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City dock will not be repaired

MAYOR MATT CHABOT

VERGENNES — There will be no short-term repairs to the structure that anchors city-owned docks to the west side of the Otter Creek basin, the Vergennes City Council decided at its Tuesday, Aug. 24, meeting.

Hoyle Tanner Associates studied the issue and concluded that for about $41,000 the upper half of the deteriorating steel wall to which docks are attached could be removed, as could the fill behind it. The land behind the wall could then be re-graded to meet the new, lower top of the structure, according to the company’s report.

The work could extend the life of the steel wall, which is held in place by pylons, for around three years, according to Hoyle Tanner.

Alternatively, the report said Vergennes could spend roughly $500,000 to replace the entire system.

City Manager Ron Redmond advised the council consider carefully “where the docks stand as a priority given all we have to do.”

The docks on the other side of the river, the report acknowledges, are in better condition. Those docks can accommodate at least half, if not more, of the boaters that Vergennes allows to tie up for free, with the expectation they will spend money in city shops and restaurants.

Councilor Mel Hawley said at the council’s previous meeting those Macdonough Park docks on the other side of the river could be expanded. At this meeting he added both sets of docks were grant-funded and built in 1986.

Unless grants could pay for the majority of the cost of a more permanent fix, councilors said they weren’t interested in either solution.

“I really struggle with a $40,000 fix for three to five years,” said Mayor Matt Chabot.

A suggestion from Councilor Sue Rakowski met with more support. She said the city should possibly focus on Hoyle Tanner’s evaluation of the Macdonough Park docks.

The report said the steel wall on that side of the river was more solidly built and in better condition, but showing signs of “early corrosion” along its exposed portion. It recommended the council consider a protective coating that would “extend the structure’s serviceability.”

In other business on Tuesday, Aug., 24, councilors:

•  Briefly discussed whether a renewed city-wide mask mandate was advisable given the Delta variant surge in COVID-19 cases. Deputy Mayor Dickie Austin said he believed the council lacked the authority to do so unless the governor declared a state of emergency, and the issue was tabled. Austin added individual businesses retain the right impose such mandates.

•  Approved Three Squares Café owner Matt Birong’s request to use two parking places at the intersection of Main and Park Streets to deploy a food truck on days he can’t fully staff his eatery.

Conditions include that he and his staff clean up the public right of way and do not serve alcohol. The permit runs through the end of 2021 and excludes Thursdays, due to the city farmers’ market, and Vergennes Day. Birong also pledged to “take steps” not to block pedestrian traffic along the Park Street sidewalk.

He described the food truck as a response to the tight labor market in the hospitality sector: “I would love nothing more than to hire three people in the next six weeks and not be doing this.”

•  Backed a request from Vergennes Boy Scout Troop 539 and the Green Mountain Boy Scout Council to stage the Scouts’ annual Vermont Scouting Salute to Veterans Parade in Vergennes on Saturday, Nov. 6. The parade will begin at Vergennes Union High School and end at Vergennes Union Elementary School.

•  Agreed to discuss in executive session an $8,700 legal bill related to an investigation of the city fire department. Chabot described the investigation as “inconclusive.” He and Redmond said attorneys had advised them not to discuss the issue further, but councilors said they wanted to learn more. The discussion was added to an already scheduled closed-door session that evening.

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