Vergennes foresees interim manager

VERGENNES — It looks increasingly like an interim city manager will replace Mel Hawley when he retires on July 24, Deputy Mayor and search committee chairman Jeff Fritz told the Vergennes City Council last week.
Fritz at the council’s June 12 meeting said the city’s agreement with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to coordinate the search for a new city manager was signed just the week before.
The council decided in late May to work with VLCT after the city’s in-house search produced only one candidate, one that the committee decided not to put forward.
Fritz said the VLCT set a July 9 deadline for interested applicants to respond to its advertising and direct recruiting, and that VLCT officials set a target of forwarding 15 candidates.
He added that VLCT and the committee are also seeking interim managers from among a pool of retired Vermont municipal managers, and that he had spoken to a candidate for the interim post. And that candidate, Fritz said, had identified a sitting manager who might be interested in the Vergennes job; the committee forwarded both the interim and permanent candidates’ names to the VLCT. The individuals were not identified in the open meeting.
Given the application deadline and how close it is to Hawley’s last day on the job, Mayor Renny Perry said bringing aboard an interim manager seemed inevitable.
“It looks pretty clear we will be in the position of hiring an interim for some period of time,” Perry said.
Fritz and Perry suggested and council members agreed that if the committee identifies an interim candidate that a “meet-and-greet” session with her or him should be scheduled with the full board.
In the meantime Perry said the Vergennes Planning Commission hopes to review applications for a new zoning administrator — Hawley also holds that position — on June 25. Perry said it is possible an interim hire might be needed for that job as well.
In other June 12 business, council members:
•  Approved Hawley’s recommendation that they grant an easement over city land near the Sam Fishman Pool to the Addison Northwest School District. That easement will allow a construction firm that will be working on Vergennes Union Elementary School this summer to run a new water line to the school to feed a planned new sprinkler system. Hawley said the easement will run over a corner of city land that will not be used in the future and allow a line of trees to be preserved.
•  Approved the request by student Chase Koenig to allow the school-based Friends Theater to perform at the Bixby Library on June 23, and returned his $25 application fee. Koenig said he had learned while researching permission that all performances on city property required a permit and a fee.
Hawley said an old statute shows that listed school and church property probably should not have omitted city property and advised the council that city property should be added to the list in the future. Hawley said if the council does not make the change that, for example, every performance on the city bandstand could be subject to applications and fees. The council also voted to return Koenig’s fee.
•  Heard from Hawley that the sewer budget, which is funded by fees and not property taxes, is healthy after the council in October increased the basis quarterly sewer rate — which homeowners and the owners of business spaces or apartments pay per unit — from $96 to $106.
Hawley projected a pre-audited sewer fund balance of almost $51,000 and said he would “certainly not” recommend any further increase in the rate. “I’m very confident we’ll have money in the bank,” he said.
 •Learned that David Shlansky, the principal of Mahaiwe LLC, will appeal his second loss in Environmental Court on an appeal of a Vergennes Development Review Board provision related to approval of apartments on Grist Mill Island. At issue is the DRB’s insistence of a particular style of perimeter fencing around the island it believes is necessary to protect pedestrians.
Hawley noted that the fencing style was one of two Shlansky proposed, and that it has been installed. Shlansky insists he proposed and installed it reluctantly, and the DRB had no factual basis for or right to require a particular style of fencing. Hawley said the city has already spent about $13,000 in court on the first two appeals and could spend between $6,500 and $13,000 more.

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