By Neil P. Allen
On Monday, the Brandon Sewer Commission approved a $853,660 budget, which includes a potential fixed usage rate increase from $34 per quarter to $68 per quarter. This budget is 3.04% less than last year’s budget.
Brandon Town Manager Dave Atherton introduced the budget. “Not a lot has changed. We moved some budgeted items that might not be used and replaced it with a capital [fund] transfer.”
According to a memo from Brandon Wastewater, “We have also in the past, budgeted for large items that never happened. When we have a failure of these systems, it is costly, but we questioned whether we should budget large amounts for these “what-ifs” or if we would be better off budgeting a steady figure to be transferred into the sewer capital account to cover these emergency situations when they arise and remove them from the annual budget, supplanting them with a $10,000 capital [account] transfer in addition to the $37,000 we already do. We also budgeted for five percent of each budget to be transferred to the capital account to cover the budget aberrations.”
Some of the items that fall into this would be things like engineering, contractors, pump station equipment, etc.
Select Board member Tim Guiles questioned the method for doing the budget by estimates rather than past performance.
Chief Operator Steve Cijka replied, “We used to do things to the penny, and we always ran a deficit.”
The budget passed 4-1 with Guiles being the sole “no” vote.
In addition, a recommendation for the town to increase the base charge from the current $150 per year to $272 per year was made. The usage charge of $13 per 1,000 gallons used would not change. The base charge, which is assessed on each of the 1,190 units in town, covers fixed costs of the wastewater department.
According to the memo, the goal was to have 70% for fixed costs and 30% for variable costs but wanted to keep the rate high enough to encourage conservation but also cover the loan payments with the fixed fee. The plan is to reexamine the rate structure annually but set the structure for a five-year period.
Sewer Commission chair Seth Hopkins asked if they needed to vote on the new rate structure that night or if they could wait until the next commission meeting when more clarity on the bond requirements would be known. They will bring the new rate structure at the next Sewer Commission meeting.
At the Select Board meeting, the board discussed the options for the nearly $400,000 in American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Atherton suggested using the funds on infrastructure projects related to the sewer system. Guiles suggested building a new garage for the highway department, increasing access to broadband, or to create a revolving loan fund for the Energy Committee to allow for energy improvements.
Guiles had hoped for an opportunity for the public to weigh in on how they would like the money spent. “I think we should have a community meeting to decide what to do with the money.”
With no input from the community at the meeting and none having come into the town manager’s office, Hopkins suggested that with a lack of uptake on public input that a public meeting seemed unwise. However, he did invite the public to share their ideas with board members or the town manager.
The board agreed to make a decision about what to do with the funds by the end of July. The update on the wifi project for the downtown area was postponed to the next meeting.
Atherton requested that the Select Board address the issue of temporary signs by area businesses. “I talked to [zoning administrator] Jeff [Biasuzzi] about this,” he said at Monday’s meeting. “It involves a lot of issues. VTrans said if it is not a traffic sign, it shouldn’t be in the right-of-way.
“The land use regulations allow temporary signs (such as sandwich boards) to be used but they need to be approved by the Select Board,” he continued.
Atherton recommended the board pass a resolution to allow temporary signs to be used during business hours as long as they are not blocking the traffic’s line of sight or in the right-of-way (defined as 24.5 feet from the middle line), and there must be at least 5 feet of space to allow for people to get past them and for ADA requirements.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Hopkins also requested that the temporary signs that were allowed during the Segment 6 project should be taken down.
The Select Board also unanimously approved the assignment of excess funds from the police department budget of $30,000 be assigned to the highway budget to pay for a new employee that would be starting in August to replace someone who is leaving in October. “This will allow for some training to take place,” said Atherton.
The board also approved $433 in excess funds be given to the Rec Dept. for the cheerleading squad.
The Select Board accepted the bid from Champlain Valley Fuels for No. 2 fuel oil at the cost of $2.40 per gallon and on road diesel fuel for $2.63 per gallon. The board also accepted the bid from Fyles Brothers for liquid propane at the cost of $1.50 per gallon. Last year, the charges, respectively, were $1.191, $1.247 (plus taxes), and $1.16.
In addition, the Select Board unanimously appointed or reappointed the following people to various boards: Jim Emerson will fill the vacancy on the energy committee; Tom Kilpeck will serve as town health officer for three years; Bob Clark was reappointed to the development review Board for a three-year term; Ralph Ethier, Bob Foley and Alison Walter were reappointed to the planning commission for three-year terms; Frank Spezzano and Tom Whittaker were reappointed to three-year terms for the revolving loan fund committee and Jack Schneider was named an alternate; and the town manager was reappointed to one-year terms for the Rutland Region Transportation Council representative and Rutland Regional Planning Commission.
Hopkins announced that there are openings for the position of deputy town health officer as well as alternates for the Rutland Region Transportation Council representative and Rutland Regional Planning Commission positions. Finally, the board went into executive session to discuss the pending New England Police Benevolent Association Local 422 contract.
On Tuesday, Hopkins said, “There was no action taken. The town manager will be in discussion with the union representative to assure the understanding of some finalizing questions between the board and the union. This should be completed expeditiously.”