This page is maintained by Swanton Village, Inc and is intended to be the official online posting of public meetings and minutes in accordance with Vermont’s Open Meeting law (Amended July 1st, 2014).

Monday, October 19, 2020

September 28, 2020

SWANTON VILLAGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES

SWANTON VILLAGE MUNICIPAL COMPLEX

120 FIRST STREET

SWANTON, VT 05488

 

 

 

REGULAR MEETING

Monday, September 28, 2020

7:00 PM

 

 

 

PRESENT: Neal Speer, Village President; Chris Leach, Trustee; Adam Paxman, Trustee; Eugene LaBombard, Trustee; Reginald Beliveau Jr., Village Manager; Dianne Day, Village Clerk; Leonard “Joey” Stell, Chief of Police; Sandy Kilburn, Roger George, Eric Gaudette and Channel 16.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all motions carried unanimously.

 

  1. Call to Order:

 

Neal Speer, Village President, called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

 

  1. Pledge of Allegiance:

 

Everyone stood for the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

  1. Agenda Review:

 

Reg Beliveau, Village Manager, stated that Chief of Police Joey Stell and Lt. David Kachajian are working on a noise complaint so that can be discussed under #10. He also stated #8 wasn’t needed because it could be discussed in open session.

 

  1. Public Comment:

 

Sandy Kilburn stated she would like to thank David Winchester for the positive art he painted on one of the art walls. She stated she misses the positive messages and hopes to see more in the near future. She also asked if the Village had received any quotes back from the RFP they put out for training on racism. Reg stated they had received three back and if memory serves one was for $114,000, one for $85,000 and one for $75,000. He said he brought them over to Town Administrator David Jescavage to review. Sandy Kilburn stated those amounts are ridiculous and asked why they couldn’t find someone local to teach the class. Reg stated the quotes would be reviewed and discussed further with the Town.

 

Roger George from 16 Maquam Shore Road stated he was there tonight to discuss the deteriorating condition of the water quality at the northern end of Maquam Bay. He said the beach, along with the pavilion and rest rooms are an asset to the town and village but said the beach is unusable from June on during the summer months. He said he has attended Swanton Selectboard meetings to express his concern and has also met with the State of Vermont. He said he is here tonight to meet the Trustees and to also let them know about his concerns as well as the concerns of his neighbors. He said the smell was so bad this year they couldn’t sit outside. He said he would like to offer his encouragement if they plan on any work on the water quality. Chris Leach asked if harrowing would help the issue like they did in St. Albans Bay. Reg Beliveau stated he met with Kent Anderson from the State of Vermont last week at the beach. He said they discussed possible corrective actions. He said they understand there is floating decaying vegetation and the lake is very low this year, which makes conditions worse. He said he is in communications with the State and will continue to do so. Reg said he would also call St. Albans and see where they got their tractor from. Neal Speer stated the State of Vermont is in charge of all waterways. Roger stated he met with Karen Bates from the State and said she had a lot of knowledge regarding this but didn’t offer any immediate solutions. He said he feels dredging that area would help quite a bit because he did some by hand last summer and had water movement for about a week. Chris Leach stated residents who have lake front property pay more in taxes and are unable to enjoy the lake front. Reg stated he would do some follow up with the State and keep the board informed. The Board thanked Mr. George for attending the meeting.

 

Sandy Kilburn stated she would like to find local people that could help teach/train classes on racism and join with all of Franklin County to share the expense of the training. She also stated she can remember how nice Lake Champlain was 40-50 years ago and said there wasn’t a problem at all there.

 

 

 

  1. Approve and Accept Minutes from Monday, September 10, 2020:

 

Chris Leach made the motion to approve and accept the Minutes from Monday, September 10, 2020 as presented. Adam Paxman seconded. Discussion: Adam Paxman asked Chris if he had an update from the Post Office yet regarding a drive-up window. Chris said he does not but would talk with the Postmaster there. Motion carried.

 

  1. Approve and Accept Village Warrants through Friday, September 25, 2020:

 

Adam Paxman made the motion to approve Village Warrants through Friday, September 25, 2020 as presented. Eugene LaBombard seconded. Discussion: None. Motion carried.

 

  1. Swanton Village Police Department Update:

 

Chief Stell stated the Village Police responded to 148 calls for service during the month of September. He said they stopped 48 vehicles and issued 54 warnings and 14 of those stops resulted in fines totaling $2779. He said the problematic areas were First St., Grand Avenue, Canada St. and Spring St. Chris Leach said it seems like speeding is an issue on Route 78 by Gallup Court. Chief Stell stated he has done speed studies there and the average speed is 5 mph below the posted limit. Eugene LaBombard thanked the Chief for all the information he sends them regarding COVID-19. Chris also stated that everyone in Swanton respects the department and what they do. Chief Stell stated they are still delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound and also said that every other day Officer Cleary contacts 35 vulnerable adults living in the community to check up on them.

 

  1. Executive Session to Discuss Real Estate:

 

Not needed.

