Aldermen give more money to Vergennes Partnership

VERGENNES — After hearing a list of recent Vergennes Partnership accomplishments from its president, Renny Perry, also an alderman, the Vergennes City Council on Aug. 30 unanimously agreed to support the city’s downtown organization with $7,500 from the Vergennes Water Tower Fund. Perry abstained from the vote.
The council this spring had already earmarked $7,500 in the city’s annual budget for the Vergennes Partnership. Council members agreed the organization had, as the council had sought, taken on a more active economic development role while continuing its mission of preserving and enhancing downtown.
Mayor Bill Benton at the council meeting last Tuesday night said the partnership had taken “a big step in the right direction.”
Perry outlined what the partnership has done since late in 2015, focusing on the economic development angle.
“The partnership took that as an added part of our mission, and we have been very active with that,” he said.
The list includes, Perry said:
• Helping downtown property owners obtain tax credits to support building upgrades, including one project that will be announced soon. Vergennes, he said, is “one of the largest users of tax credits in Vermont.”
• Acting as the city’s de facto agency to recruit new businesses and support existing concerns.
• Fulfilling recommendations in the new Downtown and Otter Creek Basin Master Plan. “A whole bunch of those are for the partnership to implement,” Perry said.
• Hiring Amy Bodette Barr as its part-time marketing and development coordinator and refurbishing office space with volunteer labor for her and the organization in City Hall.
• Improving its website, something that drew praise from Alderman Matt Chabot.
• Creating a short video to promote Vergennes that should be ready soon.
• Continuing to serve as the downtown organization that is required if Vergennes is to retain its Designated Downtown status. That status allows Vergennes and its downtown businesses and property owners to apply for grants to support improvement projects. All of the combination sidewalk/handicap access platform and other streetscape projects completed along Main Street in the past 15 years have been supported with Designated Downtown grants.
Perry called the combined budget and Water Tower Fund request “probably the best deal the city can have,” adding, “You couldn’t do that for $15,000.”
Perry said the partnership has raised about $19,000 of its own through membership dues, donations and other efforts.
Aldermen may use the Water Tower Fund, fed by cellphone companies who pay to hang broadcast equipment on the city’s former water tower, to pay for capital improvement projects or economic development initiatives.
Benton said what the partnership has done meets the criteria for Water Tower Fund support.
“One of the big components is economic development,” he said. “There’s a lot in here that has been successful.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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