I have been heartened to see that Vermont has been doing very well in regards to its COVID-19 statistics. However, Vermont is not an island, and so we must remain vigilant. Please continue to wear a mask and stay physically distant when you’re out in public. I am grateful for the statewide mask mandate because it helps keep Vermonters safe and also helps folks feel ready to engage with businesses. When we intermingle across municipalities, wearing masks in public also helps to reduce the risk for everyone.
Perhaps you wear a mask in public because you care about the health of others, or perhaps it’s because there’s a state mandate. Either way there’s now a selfish reason to wear a mask. According to a recent New York Times article, wearing a mask can have the effect of “lessening the severity of symptoms, or in some instances, staving off infection entirely.” Now we can say that wearing a mask is about protecting others and protecting ourselves.
If you’ve been downtown recently you may have seen some exciting changes. Langdon Street Tavern, Three Penny Taproom, J. Morgan’s, North Branch Cafe, Charlie-O’s, and Julio’s Cantina are all now offering outdoor seating. In addition to this, we are also welcoming a new Indian restaurant to town! With all the beautiful weather we have been having lately I hope you’re able to find some time to visit our downtown restaurants.
This section comes from Montpelier’s City Clerk, John Odum.
The following are the procedures for in-person voting in the Statewide Primary Election, August 11:
Voting for the August 11 Primary Election will be held on the main floor in City Hall. Due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19 transmission, procedures for voting will be different than usual.
- Voters will be expected to wear masks and maintain a distance of six feet from others. The floor in City Hall will be marked at 6-foot distances.
- Voters will enter from the front of the building (those with accessibility challenges may enter through the rear entrance).
- Voters will be allowed into the Council Chambers for voting with no more than six in the room at a time.
- Voters will enter the voting room through the front door and leave through the rear door. They will then leave the building through the rear entrance.
- Every voting booth and marker will be cleaned between uses.
- Public restrooms will not be available.
- Staffed boxes will be available in front and in the rear of City Hall to drop off early ballots that have not already been returned.
As always, polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Early/absentee voting is strongly encouraged. Please note that there will not be an opportunity for in-office early voting on the Saturday prior to the election, which has been the procedure in the past.
Upcoming Council Topics
I’m very grateful that our new police chief, Brian Peete, has been leaning into the conversation about policing in Montpelier. Chief Peete has hosted a series of events to engage community members in a discussion about policing in Montpelier. Most recently he hosted a virtual town hall on August 5th. There will be more about this topic on the August 26th council agenda.
2030 Net Zero Energy Plan and Home Energy Information Ordinance
The urgency of climate change is still on my radar, and the city is still working to do our part regarding its own greenhouse gas emissions. We are still aiming to lead the way, to be an example community that is “getting it right” on the climate. We’re not there yet, but we have not stopped working on it. Specifically, the city will be discussing its 2030 Net Zero Energy Plan and a Home Energy Information Ordinance at the September 9th City Council meeting. Montpelier’s 2030 goal is to have its municipal operations run entirely from renewable energy sources by 2030. We have been making progress, but we still have a long way to go.
The Home Energy Information Ordinance would require standardized energy cost information be made available to potential home buyers. In other places where this kind of standardized energy information is available, the data shows that between 12 and 37 percent of home buyers voluntarily decide to make energy improvements on their home that they had not otherwise planned on.
When City Hall shut down as a result of COVID-19, we set up a port-a-potty in the parking lot behind City Hall because the bathroom in that building would no longer be available. Publicly available restrooms are limited in the downtown, so I was glad that Councilor Dan Richardson suggested that the City Council take up the issue of public restrooms in the downtown. We’ll discuss potential opportunities and barriers for public restrooms at our September 9th meeting. I anticipate that additional public restrooms would be welcomed by both residents and businesses. Publicly available restrooms are also essential for our unsheltered population. I don’t expect that we will reach any conclusions at the September 9th meeting; it will just be the beginning of a conversation. Any changes will require infrastructure and therefore funding, and the City is still vigilant regarding our finances, anticipating continued revenue shortfalls.
Stormwater Master Plan
Back in 2016, the City of Montpelier adopted a stormwater master plan that provided a list of both public and private projects that would improve the city’s stormwater system. Improving our stormwater system not only improves the effluent in our rivers, but it also allows the city to be better prepared to handle larger volumes of water that might otherwise cause flooding. It’s important that our soils are able to absorb and slow down water on its way to the river. At the City Council’s August 12th meeting, we will be receiving an update as to how we are doing on those suggested projects. We’ll see if there are any major barriers or patterns to the progress in the first four years of this plan.
If you are a property owner and would like to be a part of our improving our stormwater system, I would encourage you to consider how water moves through your property. Consider the depth of the roots of the plants on your property. The deeper the roots, the better the soil is able to absorb water. Keep in mind that grass has comparably very short root systems. Is there space on your property where water could be retained to slow it down? If we each do our part on our own pieces of property, it will benefit everyone when we are faced with the next big storm.
Federal Funding for Municipalities
After a recent virtual meeting with Congressman Welch and other municipal leaders, I am hopeful that a federal funding package will come through that would dedicate some money for municipalities with considerable flexibility for how it could be applied. Congressman Welch talked about how municipalities across the country are all facing similar shortfalls in revenue. The need is universal for municipalities and not partisan. While I’m not holding my breath in anticipation, I remain hopeful that some amount of funding for municipalities will come through. In the meantime, the City Council recently adopted a tiered budget plan that prioritized spending should our revenues not recover, or only partially recover.
Start of the School Year
Finally, I want to thank all of the Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools administrators for working hard to keep teachers and families safe through the reopening of school on September 8th. Thank you, administrators, for navigating conflicting demands from parents, students, teachers, and the state. I don’t claim to know what the right answer is, but I appreciate the care, hard work, and leadership of our administrators through this difficult time.
Paid by the City of Montpelier.