 

  1. Discussion on Possible Real Estate Purchase:

 

Neal Speer, Village President, stated a while back a study was done on the Northern Gateway to Swanton along Route 78 to North River Street and South River Street. He said an engineering firm studied the traffic flow as well as the economic development opportunities in that area. Neal said one area of concern was the Riviera Hotel property. He said last year the Village along with Northwest Regional Planning met with a developer about purchasing that property. He said Regional Planning wanted a Brownfield Study done and Phase 1 was completed. He said because of the cost to continue with the Brownfield Study the deal fell through. Neal said the Village approached the owner and reached a sale price. He said the Village will purchase this property and have access to funds to clean up the property with Phase 2 of the Brownfield Study. Neal said Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager, said there are funds available to purchase the property without using taxpayer funds. He said the Village can apply for grants to help clean up the property and then plan on re-selling it for development. Reg Beliveau said they are trying to follow suit with what St. Albans City has done and said funds are more available for municipalities. He said this building has become a public safety issue as well. Chris Leach made the motion to authorize the Village of Swanton to purchase the Riviera Hotel property at 6 South River Street, sign the Purchase and Sales Agreement and to expedite the clean-up of said property for re-sale. Eugene LaBombard seconded. Motion carried.

 

  1. Discussion on Possible Poultry Ordinance:

 

Reg Beliveau, Village Manager, said he has received more complaints about residents raising chickens in the Village. He said because of COVID-19 more people have begun to garden and raise chickens and they tend to migrate on their neighbors’ properties. He said the police department is also working on a noise ordinance for the Village and said maybe these two ordinances could be added at the same time. Chief Stell said the Village has several multi-apartment buildings and as of now State Statutes doesn’t cover any daytime noise issues. He said with a specific noise ordinance in place they could measure actual decibels. He said this would also help with the numerous complaints received over the summer regarding fireworks. He said his office would come up with a draft and would present it to the Board at their next meeting for further discussion. It was decided that a farm animal ordinance would be drafted as well for further discussion at their next meeting. Chris Leach stated he’s in favor of less ordinances governing what residents can do on their properties.

 

  1. Any Other Necessary Business:

 

Adam Paxman stated the Chamber of Commerce would be holding Halloween in the Park on Saturday, October 31st at 5 p.m., weather permitting. Chief Stell asked how they would do this with COVID-19. Adam stated social distancing would be in place. Chief Stell said those kinds of events have been closed by executive order from the Governor’s office. Adam said people have been asking him about Trick or Treating as well. Chief Stell said the state would be putting out some guidance on that soon and thinks it will be canceled.

 

 

Any Other Business: Chris Leach said it was nice seeing activity in the park the last couple of weekends. He said those events were social distanced. Neal Speer also said how nice it was to see some activity going on. He said Bees on Broadway and Ace Hardware look good.

 

Any Other Business: Eugene LaBombard wanted to remind everyone that taxes are due on October 15th, 2020.

 

Any Other Business: Reg Beliveau stated he has been working on the Stormwater Project which requires treating stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as roof tops, roads and parking areas, and preventing pollutants from entering the waterways. He said he has been working with Pomerleau Real Estate (Hannaford’s Supermarket), Andy Avenue and Leduc Drive Housing Development as well as the Town of Swanton. He said this pertains to property by the Complex and on Jones Court. Reg said Act 64 requires all sites with more than three acres of impervious surface to obtain a stormwater permit. He said he has been in communication with Kerrie Garvey from Watershed Consulting Associates about a collaboration between Swanton and Hannaford’s Supermarket. He said Kerrie notified him that the Village and Hannaford’s have been selected for a 30% engineering design under this project and received a Letter of Intent to sign stating that the Village/Town and Hannaford’s will participate in a public-private partnership to manage stormwater. This project will include the development of 30% conceptual engineering designs by Watershed Consulting Associates and project partners for a stormwater best management practice. The Board asked Reg what the 30% design meant and asked if the Village would then have to come up with the remaining 70% design. Reg stated he wasn’t exactly sure but said he would clarify this with Kerrie and would have it ready for their next board meeting.

 

Any Other Business: Reg Beliveau informed the Board that the Wastewater Pilot Program would be in place on October 17 and said they have three prototypes coming in that will help mitigate phosphorus from their affluent. He said they are also working on the Hydro Relicensing but because the river is so low they are unable to perform maintenance on Unit #5. He said they will wait for more water. He also said the totem pole is almost ready to be erected in the Village Green. He said he is hoping the Trustees will be able to attend when they do the installation. Reg also said the Village owned land by John’s Bridge has been used for hunting over the years. He said they found someone was baiting deer and the game wardens have been notified. He said because of this the Village will now have to post all their property and only give permission to certain individuals to hunt there.

 

Any Other Business: Neal Speer stated he and Reg attended an event where the VFW presented them with a check to fully fund the restoration of the Dough Boy in Veterans Memorial Park. He said the Combat Veterans raised these funds by raffling off a World War I gun. He wanted them to know how much this is appreciated. Roger George wanted to let the Trustees know that the electric department had to do some work on his property recently and they were very courteous and professional and did great work.

 

  1. Executive Session if Necessary:

 

None.

 

  1. Adjournment:

 

Adam Paxman made the motion to adjourn the Regular Board of the Trustees meeting at 8:31 p.m.  Chris Leach seconded. There being no further business at hand, Neal Speer, Village President, adjourned the meeting at 8:31 p.m. Motion carried.

