Interviews for city manager set

VERGENNES — In a Tuesday meeting held in the Vergennes Opera House and largely devoted to honoring retiring City Manager Mel Hawley, members of the Vergennes City Council said they continued to be optimistic about finding a new manager before the end of August.
That’s when Hawley will step down for good. He had planned to leave after this past Tuesday’s celebration, but agreed the week before to fill in on a part-time basis to give the council another five weeks to complete its hiring process.
Deputy Mayor Jeff Fritz, who coordinated the search committee, said at Tuesday’s meeting that group had identified seven finalists out of 42 applicants and planned to begin interviews later this week.
“All of them, we feel, are highly qualified,” Fritz said.
Fritz said the committee intends to make a recommendation to the council for a new manager to start in September “within two weeks.”
Mayor Renny Perry, one of two managers to serve Vergennes while Hawley worked for Country Home Products between 1998 and 2008, praised Hawley, but at the same time said he was confident in the search.
“We can’t replace Mel, because he is irreplaceable. But we can find another city manager to take his place,” Perry said.
In other business conducted before Hawley was honored, the council:
•  Heard from Hawley that the audited budget surplus from the 2017-2018 fiscal year was $123,700, a little lower than originally projected, but easily enough to meet the council’s goal of using $90,600 of the surplus to offset higher taxes.
•  Approved a $1,000 donation from the city’s recreation budget to the Vergennes City Band to support its ongoing summer concert series on the city green. The band plays on Monday nights, and has for decades. Hawley said in the distant past the city had directly supported the band, but had not done so in recent years.
•  Heard from Hawley that four engineering firms had made proposals for a study of how to improve the city’s wastewater and stormwater collection system, including the problematic Macdonough Drive pump station, to prevent future overflows into Otter Creek. The city is operating under a state order to find a solution to that persistent problem, and has been for years.
“A decision will be made (on a firm) over the next month or so to begin that evaluation,” Hawley said.
•  Were told that the amount of the city’s overdue tax bills had declined by $27,000 from a total of $48,000 a year ago. “We really don’t have a delinquent tax problem,” Hawley said, while adding a few accounts do remain several years in arrears.
•  Re-appointed Shannon Haggett, Cheryl Brinkman, Carrie McFarlane and John Coburn to the planning commission; Timothy Cook and Jason Mullin to the development review board; Joan Devine as city clerk and treasurer; and the firm of Ouimette & Runcie as city attorney.

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