Firms may tap Vergennes fund

VERGENNES — Vergennes City Manager Mel Hawley is talking with two existing Vergennes businesses that may be interested in a loan from a $79,000 city fund to help them expand, Hawley told Vergennes aldermen at their Oct. 11 meeting.
Hawley said in a Thursday interview he could not yet identify the firms, but said “both businesses are growing businesses.”
Aldermen used the loan fund in the past to support Shear Cuts’ 2008 move from a Panton Road rental space to Main Street. The business owners used a $27,500 loan as part of down payment in buying their downtown home.
The city loan fund started as a Community Development Block Grant to Vergennes that supported the mid-1990s purchase and renovation of another Main Street structure, the former Maynard Auto Parts building, by buyers that included the Addison County Community Action Group. 
When ACCAG (now Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects) repaid the loan the city made from that grant, it became what is now a revolving loan fund the city can use to support housing or job creation.
Hawley said the city must make loans every three years or risk losing the funds.
“I’m anxious to get a new loan so there won’t be a possibility of having to return the money … back to the state,” he said.
Aldermen also tweaked the sewer rates for seven owners of properties that use the city sewer system, but lie outside city lines.
Previously, the owners had been charged double the operations and maintenance portion of the bill sent to in-city users, while they were excused from making payments on the smaller bonded debt portion.
Most recently, that formula had translated to about $535 per year per home or commercial unit. City users are now paying $350 per unit.
The new fee will be a straight formula of 140 percent of the total in-city bill. Hawley said the change will be slightly cheaper for out-of-city users and fairer for all if the debt portion grows in the future.
The change means an immediate drop of $45 per year to $490 annually for those seven property owners.
Hawley said out-of-town users should pay more because Vergennes office workers and public works employees spend a lot of time on sewer billing and system maintenance, and their work is supported by city property taxes that out-of-town users do not pay.
The city’s sewer fund, supported only by fees, does transfer $70,000 a year to the general fund. But Hawley said that amount of money does not cover the city’s costs for having non-sewer workers doing sewer-related tasks.
Affected by the change are four homes in Ferrisburgh, two businesses in the Monkton Road shopping plaza in Ferrisburgh, and the Gevry Trailer Park in Waltham.
The Addison County Community Trust has a contract to purchase that mobile home park. The park’s last tenant moved out in 2009, and it has been empty since then.
Hawley also told aldermen he has hired an engineering firm to look at the stormwater systems in Sunset Drive, Thomas Circle and Crosby Farms.
Vergennes was obligated to assume those permits in 2007, and Hawley said he realized they came with “formal monitoring and reporting requirements” that needed to be addressed.
Especially considering stormwater systems failed in some areas this spring, leading to flooded basements for which insurance investigators are working to determine liability, Hawley said he hoped engineers could “provide guidance” to city officials.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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