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________             _______________________________________

Neal Speer, Village President                            Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________    ___________________________________

Dianne Day, Village Clerk                                Date

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September 14, 2020

SWANTON VILLAGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES

SWANTON VILLAGE MUNICIPAL COMPLEX

120 FIRST STREET

SWANTON, VT 05488

 

 

 

REGULAR MEETING

Monday, September 14, 2020

7:00 PM

 

 

 

PRESENT: Neal Speer, Village President; Chris Leach, Trustee; Adam Paxman, Trustee; Eugene LaBombard, Trustee; Reginald Beliveau Jr., Village Manager; Dianne Day, Village Clerk and Channel 16.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all motions carried unanimously.

 

  1. Call to Order:

 

Neal Speer, Village President, called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

 

  1. Pledge of Allegiance:

 

Everyone stood for the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

  1. Agenda Review:

 

None.

 

  1. Public Comment:

 

None.

 

  1. Approve and Accept Minutes from Monday, August 24, 2020:

 

Adam Paxman made the motion to approve and accept the Minutes from Monday, August 24, 2020 as presented. Eugene LaBombard seconded. Discussion: None. Motion carried.

 

  1. Approve and Accept Village Warrants through Friday, September 11, 2020:

 

Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve Village Warrants through Friday, September 11, 2020 as presented. Chris Leach seconded. Discussion: Eugene asked about the payment of $51,256 made to Hungerford Construction. Reg Beliveau stated that was for the paving jobs in the Village. Chris Leach asked about the payment made to Chevalier Stoneworks. Reg stated that was for work done at the Wastewater Treatment Plant after the chimney collapsed. Motion carried.

 

  1. Sign VT State Revolving Fund for $172,900 for 20-year evaluation of Wastewater Treatment Facility:

 

This VT State Revolving Fund loan for $172,900 will be for the 20-year evaluation of the wastewater facilities and development of the phosphorus reduction plan as required by the Discharge Permit. This project was amended to cover costs of conducting mapping of the collection system and is now being amended to cover the costs of pilot testing treatment as part of the plant evaluation. Adam Paxman made the motion to authorize Reginald Beliveau, Village Manager, to sign the VT State Revolving Fund loan documents for $172,900 for the 20-year evaluation project at the Wastewater Facility and also made the motion for the Board of Trustees to sign where necessary on loan documents. Eugene LaBombard seconded both motions. Motions carried.

 

  1. Approve and Sign 2020 December Transco Equity Offer/Purchase:

 

Reg Beliveau informed the Board that VT Transco will issue equity in December of this year and he is suggesting the Village of Swanton purchase the equity directly instead of going through VPPSA. He said the Village’s share will cost $182,120. Eugene LaBombard made the motion to authorize Reg Beliveau to sign the 2020 December Transco Equity Offer/Purchase for $182,120 and to have the Village purchase this equity directly. Chris Leach seconded. Discussion: Chris Leach stated these equity purchases have made the Village money over the years and said this is beneficial to the ratepayers. Motion carried.

 

  1. Andre Blouin Request to Connect to Village Water System at 1 Madison Drive:

 

Adam Paxman moved to enter Water Commissioner’s meeting, seconded by Eugene LaBombard. Motion carried.

 

Andre Blouin is requesting permission to connect to the Village Water System at 1 Madison Drive for his single family 3-bedroom home. He is aware of the $1500 water connection fee and is also aware he needs to purchase a water meter. Adam Paxman made the motion to approve Andre Blouin’s request to connect to the Village Water System at 1 Madison Drive. Chris Leach seconded. Motion carried.

 

Adam Paxman moved to exit Water Commissioner’s meeting and reenter Open Session, seconded by Eugene LaBombard. Motion carried.

 

  1. Any Other Necessary Business:

 

Chris Leach asked if the new composting rule would have an adverse effect on the wastewater treatment plant. Eugene LaBombard stated he didn’t think it would but suggested they keep an eye on it. Chris also said he hasn’t heard anything back from the Post Office yet about a drive-up window. He also asked if the Village planned to move forward with the Complex upgrade. Reg said because of COVID-19 those plans have been put on hold but said they discussed maybe moving forward in segments and not doing everything all at once.

 

Any Other Business: Adam Paxman said they had a real good turnout for the picnic and music in the park on September 4th. He said hopefully they will have more to come next year.

 

Any Other Business: Reg Beliveau stated the Downtown Swanton Scoping Study virtual meeting will be held on September 17th at 6 p.m. He said this will be a zoom meeting and he is urging everyone to log on and voice their opinions about the downtown traffic pattern. Reg also stated he has received more complaints about roosters and chickens in the Village and asked the Board to maybe consider an ordinance on farm animals in the Village. Adam Paxman suggested this be put on the next agenda.

 

Any Other Business: Neal Speer stated the downtown area looks great and said Bees on Broadway has done a real nice job with her storefront. He said Ace Hardware has finished their paving and their storefront looks great too with all the fall decorations. He said they are still looking to fill the old theater building. Reg Beliveau mentioned the Restart VT project where gift cards would be sent for local businesses. He said Debbie Winters and Betsy Fournier are working on this as well.

 

  1. Executive Session to Discuss Real Estate:

 

Eugene LaBombard made the motion to enter Executive Session to discuss real estate at 7:23 p.m. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.

 

Chris Leach made the motion to exit Executive Session at 8:30 p.m. Eugene LaBombard seconded. Motion carried.

 

ACTION TAKEN: None.

