Vergennes home to many projects

VERGENNES — City Manager Mel Hawley pointed out to Vergennes aldermen at their July 26 meeting that an unprecedented number of grant-funded efforts are either just concluding, getting under way, or beginning soon in Vergennes.
One is all but finished, the latest in a series of efforts to build handicap-access platforms and repair sidewalks on Main Street. The new platform curls around the building at the intersection of Main and Green streets that contains Addison Outfitters, Linda’s Apparel and Gifts, Shear Cuts and Hollyhocks.
The city’s status as a Designated Downtown made the project possible. The program allowed the property owner and the city to jointly apply for a grant to support its cost, which grew to roughly $500,000 because a second company had to finish the project.
City Clerk Joan Devine said on Wednesday the city’s final share has yet to be determined because some bills are outstanding. Vergennes must pay for 25 percent of shared elements, plus all of some work done in the city right of way.
Taxpayers will not be on the hook, however: Devine confirmed the city’s Water Tower Fund, which is filled by payments from cell phone companies to hang broadcast equipment on the tower, will pay the city’s share.
Hawley said on Tuesday the project is the biggest of its sort that has been or will be done on Main Street, and he was happy with the final result once the earlier issues were resolved.
“I am extremely pleased with what we ended up with,” he said.
Hawley hopes for one more such handicap-access and streetscape project in that stretch of road, in front of the Methodist church across from City Hall and an adjacent rental property, but said funding is drying up and the application process is becoming more competitive.
Meanwhile, he said another project, the long-awaited concrete stairway from Main Street down to the east side of Otter Creek, has finally begun. First conceived almost a decade and two city managers ago, the “Riverwalk” project is funded by a grant intended to improved the southern gateway to Vergennes.
Also under way are the $5.27 million senior housing center on Armory Lane, and the $627,000 renovation of the John Graham Shelter at the corner of Monkton Road and Main Street.
Hawley also once again told aldermen that the historic former rail station, now buried behind other buildings on North Main Street, would be moved this year to a new foundation next to the Agency of Transportation’s nearby commuter lot in Ferrisburgh. That move has been discussed for about a decade.
Hawley said efforts to obtain grants that go back years are paying off now.
“There are a lot of projects going on this summer,” Hawley said.
Aldermen also recognized new Vergennes public works head Jim Larrow, who has in recent years completed 184 hours of training offered by the Vermont Local Roads Program at St. Michael’s College.
Aldermen gave Larrow, appointed to his position this spring, two framed certificates from the program recognizing him as both a Level III and a Master Vermont Roads Scholar.
Larrow needed 175 hours to reach the latter distinction. Hawley read aloud a letter from program director Sally Collopy noting that Larrow is among “a select few” who have reached the latter level.
“Master Level is the highest level in the Roads Scholar program. It is indeed a rare accomplishment,” Collopy wrote. She also stated that the many workshops Larrow attended “are certain to make him a more valuable member of your team of professionals.”
Larrow said he appreciated his employers’ willingness to give him and others the time off and funding to pursue education.
“I want to thank the city of Vergennes for supporting its employees,” he said.
In other business last Tuesday, aldermen:
•  Granted city resident Robert St. Hilaire a license to sell popcorn on the city green from a mobile vending machine. St. Hilaire said he would sell popcorn this year for eight to 10 weeks.
•  Gave permission to Vergennes Laundry owners Julianne Jones and Didier Murat to reconfigure the outside seating area in front of their Main Street bakery. They said it would include a bicycle rack, planters and a table, while part of a garden would be removed.
•  Heard from Hawley that management of the city pool is going well, and that he has ordered new starting blocks that the Vergennes Champs swim team will pay for over time. However, he said, vandals did about $1,500 of damage to the pool building on Sunday night while stealing $2.35 of redeemable bottles and cans, an act that will cost the city several hundred dollars in an insurance deductible.
•  Re-appointed Jason Farrell, Morgan Kittredge and Michael Winslow to the planning commission, and Brent Rakowski, Steven Rapaport, Don Peabody and Alderman Lowell Bertrand (as an alternate) to the development review board. All terms will expire on Aug. 1, 2013.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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