Vergennes city manager will seek input on sidewalk’s fate

VERGENNES — After discussion at Tuesday’s Vergennes City Council meeting, council members decided the fate of about 1,000 feet of South Water Street sidewalk rests in the hands of new City Manager Matt Chabot.
At issue is whether the riverside stretch of sidewalk that runs south from the intersection of South Water and Roberts streets should be repaired or removed. Removing the sidewalk would save future maintenance costs. Chabot said if it were removed it would be sodded over and seeded, but no crosswalks are planned.
At their second August meeting council members had discussed a council site visit to help them make a decision on the future of the deteriorated sidewalk, but this week the council instead decided because it was a budget and infrastructure question the choice really fell to the city manager, according to Chabot on Wednesday morning.
Chabot said he would, however, before making any decision consult with the council, neighborhood residents, and Department of Public Works (DPW) head Jim Larrow, as well as consider the opinions of the Vergennes Planning Commission and Police Chief George Merkel.
“It’s clear the decisions are made completely with my authority,” Chabot said. “But from my perspective I think the right thing to do is to ask the council if they have an opinion, ask the residents if they have an opinion, and then formulate a decision and move forward, and obviously work with Jim Larrow.”
Chabot was set to meet with the DPW on Wednesday to evaluate the scope of work necessary for either repair or removal, as well as and when work could be done, something he said depends on the existing DPW schedule.
“This may not be something that gets rectified this season,” Chabot said.
He described the condition of the riverside sidewalk between Roberts Street and the south end of South Water Street as having “sections that are significantly deteriorated and in need of replacement,” although recent work done on the east side has left that sidewalk in good condition.
Chabot said one resident came to the council’s Tuesday meeting to lobby for keeping the sidewalk and more effective snow removal on the street and sidewalk.
He also described the city’s planning commission as split on the question, “with some planning commission members feeling that the sidewalk on both sides of South Water Street fits with the character of the rest of the city.”
Money could also affect the decision and the timing of potential work, Chabot said.
“The council was clear last night. If there is money in the budget to do it, it’s Matt’s call. If he doesn’t, it’s going to have to wait,” he said.
Residents have at least a bit of time to lobby Chabot one way or the other: He said he would take time to make the call.
“It will be a couple weeks,” he said. “I want to run this through the appropriate channels.”
In other business on Tuesday the council appointed Teresa Hyndman to the Vergennes Development Review Board and Kathy Rossier and Mike Winslow to the Downtown Master Plan Basin Task Force, also known as the Basin Task Force.

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