 

  1. Adjournment:

 

Eugene LaBombard made the motion to adjourn the Regular Board of the Trustees meeting at 8:30 p.m.  Chris Leach seconded. There being no further business at hand, Neal Speer, Village President, adjourned the meeting at 8:30 p.m. Motion carried.

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________             _______________________________________

Neal Speer, Village President                            Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________    ___________________________________

Dianne Day, Village Clerk                                Date

 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

August 24, 2020

SWANTON VILLAGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES

SWANTON VILLAGE MUNICIPAL COMPLEX

120 FIRST STREET

SWANTON, VT 05488

 

 

 

REGULAR MEETING

Monday, August 24, 2020

7:00 PM

 

 

 

PRESENT: Neal Speer, Village President; Chris Leach, Trustee; Adam Paxman, Trustee; Eugene LaBombard, Trustee; Reginald Beliveau Jr., Village Manager; Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager;  Elisabeth Nance, Economic Development Coordinator; Richard “Dick” Menard, Abenaki Chief; Ron and Sandy Kilburn; and Channel 16.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all motions carried unanimously.

 

  1. Call to Order:

 

Neal Speer, Village President, called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

 

  1. Pledge of Allegiance:

 

Everyone stood for the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

  1. Agenda Review:

 

Adam Paxman stated he had a Chamber of Commerce request he would like to add. Neal Speer suggested they discuss it during Any Other Business. Reg Beliveau stated he needed an Executive Session for personnel and real estate.

 

  1. Public Comment:

 

None.

 

  1. Approve and Accept Minutes from Monday, August 10, 2020:

 

Chris Leach made the motion to approve and accept the Minutes from Monday, August 10, 2020 as presented. Adam Paxman seconded. Discussion: Chris Leach stated he had a minor correction under the VPPSA discussion. He said where it states “Chris Leach asked the difference between a smart meter and an advanced meter” it should have stated “Chris Leach asked what the monetary advantage would be for a Village customer with a smart meter.” Motion carried with correction.

 

  1. Approve and Accept Village Warrants through Friday, August 21, 2020:

 

Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve Village Warrants through Friday, August 21, 2020 as presented. Adam Paxman seconded. Discussion: None. Motion carried.

 

  1. Economic Development Coordinator Update:

 

Elisabeth Nance, Economic Development Coordinator, informed the Board that the deadline to complete the US Census is September 30th and she is urging everyone to complete it if they haven’t. She also said the Healthy Community Task Force is looking for volunteers to help do the sidewalk inventory and audit. She said this will be mainly in the Village of Swanton looking at areas where there is sidewalk missing. She said if someone is interested in being on this task force to contact her at swedc@swantonvermont.org. She said there is a small group moving forward along with the Town of Swanton, with diversity training and they have found two RFP’s to use that work for them. She said the deadline is September 15th and  said she has had three or four inquiries and they have all been from out of state. Neal Speer asked from where and she said one was from Alabama. Sandy Kilburn stated she thought someone was already recommended for this. Elisabeth said they have to list it this on the business registry. Elisabeth also said there is a SPARK grant up to $3000 for training. She also said the Downtown Scoping Study will hold their local concerns meeting on September 17th, time and location to be announced.

 

  1. Abenaki Chief Richard “Dick” Menard request permission to erect Abenaki Totem Pole in the Village Green:

 

Dick stated the Abenaki’s would like to erect a 10’ totem pole made out of white cedar in a designated area on the Village Green. He said he would like it visible to residents coming down Route 78 but said he realizes there are other things going on there as well. He said they would have to dig a 2’ hole and have some sort of plaque informing people of what the pole is about. Neal Speer asked if they were interested in having a dedication ceremony when the pole gets erected. Chief Menard said yes they would. He said six months ago they talked about this and would like to have a Native American celebration and erect the pole during that time. Chris Leach asked if this would be similar to the one on the Monument Road. Chief Menard said that one is 19 ½’ tall but it would be similar. Chief Menard said he’s never seen one be vandalized yet probably because it’s a spiritual thing. Chris Leach said he’s in favor of this but wondered if they would be inviting more things that might not be appropriate in the park. Sandy Kilburn said if anything belongs in the park it is this. She said the Abenaki have been very important in Swanton and this is long overdue. Adam Paxman said he is gun shy right now about putting anything in the park because of what happened over the last couple of months. He said he would rather see this in Marble Mill or next to the look out by the Swanton dam. He said he’s not comfortable with putting this in the park right now. Ron Kilburn stated he would support putting this totem pole in the park because that’s the heart of the community and this is what this is all about. Elisabeth stated she believed it belonged in the park as well. Adam said he would like to see it at the Chamber Office if they got permission to do so. Eugene LaBombard asked if there would be any maintenance to the pole. Chief Menard said no there wouldn’t be, he has six coats of coating on it. Joel Clark said he supports it going in the park as well and said if they had more land around the Town office he would consider putting it there. He said he hopes it goes in the park as well. Neal Speer stated its long overdue, they hold Abenaki celebrations in the park and doesn’t feel there would be a problem with that. Chief Menard said he is hoping to get the celebrations back in the park too. He said maybe they could light it up with a solar light. Eugene stated he wouldn’t want this to distract from the monument that is in the north end of the park. Reg said he would work with Dick on finding a good spot and would get back to the board with what they’ve decided. Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve installing an Abenaki Totem Pole in the Village Green as requested with the location to be determined. Chris Leach seconded.  Chris Leach said he would like some history added to the plaque, something that would make people think and want to learn more about the Abenakis and how long they’ve been here. Adam Paxman said he doesn’t oppose the project, just the location. Motion carried with two yays, one nay. Sandy Kilburn said for people who grew up in Swanton can probably trace their roots back to someone who is Abenaki. She said she knows she’s Abenaki and believes most of us are.

