By STEVEN JUPITER
BRANDON—The Brandon Selectboard convened for its regular meeting on Monday evening.
Town Manager’s Report
After approval of the agenda and minutes, Brandon Town Manager Seth Hopkins offered his report, the full text of which can be found in the Selectboard packet for 11/13/23 on the town’s website.
Highlights from the Town Manager’s report included:
- The Brandon Historic Preservation Commission is looking for historical material on the Brandon Town Farm, the Teahouse Observatory, and Brandon cemeteries. Anyone who has any such material should contact Dennis Reisenweaver of the Commission or Town Manager Seth Hopkins.
- A tree that was planted too close to the water fountain in Central Park during the Segment 6 project will be removed. It is not historic or mature, but anyone who has any objection to the planned removal is asked to register their objection with the Town Manager by November 28th.
- The Prudential Committee of the Brandon Fire District expressed “conceptual” interest in taking the overage from a town-owned solar array, an arrangement which would benefit both the Fire District and the town. Jim Emerson of the Brandon Energy Committee has 2 proposals for the array in hand and is seeking a third.
- The Selectboard is encouraged to decide to whom to dedicate the Town Report that will be released in the new year.
- Mr. Hopkins and Selectboard member Tim Guiles each completed 75 hours of training and are now certified Vermont Emergency Management Directors.
- Mr. Hopkins sought and received authorization from the Board to begin negotiations with the labor union representing several town employees.
- Brandon Police Chief David Kachajian submitted a letter disputing an allegation made by Selectboard member Brian Coolidge at the last Selectboard meeting that Brandon PD had refused a request from the Neshobe School to send an officer to discuss the work of police officers with students. In the letter, Chief Kachajian denied that such a request had been received and stated that Principal Wells assured him that no such request had been made. If such a request had been made, Chief Kachajian assured the Board it would have been accepted. On Monday, Mr. Coolidge reiterated his disappointment.
There was additional conversation about the “adoption” by local gardeners of the bioswales on Park and Pearl Streets. Mr. Hopkins stated that no further progress had been made on that front and Deputy Town Manager Bill Moore state that the town grounds crew was working to clean up the swales.
Board Chair Tracy Wyman asked about the “primitive camp” in Goshen that was seeking access to a Brandon road. Mr. Hopkins explained that he had an upcoming meeting with the owners of the land through which the Goshen owner sought access.
Recreation Department Report
Rec Director Bill Moore offered his report, the full text of which can be found in the Selectboard packet on the town website. Highlights included:
- Registration has opened for winter cheerleading and PK – 6 boys’ basketball.
- Only 18 tickets remain for the Celtics trip.
- Work will begin on the new floor of the Town Hall on December 11.
Board member Cecil Reniche-Smith, who is also on the Planning Commission, advised that the Commission’s draft town plan will be submitted for approval by the required statutory parties by 11/18 and will be presented for public comment at a public meeting the week of 12/18.
Board member Heather Nelson asked whether a moratorium on additional ARPA spending could be imposed pending receipt of quotes for the work needed on the roof of the Town Hall. Mr. Hopkins shared that 4 quotes had already been received but more may be coming. The 4 quotes ranged from $314K for asphalt shingles to $508K for standing-seam metal. Two quotes for slate came in at $372K (including redecking) and $486K. The names of the vendors were not revealed.
It was also determined that a motion passed at a previous meeting to pause any decisions on ARPA funding was still in effect, though the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) is advising towns with undesignated ARPA funds to commit them quickly because the federal government may be seeking to reclaim any undesignated ARPA money earlier than expected. VLCT suggested that ARPA monies could be placed in existing capital-expense funds as a way of retaining them for future designation.
Vermont 250th Anniversary Commission
The Vermont Division of Historic Preservation is seeking “liaisons” from Brandon to work on the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which will begin in 2025 and wrap up in 2027.
The Board approved a motion to participate but declined to designate anyone as liaisons. Instead, participation will be sought among the community. Anyone interested should contact Mr. Hopkins.
The Board approved the appointment of the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce Board as the Designated Downtown Board in order to comply with state requirements for access to grants that will benefit Brandon’s downtown. The resolution also entailed the merger of the Chamber with the Downtown Brandon Alliance. More news on this merger will appear in future issues of The Reporter.
Grand List Errors
The Board approved corrections to the town’s Grand List to reflect changes in the physical structures of two properties and the tax-exempt status of two others. The full description of the changes can be found in the Selectboard packet on the town’s website.
The Board approved a request from the Brandon Tree Warden, Neil Silins, to apply for a “Communities Caring for Canopies” grant. These grants can be for up to $20K and require a 50% match from the town, which can be in cash or in kind (the equivalent value in labor).
The Board approved a change to the blanket payroll authorization to reflect a merit raise received by a town employee.
Board member Brian Coolidge expressed concern that the receipt of this raise might cause problems with other town employees. Mr. Hopkins assured Mr. Coolidge that the raise was the result of an annual review and had occurred every year of this employee’s time working for the town.
As the Board’s final bit of public business for the evening, a warrant was approved in the amount of $1,305,354.38 to cover the town’s expenses and obligations, including approximately $850K for the wastewater plant project.
The Board then went into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.