Aldermen deal with crowded agenda

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen last week acknowledged the city could not keep up with this winter’s near-record snowfall, but defended the efforts of the city’s public works department.
Mayor Michael Daniels said at the March 22 city council meeting that he was particularly upset about abuse public works employees had received from some residents despite what he called the employees’ tireless efforts.
“My answer would be, ‘Here, take a shovel, pitch in,’” Daniels said. “I want to apologize to our public works employees for some of our citizens.”
One worker who attended the meeting said he had one day off in the past 10 weeks.
At the same time, City Manager Mel Hawley said officials may have been lulled into a sense of false security by recent milder winters, and probably need to be better prepared in the future.
“We need to be ready for that and budget accordingly,” Hawley said. “We’ve fallen short.”
Hawley said he did not blame the public works department, which he said did not have the equipment it needed.
“I’m not going to point any fingers, but we really failed,” he said. “The sidewalks were not in acceptable condition.”
Daniels said city officials would evaluate what equipment might be needed for the future, and Hawley said bonding to pay for upgrades was possible.
City officials had hoped to use a surplus from the previous fiscal year to do some paving this spring, particularly in Ice House Court and Cataract Place. Hawley said those projects will be bumped until later this year and into the next budget.
“Any thought of spring paving is out the door. We spent that money moving snow,” he told aldermen.
Still, Hawley hopes to preserve some carry-over by tightening belts throughout the overall budget.
“I hope we’re OK,” he said. “We just have to continue to use restraint.”
In related news, aldermen heard from Hawley that public works supervisor Carroll O’Connor would be stepping down at the end of April after 33 years of employment. Hawley said that an event honoring O’Connor’s service would be held at the fire station.
Reporter Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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