 

  1. Approve and Set 2020 Village Tax Rate for Swanton Village Tax Bills:

 

Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager, stated the grand list was up substantially this year. She said in the Village Report she had estimated the tax rate to be .8838 on what was known for the grand list. She said the list came in higher and she is now requesting a tax rate of .8722. Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve the 2020 tax rate of .8722. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.

 

  1. Any Other Necessary Business:

 

Adam Paxman said the Chamber of Commerce would like to request the use of the Village Green on Friday, September 4th from 5 to 8:30 p.m. for a social distanced picnic in the park with music. He said the Chamber would also like to request use of the park on Saturday, October 31st for Halloween in the Park. Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve a picnic in the park on September 4th and Halloween in the park on Saturday, October 31st. Chris Leach seconded. Motion carried.

 

Any Other Business: Chris Leach said he sent a letter to the postmaster about his idea on having a drive thru mailbox installed. He said he hasn’t heard anything in response to this and is asking permission to send another letter. Eugene LaBombard said they aren’t keeping their grounds up very well and wondered if the Village should mow it. He said the mailboxes need to be cleaned as well and suggested Chris put that in his letter too. He said the mailbox on Merchants Row is in very bad condition.

 

Any Other Business: Reg Beliveau said he received another equity call coming due from Velco at the end of September. Lynn said they would need to let VPPSA know on their behalf and they would have this added to a future agenda. She said the Village’s share would be approximately $187,000 and they need to decide if they want to purchase it outright or finance it through VPPSA. Chris Leach stated these have been good investments.

 

Any Other Business: Joel Clark said the Dough Boy in Veterans Memorial Park is all set to be repointed and he just wanted to let the Village know. He said the base of the monument will remain the same as it was as it holds a historical value.  Chris Leach made the motion to acknowledge the repointing of the Dough Boy Monument in Veterans Memorial Park through the Town of Swanton. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.

 

Any Other Business: Reg Beliveau stated the Village was awarded a $9000 grant from RiseVT to survey Marble Mill Park. He said the true boundary lines have been an issue and it’s been difficult to find records of it.

 

 

 

  1. Executive Session to Discuss Personnel and Real Estate:

 

Adam Paxman made the motion to enter Executive Session to discuss personnel and real estate at 8:00 p.m. Chris Leach seconded. Motion carried.

 

Chris Leach made the motion to exit Executive Session at 9:00 p.m. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.

 

ACTION TAKEN: None.

 

  1. Adjournment:

 

Adam Paxman made the motion to adjourn the Regular Board of the Trustees meeting at 9:00 p.m.  Chris Leach seconded. There being no further business at hand, Neal Speer, Village President, adjourned the meeting at 9:00 p.m. Motion carried.

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________             _______________________________________

Neal Speer, Village President                            Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________    ___________________________________

Dianne Day, Village Clerk                                Date

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

July 27, 2020

SWANTON VILLAGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES

SWANTON VILLAGE MUNICIPAL COMPLEX

120 FIRST STREET

SWANTON, VT 05488

 

REGULAR MEETING

Monday, July 27, 2020

7:00 PM

 

PRESENT: Neal Speer, Village President; Chris Leach, Trustee; Adam Paxman, Trustee; Reginald Beliveau Jr., Village Manager; Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager; Dianne Day, Village Clerk; Suzanne Washburn, Mark Rocheleau, Joel Clark, David Hemingway, Sandy & Ron Kilburn, Bill Malboeuf, Richard Rowden, Chloe Collins, Terri O’Shea, Anna Roy, Fred Wiseman, Meaghan Conly, Joe Wolske, Gary Pouliot, Susan Kelleher, Nicole Nappi, Priscilla Connelly, Shane Collins, Gordon Winters, Michelle Monroe, St. Albans Messenger and Channel 16.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all motions carried unanimously.

 

  1. Call to Order:

 

Neal Speer, Village President, called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

 

  1. Pledge of Allegiance:

 

Everyone stood for the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

  1. Agenda Review:

 

None.

 

  1. Approve and Accept Minutes from Monday, July 13, 2020:

 

Adam Paxman made the motion to approve and accept the Minutes from Monday, July 13, 2020 as presented. Chris Leach seconded. Discussion: None. Motion carried.

 

  1. Approve and Accept Village Warrants through Friday, July 24, 2020:

 

Chris Leach made the motion to approve and accept Village Warrants through Friday, July 24, 2020 as presented. Adam Paxman seconded. Discussion: None. Motion carried.

 

  1. Discuss and Sign Water Fund Engineering Planning Loan for Missisquoi River Crossing for $12,400:

 

Reg Beliveau, Village Manager, stated that after the flooding in January 2018 the Board discussed the importance of having a redundant water line that crosses the Missisquoi River. He said the line they have now was almost taken out by the flood waters and ice. Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager, stated that engineer Aldrich & Elliott will do this study for $12,400 and if they decide to go out for a bond vote the cost of this study can be rolled into that bond. She said right now they only have this one water line going across the bridge and the engineers will look at the best avenue for another line. She said the new line will be the primary line and the line on the bridge can become the back up line. Chris Leach made the motion to authorize Village Manager Reginald Beliveau and the Village Board of Trustees to sign the Vermont State Revolving Fund Loan RF3-405-1.0 in the amount $12,400. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.

