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Vergennes pool to open, with limits

VERGENNES — The Vergennes city pool will open on July 1 on a reservations-only basis to season-pass owners, members of the Vergennes Champs Swim Team, and attendees of summer camps based in Vergennes, according to a plan approved by the Vergennes City Council on Tuesday.
Season passes will only be sold to residents of Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, Addison, Panton and Waltham. Exceptions will be made for swim team members. All will have to sign up in advance for 90-minute blocks of time.
Previously officials had discussed two-hour blocks, but City Manager Dan Hofman clarified this week that pool employees would need the remaining half hour for COVID-19 related cleaning.
City officials said they were limiting pass sales due to a concern that demand for the pool would overwhelm its capacity, which for the time being is limited to 25 people, including five employees, by the governor’s COVID-19 safety orders. 
Family groups will be required to stay in circles marked on the deck, and all pool users will be asked to observe social distancing recommendations.
Technically, Tuesday’s council action consisted of approving 2020 user fees for the pool. Those fees increased by 50% and did not double, as Hofman had initially suggested.
The fee schedule recommendation came out of a meeting last week attended by Hofman, city recreation coordinator Kim Buckley, and the city’s Pool Advisory Committee.
The city will charge $75 for individual season passes for city residents and $97.50 for non-residents, and for family passes $150 for residents and $195 for non-residents.
Hofman said if there were a shortfall if not enough passes were sold to generate the roughly $30,000 of revenue the pool needs to break even the city could look to the pool’s existing fund balance or tap the Watershed Fund. That fund, dedicated to supporting Vergennes recreation, already supplies $6,000 annually to the pool. 
On Tuesday Alderman Bill Benton asked how the city would work with individuals and families who might not be able to afford the higher prices.
Hofman said he has been fielded calls offering to help pay for specific people’s passes. Meanwhile, officials are also creating a formal process to provide financial aid, he said: Pass applications will allow citizens to ask for aid, and officials will establish a support fund to which area residents can contribute. 
Hofman described the overall pool-opening plan as Phase 1, but that he and the pool committee did not know what Phase 2 might look like. 
It depends, he said, on factors such as whether the governor amends safety orders and how the pool finances work out, with even refunds or sliding fee scales possible. 
“The committee was discussing a lot of if-then possibilities,” Hofman said.
In other business at a meeting the council took steps toward approving a citizen police oversight committee (see story), councilors also:
•  Heard from Hofman the city should end the fiscal year on June 30 with a general fund balance of about $250,000 due to reduced spending in recent months. The council agreed the balance should all be carried forward to protect the city’s finances against expected tough times ahead. At times the council has used fund balances to reduce the municipal tax rate, but officials noted they did not raise the rate this year.
•  Unanimously backed a request by resident and planning commission member Tim Cook to put a “Black Lives Matter/Solidarity” sign on the city green. The sign would be a painted double-sized sheet of plywood, Cook said, and be particularly targeted at through traffic and truck drivers, many of whom are African-American. Cook said he was not 100% sure he would proceed, however.
•  Approved installation of the city docks.
•  Formed a committee consisting of Hofman and Councilors Bill Benton and Mark Koenig to search for a new city clerk.
•  Heard an update from Mayor Jeff Fritz on what is now called the Vergennes/Ferrisburgh Prosperity Task Force. Fritz said the joint effort between the communities is progressing and will tackle housing, infrastructure, economic development and marketing issues of interest to both.
The Addison County Regional Planning Commission and Economic Development Corp. are both on board, he said, as are state officials. On Tuesday Benton agreed to join Hofman and Fritz in discussing with their Ferrisburgh counterparts the lingering issue of where the boundary between the two communities lies. 

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