Montpelier city government will have a strong presence in the 2023 Legislative Session, will maintain watchful oversight of the City’s current budget, and is braced for rough waters ahead for Confluence Park. This and more came up at the Council’s most recent meeting on Nov. 16.
For the first time in 10 years the Council faces passing the annual budget without Mayor Anne Watson. The budget will be on the Council’s agenda in January, but two-term councilor Conor Casey and Watson will be serving in the Vermont Legislature – Watson as a state Senator and Casey as a Montpelier Representative. The Council reviewed the City Charter and determined that Watson will remain mayor until Dec. 30, at which time Jack McCullough will fulfill her role until a new mayor is elected in March. Casey will resign effective Dec. 21. District 2 residents interested in applying for Casey’s interim position, which runs until Town Meeting Day, must submit a letter of interest, application form, and petition signed by 25 District 2 residents, by Dec. 15. (For more information see https://montpelierbridge.org/2022/11/voters-leave-vacancies-in-city-hall/)
The Council approved the Advocacy Committee’s 2023 Legislative Agenda, with a priority on economic development through increasing the State’s workforce in Montpelier, using empty state-owned parking lots for unsheltered housing and riverfront recreational access, and state support of project-based Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The committee is also advocating for strong action to ban PFAS and to fund removal of PFAS from waste streams.
The city’s needs will again be promoted in the legislature by Nick Sherman and Maggie Lenz of the lobbyist group, Leonine Public Affairs. Last year they addressed TIF language and funding for dispatch in Central Vermont. This year they will work closely with Montpelier ‘s delegation and with the City to maximize federal dollars, state “base spending,” and to support the City’s legislative agenda.
The Council approved a slate of items under the consent agenda without discussion.
The Finance Department first quarter General Fund Report for FY23 was reviewed. According to acting Finance Director Kelly Murphy it is “too early in the fiscal year to tell what second quarter figures will be. The department will provide fund by fund detail in the next quarterly briefing.” With 34% of the fiscal year completed, the Department is watching personnel related account lines closely.
Unexpected revenue in the ”Misc Revenue” line was boosted by over 300% this past quarter. This line item was budgeted at $23,000 for the whole year, but the city has received $75,995.81 in the first quarter alone, largely due to two Elks Club rentals, and a $32,000 grant to provide a K-9 unit for drug detection. Murphy reported that Elks club rentals are “in flux”.
State “Payment in Lieu of Taxes,” PILOT payments, arrive in the second quarter, and Murphy expects no huge shift from anticipated revenue of $1,461,168.37.
Interest/Investment Revenue received was 0.74% ($333.21 out of yearly projected $45,000). Murphy believes this is not a representative figure for the year.
Fees and Charges for Services did not anticipate revenue from Public Records Requests, but collected $551.35 this quarter.
The City anticipated total revenue from receiving Sewer Septage, Leachate, and High Strength (Organic) Waste of $1,195,000 for FY23, but due to leachate and facilities issues, the City will only net $316,270.28, a decrease in anticipated revenue of $878,729.
In the first quarter The Water Fund Net Deficit was $167,244.15, Sewer Fund Net Deficit was $342,876.20, and District Heat Net Deficit was $30,930.57. Murphy expects these deficits to level out across the year.
The Council approved a new Radio Base Station for $41,712, to replace a borrowed, 20-year old station. It approved DPW and the Planning and Zoning Department’s request to approve and sign a Municipal Planning Grant (MPG23) to help pay for LIDAR, a high resolution map of the baseline pavement conditions of the roads network within Montpelier.
Appointment to Planning Commission
Bryan Mills, a land use permitting and zoning consultant, was unanimously appointed to the Planning Commission.
Sustainability and Facilitates Coordinator
Chris Lumbra, the City’s first ADA and Facilitates Coordinator, is responsible for energy goals in city buildings, city fleet, and the overall net zero plan. Lumbra prioritized the Department of Public Works, as the largest user of fossil fuels. Lumbra audited structural needs at the public works garage, and electric vehicle charging stations for fleet vehicles. He hopes to expand District Heat to additional property owners, and to cut carbon dioxide “dirty exhaust” by replacing small gas engines used in the parks with battery powered equipment.
Lumbra had been the City’s building code inspector, a position now held by Michelle Savry.
Confluence Park to Cost up to $2 Million
In his City Manager’s Report, Fraser divulged that preliminary numbers for Confluence Park are “now up to $2 million.” A bond for $1.15 million was passed last March and included $600,000 for Confluence Park, in addition to a pellet heat system at the DPW garage for $250,000. Fraser noted that “the wording is a little vague” in the bond, and discussed the possibility of altering the bond’s wording in order to shift some funding. Fraser will investigate this potential option. According to Fraser the City did receive matching funds in grants for the park project.
Potential Property Purchase
Councilors went into executive session to discuss purchasing “60 acres of land to the North Branch Park along with two building sites as a means to grow the Outdoor Recreation Economy.” McCullough made a motion, which passed unanimously, for the council to go into executive session “for the purpose of discussing a potential real estate purchase.” No action was taken.