 

  1. Discussion on Removal of Swanton Art Boards:

 

Neal Speer stated he had a timeline of events regarding the Art Boards that led to the decision to remove the boards from Village owned property. He read the following timeline: Approximately 4 years ago the Arts Council came to us asking if we would be willing to put up Art walls on our property. We said yes and saw a lot of positive and wonderful murals.
We had a conversation around how the rules were developed and should they be more structured. 

A few weeks before the painting of the walls and repainting, we had a deadly shooting in Swanton which shook our small community. We were concerned with having another situation arise after seeing the activities on social media getting out of hand.

May 31st
1) A mural was painted which caused some concerns over its meaning

June 3rd

Chief Stell was interviewed by Heather Buczkowski and before the artist of the original painting could be interviewed, her image was painted over.
First request to strengthen the rules over painting of the walls was made.

The local news showed up to film our walls and interview local artists and others.

June 5th
2) Painting was covered up “reset” then someone else painted another fist.

Again, met with opposition and the controversy. Many social media posts were observed and were becoming harsh.
We had a period of calm during the virtual graduation of our MVU Seniors where a beautiful mural was painted commemorating the graduation.

3)More paintings and more covering over.
Even more activities on social media which caused us to become concerned over the volatility of the posts. Had discussions around fear that someone was going to get hurt due to the harsh social media postings.

June 12th

A Patriots Front was tagged on boards. The Boards were “reset”, painted over.

4) Another painting was done, this time a confrontation happened at the wall during painting over the image that was freshly painted. Episode was videoed and posted on social media.
Again, we raised major concerns over the path these events were leading to, and concerns over public safety.

July 13th
5) During public comment at the Trustees meeting, people said the issue was getting out of hand and thought the walls should come down, so we took the walls down.

Attempts were made to have stricter rules around the painting of the walls, but nothing happened.

We are in the process of planning a community forum along with the Town around diversity, social acceptance and racism.

We at Swanton Village understand that we have racism and diversity issues in our community.  We have reflected on what had been going on and what has happened after the walls were removed.  The insight that we gained from both events gives us a better understanding of the racism, biases and diversity issues in our community.  We are currently working with the Town on putting a forum together so that our community can grow and learn. 

We all hope that you, the Swanton Community, will join together with us to address this issue of concern.

 

  1. Public Comment:

 

Neal Speer, Village President, then asked who would like to speak during public comment. Sandy Kilburn read a quote from the Burlington Free Press. Part of that quote stated “if my neighbor hurts, I hurt.” She encouraged everyone to listen respectively without judgment.

 

Suzanne Washburn stated she was concerned about the limit and number of people allowed in the meeting. Reg Beliveau stated we are right at the limit now.

 

Chloe Collins introduced herself and said this panel has called her a lot of things such as a bad apple, divisive, disgusting, her art was called “hate speech”, she was called an outsider and Mr. LaBombard questioned if she was even an American citizen. She said she is an American citizen and a Swanton homeowner. She said she is a very active member in this community and drives weekly to Richford where she gets overflow from their Thrift Store and then distributes it to families in need in Swanton. She also drives weekly to the food shelf so she can distribute that to families in need as well. She said she has run restorative panels in Swanton for five years and helped hundreds of residents give back to this community. She said she is also the president of a large non-profit building a childcare enrichment center for Swanton children and has raised $750,000 in funds. She said she is a featured author at library events and does the Arts Spectacular every year. She said this body bent over backwards to somebody who spent six weeks whiting out community murals that depicted a black and white hand holding. She asked when do the people of color in Swanton get an apology? When does this body start to care about their safety? What about her safety? She said she had trucks following her for six weeks, gets shouted N lover when she goes grocery shopping at Hannafords and has received death threats. She said but yet this body when hearing that citizens have covered up more white supremacy tags then her black and white hand holding they decided to support the man who whited out her murals. She said she is here to tell them she isn’t going anywhere, the people of color in Swanton aren’t going anywhere. She said the attitude that basic human rights is a divisive, political agenda is what needs to go. She said they should apologize for sending a message that makes people of color feel unsafe in Swanton and change their actions to demonstrate support for minorities in their community. She said they should join the equity forum she is creating, watch the documentary “13”, educate themselves on how these power dynamics have been playing out in Swanton and in this country. She said the problem is not her artwork around racial unity but rather her character and citizenship being questioned simply because her artwork depicted the theme of racial unity and that she would not give in to whitewashing and white supremacy. She said the problem is racism is here in Swanton and it won’t go away just because this board pretends it is not here. She thanked them and said she also wrote a letter about how their last meeting violated the Open Meeting Law and handed them each a copy.

