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A Message From City Hall: Investing in Ourselves and the Future of Our City

Budget season is an important time of year for our community. We’re not just making decisions on projects, budgets, and operations, we’re also making hard choices between things we value deeply. Ultimately, our budget is a reflection of these decisions. 

I’m thankful our community members are engaged about these issues and look forward to hearing from you all during the upcoming budget process throughout the next few months. We’ll be launching a budget survey where you can contribute to this planning process, and hosting budget discussions at the City Council meetings on Dec. 20 and Jan. 3. 

Some of the many services and projects have been the topic of great discussions happening within our community. We dive into a few of them here. You can read more about all City projects on our website, www.montpelier-vt.org.

Confluence Park

Confluence Park was initially proposed in 2002 as part of the Taylor Street redevelopment project and had many recreation and conservation supporters. The Transit Center was designed with open green space and a swing in the bike path near the river to create room for the future park. There was not enough money in that project to complete the park, so the Council at the time asked the Vermont River Conservancy to head up the project and raise money. Current design and cost estimates are the result of that process. 

The Council is NOT considering spending $2 million of city money on the Confluence Park project. The initial project request for the city’s share of funding was $600,000, which was approved as part of a 2021 bond vote grouped with other infrastructure projects. The Council has stated they will not spend any additional city money on this project. The second bond vote by the Council in 2022 allows the City more flexibility to fund other needs. The City has, thus far, spent about $112,000 for project design, all of which is expected to be reimbursed by grants if the project moves forward.

Last year, the Council gave the Vermont River Conservancy 18 months to raise the additional funds needed. Recently, the Council did not approve the project on its face but simply continued the previously adopted plan. 

Country Club Road

In March 2022, residents approved a $2 million bond to acquire the property at 203 Country Club Road and closed on the property in the fall of 2022. An additional $1 million was used from a recreation reserve fund. After engaging in an extensive public process, the City designated portions of the property for new housing, active recreation, and for open space/passive recreation.

The need for new housing is the top priority for both residents and elected officials. Incremental approaches like loosening regulations and funding the Housing Trust Fund have not resulted in the number of new housing units needed. 

The proposed FEMA temporary housing project will pay for over $1 million in necessary infrastructure improvements for future housing. The master plan for the property calls to create 300 new housing units. This land purchase, infrastructure development, and future housing can make housing prices more reachable for more people in our area, as well as generate more tax revenue for the City. 

Paving and Infrastructure

The City’s capital improvement plan includes paving, sidewalks, buildings, retaining walls, bike paths, trails, intersection improvements, street lighting, stormwater management facilities, major equipment, and others. This is a long-term plan built out over many years and also includes bond payments for all of these projects. The water and sewer capital improvement plans pay for water lines, sewer lines, pump stations, water treatment plant improvements, and more. 

The current FY24 budget contained $172,000 in paving funds because the City spent $954,000 in paving in FY23 (more than 2.5 times the annual average of prior years) and knew that the state would be paving all of Route 2 this year. 


City employees perform services and deliver programs that the community has requested. The addition or reduction of employees alone does not indicate good or bad performance. Staffing is a result of policy choices to meet current needs. 

The City has net 9.56 more full-time-equivalent employees since FY18. There was a net reduction of 2 in some departments and an addition of 11.5 in others. Not all were new positions and not all represented new costs. In the Police Department, we’ve restored one police officer and added a dispatcher to meet current needs

In the Department of Public Works (DPW), we’ve also restored one engineer and one Streets employee to help with winter operations, which allowed the City to perform more work in-house, thereby saving on outside contract costs. One other DPW employee was added to the budget this year to address state mandates related to the new city stormwater management utility. The utility has not yet been formed and this position has not been filled.

In the Community Services Department, we added 2.5 senior meal positions instead of contracting out meal services, which saved money. We are currently reviewing this program to see whether it remains financially advantageous.

In the Parks and Trees Department, we added an arborist position to manage the City’s tree program and turned a seasonal Parks position into a full-time position. These positions helped us address threats from the emerald ash borer and reflected the level of service needed to maintain our parks, street trees, and outdoor recreation resources. It’s worth noting that this fully staffed Parks Department provided the staffing for the Emergency Volunteer Hub during the recent flooding. 

In the City Manager’s Office, we filled the new positions of Sustainability/Facilities Coordinator to help implement the City’s net-zero energy plan, and Communications Coordinator to improve information sharing and resident engagement. Our Sustainability/Facilities Coordinator handles all facility damage issues from the flood, and our Communications Coordinator helps all departments fulfill our strategic goals to provide responsible and engaged government.

Water Line Infrastructure

The Department of Public Works has moved to high-density polyethylene (HDPE) water mains as our standard to address the two common reasons for water main failure: aging pipes and damage from corrosive soils. Water mains experience a series of surge pressures throughout their life. These pressure changes are generally caused by periods of high water flow followed by normal operations. Native soils in Montpelier are mostly clay and acidic with a low pH. 

The HDPE pipe is unique because it is a malleable plastic, allowing it to expand and contract under surge pressure conditions. Research shows HDPE has the longest design life of materials available when evaluated under surge pressure conditions. As a plastic water main, it is not susceptible to corrosion, so both of the most common failure types are addressed. There are instances where rigid pipe remains the best application such as for bridge-hung water mains, but HDPE is now used where it is practical. 

 The City is nearing completion of our Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) on the water system, which will include a water main replacement schedule for the areas of the system that have experienced the most frequent pipe failures.

Thank you for reading this article and for your interest in Montpelier city government. Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or concerns at wfraser@montpelier-vt.org or 802-223-9502.