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Vergennes farmers market to return to green

VERGENNES — After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vergennes Farmers Market will be back on the city green in downtown Vergennes this summer.
At the March 9 Vergennes City Council meeting, the council gave the green light to market organizers to return to the city’s central park.
That permission will include closing off Park Street to provide parking for vendors and customers, making city hall rest rooms available to vendors during operating hours, and allowing organizers access to storage areas in city hall’s basement.
Farmers market organizers Christopher and Sandy Reck said plans call for opening in early June on Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m., the same day and hours when the market operating successfully back in 2019.
Christopher Reck said it was not possible to operate this past season, but that “Things are looking a lot better this summer.”
Councilors were happy the seasonal fixture would return, and their vote was unanimous.
“Vote carries,” said Mayor Matt Chabot. “Welcome back.”

FINANCES
The council also heard from City Manager Ron Redmond that city officials that progress is being made in straightening out the accounting mess uncovered by the city’s 2020 professional audit. The effort is getting paid help from Greg Burdick and more aid from volunteers, especially Councilor and former city manager Mel Hawley, Redmond said.
Burdick and Treasurer Abbie Farrar are still reconciling, or balancing the books for, 2020 accounts.
Officials stressed there is no wrongdoing involved. Chabot pointed out Vergennes is in good financial shape, but its bookkeeping is simply out of whack and more difficult than expected to sort out after extensive personnel turnover and the impact of the pandemic this past year.
“We actually have more money than we realized,” the mayor said.
Redmond said accounts should be reconciled by mid-March, and in the meantime recording of critical legal documents, such as deeds and mortgages, is now only five or six weeks behind.
In the meantime, Redmond said he, Burdick and Farrar are creating procedures to ensure a repeat of the tangled finances will not recur, and he expects to be able to produce a draft budget for the next fiscal year by the end of March.
“This will not happen again,” Redmond said. “We will have systems in place.”
In other business at their March 9 meeting, councilors:
•  Approved a resolution of support for the Vergennes-area soldiers of Vermont National Guard Company B 572nd Engineer Battalion and their families. They were deployed on the next morning for a year-long mission, reportedly to Africa. Yellow ribbons are also being displayed at the Vergennes Police Department and Vergennes City Hall.
•  Tabled a discussion on whether to renew the council’s Conflict of Interest policy. Councilors Sue Rakowski and Jill Murray-Killon noted it did not contain language about “perceived” conflict of interest, nor did it correlate to a model Vermont League of Cities and Towns policy. Councilors will review both policies and take up the question at an upcoming meeting.
•  Appointed Kathy Rossier, Tim Cook, Lisa Casey, Michelle Eckels, Robyn Newton, Julian Cesner and Murray-Killon to the Vergennes Parks and Recreation Committee. Jeremy Holm volunteered to join the committee, and councilors agreed to add him once he made a formal application. The council also re-appointed Cheryl Brinkman to the Addison County Solid Waste Management board.
•  Heard from Councilor Mel Hawley that the city’s appeal of its Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) number, as determined by the Vermont Department of Taxes, was successful, but only moved the needle “by a little bit.”
State officials use CLAs determine how closely municipal assessments reflect true market value, and the affect school tax rates. Rising real estate values have pushed taxes higher. Before the city’s appeal the Vergennes CLA stood at 91.79% of market value, and now it is 91.9%. Or, in Hawley’s words, school taxes will be a “very minor bit lower” thanks to the appeal.

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