Home Heard on the Street HEARD ON THE STREET: 4.6.17



Econolodge/Former Brown Derby Update

MONTPELIER — City officials have made addressing the run-down Brown Derby building on Northfield Street a top priority, after it has been falling to ruin for years.

“The Mayor and I met with City Attorney Paul Giuliani to discuss legal options for dealing with vacant and dilapidated buildings. Giuliani is drafting a public nuisance ordinance based on Rutland and Brattleboro among others,” wrote City Manager William Fraser in his March 31 City Manager’s Report.

The situation was also discussed at the city council meeting on March 22. Council member Justin Turcotte said the property owner had been unwilling to discuss options. Turcotte also said that staff reported problems that extend beyond the buildings. “I’d like to see a draft ordinance we can at least consider. We wouldn’t want to create a law for just one situation, but is there a way you can put a sunset on this and put it up for renewal?” Turcotte said. Fraser noted the council can rescind an ordinance at any time.

They also talked about how to define the property: Vacant? Blighted? Abandoned? Uninhabitable? Dilapidated? All of the above?

Planning Director Mike Miller pointed to Barre, where vacant properties abounded a few years ago due to the economic downturn. Barre responded by issuing fines for unmown lawns for example, but adding violation fees to destitute property owners did not generate good feelings, he admitted.

Everyone agreed on the need to amp up addressing this situation.

“We are talking about a multi-hotel conglomerate organization with thousands of dollars a day,” Turcotte noted.


Montpelier-Roxbury School Merger Facing Headwinds

The Montpelier-Roxbury school merger committee has decided against pushing for state approval of an Act 46 merger plan that could have led to a May vote by residents of the two towns. The earliest a vote could now be held is June, but even that timetable is in doubt after a straw vote held at the end of the committee’s March 30 meeting.

At the meeting, three of the four Montpelier members who were present (one was absent) expressed reservations about the merger, and the other Montpelier member predicted Montpelier voters would not approve it if it was put on the ballot this spring. The two Roxbury committee members remain fervent supporters of a merger.

Meanwhile, petitions have been circulating in Montpelier asking the school boards of Montpelier and U-32/Washington Central Supervisory Union to explore a possible Act 46 merger between those two school systems, arguing it is a natural fit.

The next meeting of the Montpelier-Roxbury merger committee will take place at 6 p.m. on April 13 at the Montpelier High School. The minutes of the March 30 meeting indicate the committee may choose among three options on April 13: 1. decide to move forward immediately toward a public vote by June; 2. decide to move forward on a slower timetable, to be determined; or 3. decide not to proceed and to disband the committee.


Financial Regulation Department Warns Of Fake Survey Phone Scam

MONTPELIER – The Department of Financial Regulation has received several reports of callers claiming to be conducting surveys on behalf of the department’s Insurance and Banking Divisions. Department of Financial Regulation is not conducting any surveys at this time.

Callers have targeted insurance agencies around the state requesting agents’ opinions in an eight-question survey regarding the insurance industry. So far we do not believe personal client information has been requested. Caller ID shows the phone number as 802-321-8055.

Some agents are being contacted by callers claiming to represent Department of Financial Regulation’s Banking Division with a survey on “banking questions.” These calls appear to originate from 802-235-5834.

The callers, both male and female, sound as though they are being made from a call center and are not well-versed in insurance or banking matters.

Commissioner Michael S. Pieciak wants to stress Department of Financial Regulation is not involved in these surveys.


Montpelier Development Chief Started

Joe Evans

MONTPELIER — Joe Evans of Chester started as the new executive director for Montpelier Development Corporation. He started April 4.

The Bridge ran into him at a Montpelier Business Association meeting April 5 — his introduction to downtown business owners. Evans has a background in software, and “pioneered software systems in the commodity trading space.” He also consults with multi-national organizations in corporate and tech strategy, according to biographic information he provided. He lists his skills as including tech savvy, marketing, planning, social media and writing.

His new job is to “manage the implementation of the economic development strategic plan for the City of Montpelier. I will be working to attract businesses and new residents to Montpelier,” Evans told The Bridge by email. “I will work closely with the Montpelier Development Corporation  Board, city manager, business leaders and the City Council to create positive transformation in the city’s business environment.”


Come To Coffee With A Cop

MONTPELIER — The Montpelier Police Department will be holding our next Coffee with a Cop event on Friday, April 7 from 5 to 6 p.m. at Cafe Anna at Vermont College of Fine Arts (36 College St.).

“What is Coffee with a Cop,” you ask?

The concept is simple. Police and community members meet in an informal, neutral space to discuss community issues, build relationships and drink coffee.

In thousands of cities and towns in all 50 states, and now many other countries, “Coffee with a Cop” has done wonders for community trust, police legitimacy and partnership building.

Community members attend local “Coffee with a Cop” events for a variety of reasons, but no matter why, they’re likely to leave with a more positive impression of their local police department.

One of the keys to the event’s success is the removal of physical barriers and/or crisis situations, both of which routinely define interactions between law enforcement officials and community members. Instead, “Coffee with a Cop” allows for relaxed, informal one-on-one communication in a friendly atmosphere. This informal contact increases trust in police officers as individuals, which is critical for building partnerships and community problem solving.

All are welcome. Contact Corporal Michael Philbrick at 223-3445 or mphilbrick@montpelier-vt.org for more information.