City council waits to talk about a local option tax

VERGENNES — At their Oct. 28 meeting Vergennes City Council members were first faced with an agenda item on a possible local option tax in the city. One option, for example, would be to add a penny to the state sales tax to items sold within city limits.
But Mayor Bill Benton said the time was not right for the discussion. He said he was out of town when it was placed on the agenda, and he removed it when he returned because not enough research has been done to show whether such a tax could have a positive impact.
Some aldermen said they have heard residents and merchants are concerned the tax would be a drag on sales, while Benton said the positives could be revenue to support an economic development employee, to offset the cost of the new police station, or to “put toward other projects we can’t do.”
Aldermen approved having City Manager Mel Hawley work with the city’s economic development task force to study the issue and report back to the council. Such a tax could only take effect if backed by residents in a vote and after public discussion, Benton said, which can best happen with more data in hand. 
“It will be coming to the public soon, but I want to be sure our ducks are in order,” he said.
Also at that meeting, city councilors:
• Agreed to support a grant application to the Land and Water Conservation Fund for $40,000 to make a series of improvements to the Otter Creek basin area, including better lighting, trail upgrades, and wi-fi installation at the city docks. Mayor Bill Benton said the city would be required to supply a 50 percent match, but still had $33,500 in hand from Green Mountain Power, which had to make a community contribution to receive a federal permit to use Otter Creek for power generation. The remaining $6,500 would come from the Water Tower Fund.
•  Reaffirmed their backing for a $42,000 toddler playground on East Street. Benton said state officials still support the grant despite the delay in building the playground and an error in the city’s grant application.
•  Reappointed Alderman Michael Daniels and former council member Craig Miner as the city’s Green Up Day coordinators and Hawley as zoning administrator.

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