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City option tax talk put on hold

VERGENNES — When they met this past Tuesday, members of the city council in Vergennes briefly discussed the issue of local option taxes. Towns can choose to add to state rooms and meals and/or sales taxes and keep a portion to devote to local needs.
Mayor Michael Daniels suggested earlier this fall the council look at the idea as a way to fund projects on the city’s Downtown-Basin Master Plan wish list. Four years ago the city looked at the concept, but abandoned it in the face of opposition from large local employers. The council has discussed local option taxes again at recent meetings after Daniels raised the question.
Daniels last week wanted to ask each council member their general opinion, but Alderman Matt Chabot balked, saying more business feedback was necessary.
“I really think we need more information before we take a straw poll,” Chabot said.
The council agreed to table the discussion until Daniels could hold a planned informal public meeting with business leaders, probably after the holiday season. 
In other business last week, council members also:
•  Approved spending $2,154 out of the swimming pool fund balance to buy new filter covers for the pool.
•  Heard from City Manager Mel Hawley that the city’s revolving loan fund has a balance of $50,000, putting the council in a good position to make a loan to a city business.
• Were reminded by Hawley that a fund started in 2002 by Green Mountain Power as a requirement of federal relicensing for use of Otter Creek to generate power still has $33,000 in it. The fund is intended to pay for projects in the Otter Creek basin area, and Hawley suggested the council look to the city’s Downtown-Basin Master Plan for a project to which that pot of money could be devoted.
•  Heard from Carrie McFarlane and Tim Clark of the nonprofit Addison County Walk-Bike Council. They said the group would like to work with Vergennes on pedestrian and cycling issues and had the resources, thanks in part to its affiliation with agencies including the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and Local Motion, to support the council in helping the city become more friendly to pedestrians and bikers.
“You have an ally in the Walk-Bike Council,” McFarlane said.
Hawley suggested the group could start by advising the council on planned sidewalk extension projects.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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