City OKs Wi-Fi for the basin, bike rack on green

VERGENNES — During a Tuesday, June 14, meeting the Vergennes City Council authorized Wi-Fi for the Otter Creek Basin, approved a second bicycle rack for the city green, and tapped the Water Tower Fund to pay for work to City Hall that created office space for the Vergennes Partnership.
The council got its first look at a $1.848 million draft general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Aldermen are set to take a second look at City Manager Mel Hawley’s draft spending plan at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21, with an eye to finding places to make cuts and soften a potential 9-cent tax increase Hawley said it could trigger if the budget was approved as is.
The council must set the budget and tax rate before the end of the month, and will probably do so on Tuesday, June 28.
Last Tuesday, June 14, the council after some debate backed a Vergennes Partnership proposal to add a bike rack, which would be movable but temporarily anchored to the ground, near the city green’s southeast corner.
Alderman and partnership President Renny Perry said a second rack in a prominent location closer to restaurants and shops would encourage more of the many bike tours that go through Vergennes to stop and spend money. Riders’ bikes are expensive, he said, and a rack must be visible to them because owners “want to see them when they’re eating” to prevent theft.
The original proposal called for the rack to be directly at the corner of the park, but some aldermen objected to the visual clutter right along the road and suggested moving the rack further back along Church Street to a still visible location. Finally, the council approved a motion for the rack at a location to be determined “agreeable to both the partnership and the council.”
Perry said the partnership would pay up front for the roughly $500 rack and then solicit donations to recoup the cost.
Aldermen agreed to spend about $1,200, not from taxpayer funds, to install Wi-Fi in the Otter Creek Basin area, a service they believe will further encourage boaters to visit the city docks and, hopefully, continue to spend money in local businesses.
The Vergennes Partnership will pay the monthly $90 fee for the service, because the default website will be the partnership’s, allowing it to sell ads to local businesses.
Mayor Bill Benton said Macdonough Drive resident Matt Daniels had volunteered to let Comcast install necessary broadcast equipment at his property.
Funds for the installation will come from the $3,300 of donations collected from boaters in 2014 and 2015. The city allows them to dock and hook up to electricity for free, but asks them to place donations in a box near the docks.
Benton said officials have been disappointed with the donations collected. He said at $10 per boat per night the total would have been much higher. He said he and Hawley will continue to evaluate options, including making more aggressive requests for donations and looking at charging for docking.
Aldermen also agreed to tap the Water Tower Fund — which is fed by cellphone companies that pay the city to use its former water tower to broadcast signals — to help fund the conversion of part of the former police station in city hall into office space. They voted to spend $5,476.58 from the fund for that project, which was largely performed by volunteer labor.
In the future, its use could change, but for now it is dedicated to the partnership; the Vergennes Opera House shares adjacent space with no wall between. The office is to the right and is off the entry lobby.
“It looks great,” Benton said. “It’s a wonderful room to have.”
Still remaining to be fixed up is the main room of the former police station.
Aldermen also voted to close Macdonough Drive between Comfort Hill and High Street for the annual Youth Fishing Derby, not only for this year, but also on an annual basis. Traffic will be routed up Comfort Hill and along High Street. This year’s closing dates are Friday and Saturday, June 24 and 25.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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