 

Terri O’Shea said she appreciated what the Board said about recognizing some of the things that may have been wrong and appreciates that they are working on creating a community forum addressing diversity, social acceptance and racism. She said the beautiful art boards took on a much bigger meaning than they had six months ago. On the surface it’s possible and normal to have controversy but not the amount we have been seeing. She said most of us would agree there are deeper issues involved. She said starting with the first couple of Black Lives Matter paintings on the wall outside the complex here raised so much emotion and conflict. She asked what was it about the art that sparked so much controversy and how can one person cause such an eruption? She said then for so many to apologize to that person she didn’t get it and that really bothered her. She said the board saying the people who painted the Black Lives Matter murals were troublemakers and from out of town seemed blindsided but she also doesn’t get people sending hate mail and hate messages to the Trustees, to the artist and other people involved in the controversy or just broadcasting rude comments on Facebook. She said at this point it would be easy to say “can’t we all just get along and be more loving and kind?” However, she doesn’t support the status quo. She said it’s obvious to her that we have some changes to make if they want their community to be safe and welcoming to all. She said they are not going to accomplish this by trying to change each other or scream over each other or broadcasting their beliefs and not listening to anyone else. She said we need to change ourselves and try everyday to be better and do better to try and end intolerance and institutional racism. She said it would be great if they could commit to doing something as a community like other towns in the State are doing and she would be in full support of this. She said all of us have implicit bias. She said if you try and not see it as character weakness but as a societal institutional issue they will have a better chance of working together toward a solution. She said she understands the boards had to come down to prevent physical violence but just saying that means they need to do something about the reasons they need to come down.

 

Anna Roy said this might be a good forum to get things going but the diversity board is where the real work is going to happen. She said the temperature in the room doesn’t need to go up tonight and is hoping everyone has calm heads and waits, takes a deep breath and they get something going with the diversity forum.

 

Fred Wiseman said he wanted to add something to what is going on as a longtime Swanton resident. He said he remembers in the 1970’s the indigenous community of this town were coming out of the closet. He said the racism at that time was very fascinating and on a different scale entirely. He said his cousin Ken Ouimette was one of the first organizers of the Abenaki Nation. He said he came back to Swanton in the 1980’s and they were dealing with several issues. He said he remembers working with Jeff Benay on the issues of prejudice the Abenaki school children were having. He said there was also harassment from the local police. He said in 1995 the terrible attack by the State of Vermont against Missisquoi Abenakis claiming they were genetic and political frauds. He said he can remember the Monument Road crisis and sitting on the line there blocking the traffic. He said this is the context of racial issues in Swanton that he can remember. He said after the Monument Road issue they sat down and began working together having endless discussions and hashed things out. He said it was a great triumph when Abenaki Heritage Days moved into the Village Green. He said Swanton accepted the indigenous people as an integral part of the community and honored it. He said in return the Abenakis have given back to Swanton through the food shelf, Heritage days, adult and children programs and the Abenaki museum as well as events at the library and at the schools. He said this is a unique partnership that was formed over the last 40 years. He said he is working with a group on racial bias programming and is handling the historical part of it.

 

Meaghan Conly said she is there tonight to show her support of the art walls and the Black Lives Matter movement but also to challenge the notion that those of us in support are merely keyboard warriors hiding behind Facebook as stated by Trustee Adam Paxman. She said she assures him that she is no keyboard warrior. She said she is an active member of this community who is extremely concerned by the Trustees blind willingness to remove structures clearly important to the community after hearing from no one but the one responsible for defacing the structures. She said perhaps it wasn’t their intent to shut down the conversation before it could begin, but the action they took at their last meeting sent a very clear and powerful message. She said they would rather move to silence them then admit they are afraid by others expression that may shine a light on the racism in their community. She said they would rather pretend it doesn’t exist. She said the Board said instead of the art boards people should get involved and she agrees with that. She said those who claim they are not racists because they have bi-racial children or have friends that are black and feel it’s ok to cover up a painting because it’s offensive and they can’t explain why. She said she can guarantee that David Hemingway and others like him will not participate. They believe in their heart that there is nothing wrong and there is no reason to discuss their implicit bias. She said they believe the history they were taught by white men is true and all encompassing. She said art has always been a powerful medium that allows them to express themselves when words fail. She said the art boards were a powerful vessel that allowed community members to express solidarity, compassion, love and yes the importance of black lives. She said by removing them they have chosen to endorse racist sentiments in this town instead of allowing unrest to open the door to dialogue and change. She said she is not going away, her voice is not going away and she will use it to speak up for equality and freedom of expression. She said she will continue to call them out and call them in for decisions they make, and words they utter systematically limits those rights of members of this community because Swanton should be better than that.

 

Joe Wolske said he supports the art walls, he does not support the art walls being removed, he supports Black Lives Matter and does not support racists.

 

Susan Kelleher stated she has resided in Swanton for 40 years and is a US Navy veteran. She said she has never been so disappointed in this board and is shocked at the way they conducted their last meeting. She said she is shocked at the utter failure to identify and call out racism, she is shocked that this board would intentionally create a forum for only one side of this issue. She said originally she thought the Board was violating the artists freedom of speech with their comments but said now it’s much more about racism within this board. She said racism is more than outright hatred for a group, it’s calling artist “others” and “outsiders” for depicting racial unity. She said these are huge concerns for her and her friends. She said they held a meeting on the art boards without adding it to the agenda, without notifying the community members this was going to be discussed and that is a violation of the Vermont Open Meeting Laws. She said they were going to remove the walls and leave the posts there so they could be reinstalled in January but instead they were removed with a backhoe. She said this manner of removal shows your ultimate content for the art boards and telegraph to everyone that they have no intent on reinstating them. She said this now goes beyond art boards and it’s the failure of every single one of them to do their jobs. She said they all chose to be Village Trustees and thus should make themselves available to their constituents. She said they have an obligation to engage with the residents of Swanton Village in discourse and solutions. She said it is reasonable and a basic expectation that the first time a constituent emails them they reply back to them. She said she wrote two emails to Mr. Paxman before they had a conversation, she wrote three to Mr. Speer, wrote four to Mr. LaBombard and wrote six to Mr. Leach before she learned he doesn’t do email. She said this is unacceptable and they all failed to do their jobs properly, have failed to allow forum for all voices to be heard and have perpetuated the fear that people of color feel here. She said as a resident she demands they all resign effectively immediately.

