City seeks council member; renovations on tap

VERGENNES — Anyone who wants to replace Alderman Joe Klopfenstein on the Vergennes City Council has until Nov. 5 to send a letter of interest.
Klopfenstein recently announced he would step down at the end of November to teach veterinary science in Oregon.
Members of the Vergennes City Council said at their Oct. 13 meeting that they would like to have his replacement on the job in December. Whoever steps in would only be guaranteed a spot until Town Meeting Day and would have to decide in January whether to take out a petition to get on the ballot in March.
On Oct. 13, the council decided those interested should submit a letter to Mayor Bill Benton’s attention to City Clerk Joan Devine at City of Vergennes, P.O. Box 35, Vergennes, VT 05491, or to [email protected].
Council members discussed later deadlines, but decided on the Nov. 5 date because it would allow them to give candidates time to attend their two November meetings and make their cases for the position.
Vergennes City Manager Mel Hawley also told the council on that Tuesday that it will not be expensive for the city to fix up first-floor space in Vergennes City Hall that will be shared by the Friends of the Vergennes Opera House and the Vergennes Partnership.
Hawley said about $4,400 remains in a budgeted $10,000 line item dedicated to city hall renovations, and that should be enough to pay for carpeting, electrical work, lighting and a knee wall in the office space the two organizations will share.
The Vergennes police department formerly occupied that space, which is off of and to the right of the building’s lobby. It consists of the theater’s former ticket booth and a small office, plus behind that the former police chief’s office.
Hawley said the two nonprofit organizations have agreed to define their offices with the knee wall, but otherwise leave the space open to allow representatives of either group to greet visitors.
Volunteer labor could help keep the cost down. Hawley said he will contact the Northlands Job Corps carpentry program and hopes that group can help, and Alderman Renny Perry, also the Vergennes Partnership president, said members of that group would donate their labor as their skills would permit. Efficiency Vermont rebates will also save money, Hawley said.
“It’s not a huge project,” said Hawley, who the next day said he hoped the work could be completed by the end of the year.
Perry told the council that partnership and theater officials have also agreed on a memorandum of understanding that will allow the partnership access to the space. The opera house has leased the front space and will grant through that memorandum a right of way to the partnership space to the rear.
The council on Oct. 13 also authorized Hawley to sign and make final the city’s agreement with the partnership to use the city hall space.
The Vergennes Partnership is charged with promoting and maintaining the economic health and well-being and the appearance of the city’s downtown, and without the partnership the city and its downtown businesses and property owners are not eligible for the grants that have supported many downtown improvements over the years.
In other business in an hour-long meeting on Oct. 13, the council:
• Appointed Brent Rakowski as the Vergennes representative to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission’s transportation committee.
• Heard from Hawley that the city’s Vermont League of Cities and Town’s insurance policy will not help pay the city’s costs in a lawsuit over the failed attempt to build a preschool playground on East Street.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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