City to offer recreation survey

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen have given the go-ahead for a recreation survey to be distributed at the city’s annual meeting at the Vergennes Opera House on the evening of Monday, March 2, and made available at the Vergennes Fire Department polling station during voting hours on March 3.
At their Feb. 17 meeting aldermen reviewed a draft of the 10-question survey, which is being written by Mayor Bill Benton; Dustin Hunt, a Vergennes resident who works for the Middlebury recreation department; and city resident Kathy Rossier.
Hunt and Rossier are also helping Benton to develop an outline of a comprehensive recreation plan that they hope to present to aldermen later this spring. Benton said on this past Thursday the survey can provide valuable feedback for that process.
“I’m hoping the survey will guide us in a certain direction as to what people want,” Benton said.
Survey questions ask how residents use existing city parks and recreation programs, how they rate their condition and importance, how funds should be spent on them and how those funds should be raised, what kind of programs should be offered and how they should be scheduled, and whether residents would support the position of a part-time recreation coordinator.
Benton hopes the answers will help him, Hunt and Rossier to write a draft plan, which Benton said would be then discussed at public forums. The results will also help aldermen decide how and whether to spend money as they develop the city’s 2015-2016 budget, a process they typically start in late May and must finish by June 30.
“At least we’ll know what people want and can consider that during budget preparation,” Benton said. 
In other business at their Feb. 17 meeting, Vergennes aldermen:
•  Agreed to raise rates for all season passes and swimming lessons at the city pool by $5. Daily use fees will remain the same. Fees are set at a variety of rates: for instance, a daily use pass for a child is $2 and a season pass is going up to $100 for a Vergennes family and $130 for a family from out of town.
They declined to lower rates for Vergennes Champs swim team members, although the team, which provides a major chunk of pool revenue, saw a decline in membership last year.
City Manager Mel Hawley said city officials hope that drop in participation and revenue is just a one-year blip. “If that’s not just a bump in the road, there’s an issue here,” he said.
•  Approved an amendment to the Vergennes Opera House lease, subject to voter approval at Town Meeting 2016 or sooner if another vote is held. The amendment would add city hall’s first-floor ticket booth to the square footage controlled and used by the theater and allow the Friends of the Vergennes Opera House to make renovations to it. The ticket booth was part of the city’s police department until the force moved into its new station.
•  Heard from Hawley that upon appeal the Vermont Department of Taxes agreed to increase the city’s Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) to 104.43 percent from 103.97 percent. That increase will have the effect of lowering any school tax increase in Vergennes by half a cent, Hawley said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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