 

Priscilla Connelly stated she didn’t write anything and said everyone has been so eloquent in their speeches. She said she is a new resident to Swanton and has lived here 9 months. She said because of this is has some objectivity because she doesn’t really know anyone. She said everyone is important to her. When she first saw the art boards she felt excited to be a part of Swanton. She said when the boards started getting painted over and the discussions started she could see things were not going in a good direction she wanted to have faith that the town would find ways to find solutions not for just one side but for everyone. She said there are issues right here in Swanton and she wants to support everyone and find a way. She hopes these art boards don’t stay down until February because they’re important. She hopes everyone can look at a piece of art and always see a meaning. She hopes everyone can come together and find their way to reinstate those boards with rules.

 

David Hemingway said he’s not a new citizen in this town as his parents lived in the same house for 68 years. He said he’s lived here all his life and never had anyone come up to him and tell him to leave this town because you’re not wanted. He said these people said it to him and he took the blunt. He said his purple heart was degraded and he was put on Facebook and in the newspaper. He said someone commented they should take his purple heart away from him and that he should have gotten killed in Vietnam before he got his purple heart. He said he served his country and he supports the Village Trustees.

 

Shane Collins stated he watched the video of the last meeting and was shocked by some things he heard. He said he’d like everyone to know that his wife and family are all American citizens.

 

Joel Clark said he’d like to say that the Selectboard is ready to talk about racial injustice, talk about biases and said they have a lot to learn, their employees have a lot to learn and they will work with the Trustees on setting up some forums to improve the situation. Neal Speer said he agrees with what Joel stated and said they are looking for a neutral moderator. He said it’s good to hear from people here in this room instead of outside and said he’s glad they came and stated their case. He said hopefully they can rise above this. Meaghan Conly said she agreed they should move forward but this could be difficult if there’s no statement from the Board. She said the things that were said at the last meeting were very painful and she doesn’t feel that the community can move forward unless there’s some sort of recognition on that. Suzanne Washburn stated that she hopes when these conversations take place that people speak with open minds. She said she had an experience with an individual in this room and she felt that if she wasn’t agreeing 100% with her she was being dismissed and she felt like she was being bullied. She said whatever meeting takes place people need to come to this without an agenda and everyone should come together and learn from one another. She said they need to respect one another as well. Terri O’Shea asked the Board if they planned to apologize and asked what they have learned since the last meeting. Reg Beliveau said other communities are going through the same issues so it will take some time to coordinate this forum. He said the Village and Town will hold this forum together possibly at the Town Garage. Terri said she heard some recognition that things need to change. More discussion took place about whether or not the Board feels they need to apologize and what their next steps will be. Terri said she was trying to bring both sides together. Neal Speer stated they wanted to start with a fresh slate and continue these discussions with civility. Reg Beliveau said he was working on a statement for the community. He said people say things in haste and words can be misconstrued in an email. He said they are working hard to get a forum together, they all have biases and he’s not pinpointing anyone out, he said they are all working on it. Anna Roy said when there’s two sides that can’t quite get together but decided they are going to go forward and have a discussion calmly with a neutral person that is better than an apology as it wipes the board clean and it says there are issues but let’s move forward, this forum is the best solution thus far. Instead of name calling or insisting someone apologize in public or on TV isn’t going to work, let’s have discussions instead. Priscilla Connelly said wherever they hold this forum it needs to be big enough to hold everyone. Neal said they are proposing holding it at the Town Garage. Sandy Kilburn said she wanted to end this where she started by saying that everyone has good intentions, they want to come together and these are not going to be easy conversations and might be uncomfortable. She said let’s concentrate on what we have in common and take it from there. Neal Speer thanked everyone for their comments and input and said he is hoping to move forward in a positive direction. He said as far as the damage to the art wall when it was taken down, the Village is repairing it for the Arts Council.

 

  1. Any Other Necessary Business:

 

Adam Paxman stated he wanted to thank the Public Works crew for the work they’ve done on York Street making more green space. He said they also added more green space by the NOTCH building.

 

Any Other Business: Chris Leach stated he wrote a letter to the Swanton Postmaster about a drive through window. He will update the Board if he hears anything.

 

  1. Executive Session (If Necessary):

 

None.

 

  1. Adjournment:

 

Chris Leach made the motion to adjourn the Regular Board of the Trustees meeting at 7:53 p.m.  Adam Paxman seconded. There being no further business at hand, Neal Speer, Village President, adjourned the meeting at 7:53 p.m. Motion carried.

 

 

 

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Neal Speer, Village President                            Date

 

 

 

 

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Dianne Day, Village Clerk                                Date