City supports local business with second loan

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen at their Nov. 15 meeting agreed to make a second loan from a city-administered revolving loan fund to Shear Properties, the owners of 171 Main St. and the Shear Cuts beauty salon that does business at that address.
Hawley described the $70,788 agreement with Shear Properties as essentially a loan consolidation.
The arrangement will allow the owners to pay off the balance of their 2008 loan from the city, two small bank loans, their share of the cost of a handicap-access ramp that serves their and other buildings, some credit card debt, and the cost of the $14,000 addition of a nail salon to their business — all while lowering monthly payments by about $350.
Aldermen quickly and unanimously last Tuesday decided to loan Shear Properties $70,788 from the Maynard Building Revolving Loan Fund. That money came from a Community Development Block Grant in the 1990s to renovate a Main Street property. Once the loan made from the grant was repaid, the city had the discretion to loan the funds out to enhance its business climate.
Hawley said Shear Properties will continue to pay the major bank loans taken out to buy the property, but the smaller bank loans and credit card debt that are consolidated by the agreement with the city arose when unexpected building repairs cropped up.
Shear Properties will pay the city back over 10 years at a 4 percent interest rate. The original 2008 loan allowed Shear Properties to expand Shear Cuts from leased space on Panton Road into its current downtown site.
Aldermen also spoke with resident Sue Ferland about a city-owned, but not city-maintained, cemetery on Mountain View Lane variously known as The First Cemetery, The Old Cemetery or The Burial Ground.
Ferland said her three years of research sparked by her concern about the condition of the cemetery showed that although a trust handed its maintenance to the First Congregational Church of Vergennes in the 1930s, a quitclaim deed that predates that act shows city ownership.
She said the leadership of the church, of which she he is not a member, is no longer truly interested in maintaining the cemetery.
“They just don’t have any interest in continuing, basically,” Ferland said.
Ferland said some of the city’s founding figures, including Samuel Strong, and many War of 1812 veterans are buried in the cemetery, which she said has deteriorating and inferior fencing and is increasingly overgrown. She noted the trust still contains $28,000 to help fund maintenance.
“It’s time to take some of that money and make improvements,” she said.
Hawley said in the past there had been confusion on ownership, but he and aldermen on Tuesday did not dispute Ferland’s findings. Rather, they said the next move was up to the church.
“They need to come forward,” Hawley said. “It needs to be very clear who has authority and who makes decisions.”
Mayor Michael Daniels concluded the discussion.
“We’ll wait to hear from the church to hear what their intentions are,” Daniels said.
At their Tuesday meeting, aldermen also:
•  Welcomed five first-year members of area Boy Scout Troop No. 539, who observed for an hour as a requirement for a “Citizenship in the Community” merit badge. The Scouts will also be required to study an issue raised, interview an alderman and perform eight hours of community service to obtain the badge, according to Assistant Scoutmaster Charles Kelly.
•  Assigned title of a 1926 Boyer firetruck to a nonprofit arm of the city fire department. Vergennes firefighters plan to restore the truck, which was used to fight fires in Vergennes for almost 40 years, as a showpiece and operate it during parades. It will be stored at the Green Street fire station. “We’d like to keep it in the fire station because it is part of the city’s history,” said firefighter Bill Lanning.
•  Heard from Hawley that the city’s budget is in decent shape heading into the winter, although the unpredictability of the weather and the Legislature could change the picture. The health of the budget in the spring will determine how much more paving can be done during the fiscal year that ends on June 30, he said.
•  Heard from Daniels that the city’s “Haunted Warehouse,” held in the Kennedy Brothers building before Halloween, proved to be a success, with the visitor count this year more than doubling to 945.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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