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Ferrisburgh seeking zoning help: Wheeling on leave as workload rising

FERRISBURGH — With Ferrisburgh zoning administrator Ken Wheeling out on a leave of absence, the Ferrisburgh selectboard on Tuesday voted to advertise for what Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence on Wednesday described as an “alternate assistant zoning administrator.”
When asked, Lawrence confirmed that alternate assistant would in all likelihood remain on the job on some basis even when and if Wheeling, 78, returns from his second leave of absence in 18 months.
“That’s a fair statement,” Lawrence said. “We just don’t know. We haven’t been in this position before, and we’re looking to the future. Zoning is becoming so busy.”
In February 2016 Wheeling suffered a stroke while driving in his hometown of Monkton — where he has been a popular longtime town meeting moderator — and his car struck a tree. He did not return to his work as a zoning administrator in Ferrisburgh, Monkton and Waltham until early May.
Lawrence declined to discuss why Wheeling has been off the job since July 17.
“Ken is on an indefinite leave of absence. We don’t know when he will be back,” she said. “Legally I can’t say why he’s out or what it is.”
In Ferrisburgh, Lawrence said Wheeling has worked up to 15 hours a week for $24 per hour. The selectboard on Tuesday decided to advertise the new post, she said, for “up to 20 hours a week,” Lawrence said, but did not set a salary. The board expects pay to be in the same ballpark as Wheeling’s, however.
“We’re assuming it would be the same at this point,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence was asked if and when Wheeling returned if the new position be eliminated.
“No, I don’t think so,” she said.
The board also heard on Tuesday from zoning board of adjustment chairwoman Charlene Stavenow, who lobbied for more staff help for her board and the town planning commission, which just completed a town plan rewrite and will soon turn to a redo of Ferrisburgh’s zoning laws to adapt them to a plan that could be adopted as soon as this week. 
“Her concern is she wants to make sure we look for someone with the latest and greatest skills,” Lawrence said. “With all the latest changes in the zoning laws and rewrites, we don’t want just anyone to come in. We want the skillset to move forward at a quick pace. Because obviously we hope to adopt a town plan soon, and it’s going to be a lot of work.”
On Wednesday, Lawrence agreed that Stavenow had a point.
“We’re hoping it (the zoning administrator job) will become full-time some day,” Lawrence said. “We are growing, and we have a zoning re-write coming.”
In other business on Aug. 1 the selectboard:
•  Ratified small changes in the town property tax rates they adopted on July 18, when they set the residential and non-residential rates at $1.8221 and $1.7289, respectively.
But treasurer Deb Healey and assistant treasurer Pam Cousino discovered those rates did not cover the additional $8,491 residents added to the selectboard budget at town meeting to support the Bixby Library. Later that week they sent out residential bills reflecting a rate of $1.8226 and non-residential bills with a rate of $1.7305.
They did so to meet the mid-July tax-bill mailing target and with the understanding the selectboard would ratify those changes of tiny fractions of a cent on Tuesday, and the board did so.
•           Reviewed the Disability Rights VT Polling Place Accessibility Survey results for the town. Lawrence said there were a couple of “pretty minor” things the town should address, including some settling of ground, stones and cement slab around the south side entry; tweaking the handicap parking signage; and possibly covering upstairs interior grates with carpeting to protect canes and wheelchairs.

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