Vergennes to recieve planning help

VERGENNES — Vergennes City Council members and planning commission chairman Shannon Haggett at this past Tuesday’s council meeting discussed the city’s recent award by Vermont Council on Rural Development of free facilitation for a four-month public-forum process that will be offered either next spring or fall. City Manager Mel Hawley said Vergennes was one of two Vermont towns to earn the honor for 2013.
Hawley said towns have the leeway to use the process — which includes state and federal participation — to focus on any issue or issues they choose.
“They don’t bring an agenda. They bring facilitation services to a community,” Hawley said.
The Vergennes Planning Commission is working to rewrite and update the city’s municipal plan, and Hawley and Haggett hope that process can be the focus of the forums. City officials will lobby the council for the spring sessions.
“The planning commission is excited about this,” Hawley said.
In other business at their Dec. 17 meeting, aldermen:
•  Heard from Hawley that construction of the city’s new North Main Street police station remains on its financial target. He estimated the building — which has a construction budget of $1,115,000 — is about 70 percent complete. Meanwhile, that budget includes $50,000 for contingencies, and Hawley said of that only $4,400 has been tapped.
•  Heard that the city’s recreation committee will soon meet to discuss the toddler playground proposed for near the city pool. Vergennes has been awarded a $21,000 grant for the playground, but its cost estimate came in at $52,000, and that does not include off-street parking Hawley said the Vergennes Development Review Board said might be necessary. In addition to parking, neighbors and other residents and the Vergennes Union Elementary School administration have also raised concerns that Hawley said the committee will discuss.
•  Were told by Hawley he is already concerned about the city’s 2014-2015 municipal budget. Winter costs are running high, meaning the end-of-year fund balance aldermen have relied on to keep the tax rate low might be smaller than typical; bond payments for the police station must be added; and a grant that is funding the salary of one of the city’s police officers is expiring, while its terms also require the officer must stay on the payroll at least one more year, Hawley said.
“Budgeting for FY15 is going to be a challenge,” Hawley said.
•  Heard from Hawley that sewer plant operator Marty Williams will be retiring, effective Dec. 20. Williams had been a city employee since October 1995, Hawley said. 
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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