11 homes in Vergennes that are not hooked up to the city’s municipal sewer a break if they choose to tap into the system.
Those property owners have been paying about $10 a year as their share of the bonded debt for the plant’s construction, with some beginning payments almost 50 years ago.
In 1999, aldermen boosted the hook-on fee from $5 to $500, and more recently from $500 to $1,340. The council backed Alderman Randy Ouellette’s motion to allow property owners to apply past and future bonded debt payments toward — but not to exceed — the hook-on fee.
Aldermen Lowell Bertrand, Christine Collette and Ouellette, plus Mayor Michael Daniels voted for the measure, and Alderwoman Ziggy Comeau voted against it.
Hawley also gave aldermen good news about the first summer of city ownership of the Sam Fishman Pool. With some bills still to pay — $1,000 for electricity, a week of labor and some supplies — Hawley said the pool’s fund balance stood at about $7,300, not including almost $2,000 that the city inherited in the pool fund.
“Clearly, we’re in good shape with the pool,” Hawley said.
Hawley also noted that residents of Panton and Waltham were given a one-time discount this year in pool fees as part of the deal in which pool ownership was transferred to Vergennes from the Vergennes ID school board, a deal in which Vergennes Union Elementary School assumed some debt.
Aldermen last year approved a $6,000 line item to support the pool, as they have in recent years. Hawley said if aldermen wanted to forego that budget line item in the future that they could consider not discounting fees for city residents next year. 
“The question is could we possibly not support the pool to the level of $6,000 and set the rates all the same,” Hawley said.
Daniels said aldermen could also next summer consider using the surplus to create a “rainy day” fund to support long-term pool needs.
“We could have a bucket of money to fall back to,” Daniels said.
Hawley said longtime volunteer pool operations overseer Linda Hawley and paid pool manager Roland Guyette had also said they would continue to work with the city in the future.
“I don’t know if Roland’s wife watches these meetings, but I think Roland wants to stay on,” Hawley said.
In other business, aldermen:
• Heard from Collette that the city’s farmers’ market is beginning to do well on its new day and time. Collette credited new market manager Rhonda Williams for her recruitment and promotion. “It’s been a good first year with her energy,” Collette said.
• Re-appointed the city’s Youth Fishing Derby Committee. “They do their jobs, and they do their jobs well,” said Bertrand.
• Heard from Daniels that he hoped to find a way to open the city’s skate park more often and more regularly. Finding adult volunteers to supervise the park has been a problem this summer, according to Aldermen David Austin, who has been overseeing the park for the council, but was not present on Tuesday.
• Heard from Daniels that 479 boats had come up Otter Creek to take advantage of free docking at the city’s docks, fewer than a year ago.
• Heard from Daniels that he would be making a special award to a local citizen at the city bandstand at 10:45 a.m. on Vergennes Day. 
Andy Kirkaldy is at [email protected].

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