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Monday, April 23, 2012

Trustee Meeting Minutes - April 23rd, 2012


Monday, April 23, 2012
7:00 PM

PRESENT: Ronald Kilburn, Village President; Chris Leach, Trustee; Adam Paxman, Trustee; Eugene LaBombard, Trustee; Reginald Beliveau, Village Manager; Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager; Dianne Day, Village Clerk; Amy Brewer, NMC; Shawn Cheney, Village Resident; and Ch. 16.

Unless otherwise noted, all motions carried unanimously.

Ronald Kilburn, Village President, welcomed all to the Regular Board of Trustees meeting and called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. He introduced the Board members present.

1. Approve and accept the Minutes from Monday, April 9, 2012 Public Hearing and Meeting:

Chris Leach made the motion to approve and accept the Minutes from Monday, April 9, 2012 Public Hearing and Meeting and was glad there was such a good turnout. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.

2. Approve the following Warrants: Warrant #413 for $171,131.57; Warrant #414 for $406.19; Warrant #415 for $66,262.52; Warrant #416 for $128,184.96; and Warrant #417 for $393.05:

Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve Warrants #413 through #417 as presented. He then asked what Southworth Milton vendor was for, they waited for Lynn Paradis to arrive to answer before approving Warrants.

3. Amy Brewer – Discussion on No Smoking Ordinance for Village Parks:

Amy presented the Board with a Village of Swanton Parks Smoke Free Proposal to look over. Adam Paxman asked who would be policing this proposal if adopted? Amy advised it is pretty much self policing and that other communities posted signs and said it is a process that takes time and is also based on good communication. Eugene LaBombard said that the public has a big part in enforcing it, that smokers are more tolerant of it and it seems to work, smoking eventually disappears.

Adam Paxman said he had concerns over it because it might detract from the events the Chamber of Commerce holds in the Village Park. He said they struggle now to get people there and he’s not convinced this is a good idea. Amy said that more people don’t smoke and they won’t bring their families to events where there will be smoking. Chris Leach said he is not a smoker but is against more regulation if not needed and is happy to leave things status quo.

Eugene LaBombard said he doesn’t see anyone smoking outside now. Ron Kilburn asked about people who chew tobacco, he said he picked up three containers of it last week and said this seems like a solution without a problem. Chris said maybe they should just put up signs that read “We Appreciate It If You Don’t Smoke.”

Amy stated that many communities post signs and offered to get some for the Village. She said she is here to advocate for the Ordinance and that this says to the community that you want to create a healthy environment for everyone. She said she prefers the adoption of the Ordinance and is even willing to go and pick up cigarette butts to see how many there are on the ground in the parks.

Reg Beliveau stated that the Village has a new website and face book page and that he wants to post the question there and see what kind of response they get. He would also like to get Chief Stell’s opinion on the matter as far as enforcing the Ordinance. Chris Leach stated he would rather see the Police Department working on burglaries, speeding issues, etc. rather than smoking ordinances. Adam Paxman advised they table this item for now because he’d like to do some more research and he’d like to see what they get for a community response. Ronald Kilburn mentioned that maybe this needs to be addressed at the next JLB meeting to hear their thoughts as well. The Board agreed to table this item and address it at the JLB meeting and to also invite Amy Brewer to that meeting as well.

Before Amy left Reg advised she had brought him fluorescent vests for people who walk early in the morning and late in the evening. They are size large and can be picked up at the Village office.

Lynn Paradis arrived and advised the Southworth Milton invoice was for the emergency generator at the Hydro Plant and that they would be reimbursed for 50% of that from their Velco ARRA grant. Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve Warrants #413 through #417 as presented. Chris Leach seconded the motion, unanimous. Motion carried.

4. Shawn Cheney – Discussion on Electric Liens:

Shawn Cheney stated that first of all he would like to ask the Board that they change their policy in accepting Postmarks on tax bills. He stated that as of now, the Village of Swanton does not accept Postmarks and he feels this is a disservice to the Village residents and non residents who pay taxes in the Village. He said he was unaware that the Swanton Post Office sends all mail to Burlington to be sorted and because of this you have the potential to be late in paying your tax bill. We explained to him that after the due date all delinquent tax bills are handed over to our delinquent tax collector with a warrant declaring the amount of the delinquent taxes. If we were to keep the books open what date would you choose to no longer accept Postmarks? We advised him that all bills have a due date and that this due date is the same each year. Chris Leach asked if taxpayers had the ability to pay their tax bill online? I advised that yes they could through their own bank, they could send an online payment. Ron Kilburn stated that he would look into this because he believes a principal contract is deemed complete once posted in the US Mail and that Shawn’s point may be a valid one. The Board advised they would look further into this.

Shawn stated his other concern was the Village of Swanton putting liens on landlords for an unpaid bill left by a tenant. He said he talked with several landlords and they were happy about our meeting and feel they were informed but that they would like to see this rescinded. He said this is an expense to them that they cannot control and feel it’s unconstitutional. He said he could take a tenant to court for an eviction process and then find out months later the Village of Swanton has put a lien on the property so he would then have to take that person back to court at an additional expense to him. He worried about other companies doing the same thing, holding landlords responsible for their tenant’s bills. Lynn advised Shawn that only municipalities are allowed to lien landowners. Shawn said this is a burden that will be passed on to good paying tenants, and that they will have to raise the rents on elderly, etc. Lynn stated how important it is to have good communication with us so that we know who is moving in where. Adam stated he didn’t think there was any easy answer and feels things need to change in Montpelier as well. He said landlords need more rights than what they now have.

Shawn stated he would ask to have this put to another vote to rescind this. Eugene stated that this procedure is not unique to Vermont. Chris stated the Landlord Association Attorney should push for this kind of thing. He stated there is approximately $90,000 placed in liens and we have 3,600 customers. Swanton Village would have to collect these funds somehow. He said the legislature needs to be more business friendly and that rental units are a business. He said as a Village they need to protect their ratepayers.

Reg Beliveau stated that everyone in the front office does a great job and Shawn agreed to this. Lynn stated the Public Service Board is for the customers and not the utilities and that there are approximately 10% of the customers who abuse the system. Eugene asked that when a tenant is past due on their account is the landlord notified. We advised him that we are working with Cogsdale to get this feature working and that we will send all landlords a copy of their tenants disconnect notice as long as they have the authorization form signed by their tenant. Shawn also mentioned being told not to pay the lien in case the tenant moves back into our system. He said this is upsetting because 1% overdue interest is charged monthly. Shawn again stated he would like the Village of Swanton to rescind its Charter change.

More discussion took place regarding our disconnect procedure and rules. At this point in time Adam Paxman made the motion to have all landlords notified when a disconnect notice is printed on their tenants account as long as the tenant authorization form is signed. Chris Leach seconded. Chris stated that this is an ongoing process but the main goal is to keep collecting past due accounts and to keep the rates down. Motion carried.

5. Park Improvement Discussion:

Discussion took place regarding the Park Improvements to be done at the Village Green, Marble Mill and Flat Iron Park. They said the primary piece will be a tree revitalization program and they will stagger the growth. They stated they would like more sidewalks and also have some benches put in. They mentioned the trees that Dave Hamlen planted a few years back and said they would like to take a look at that again and see where they are as far the planting of trees goes. Adam mentioned there are several pine trees in the Village Green that need to be cut down. The Board would also like to see a sidewalk installed at Marble Mill Park that ended up meeting Webster Terrace. Eugene stated the first thing they need to do is cut the dead trees out and should get an estimate from local tree trimmers. They mentioned repairing the fountain as well. Chris stated that the main improvements would be trees, sidewalks, benches, Veterans sign and trash receptacles. Ron Kilburn stated that the stone canoe at Marble Mill needs repair as well. He also stated that Dave Hamlen is the tree warden and that the Village cannot cut a tree down until they meet with Dave and have him inspect the tree. The Board stated they should do a walk thru of the Parks, draft a plan and then take action.

6. Update on Lower Village Dam:

Reg Beliveau advised the Board he has received quotes from H.L. Turner and Paul Nolan regarding moving forward with the project. Reg stated he felt it was in the best interest to continue to move forward with the necessary permits and to also try and get some grant money to help with the project. Reg provided the Board with a spreadsheet showing that there isn’t a cash flow for 20 years. Lynn provided the Board with the research she’s done and said it would be cheaper to purchase power than to generate it here. Adam stated he feels this isn’t feasible at this point in time. Reg agreed but said it would be if they received grant money. Chris stated he didn’t want to totally dismiss this as of yet and that it may be feasible at some point and to keep looking at it. Reg advised that Attorney Paul Nolan was still working on this and that they have a two year permit in place.

Chris stated that they moved forward with Unit #5 at the Hydro Plant and said that this might be pertinent to the Downtown Dam. He said they would like to be able to either break even or make money at it. Reg stated they needed to decide how much they wanted to spend on this project. The Board agreed that they wanted to spend the minimum amount of money to keep their permits in place and to maintain water rights.

7. Any Other Necessary Business:

Chris Leach informed the viewers that on May 19, 2012 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be a Hazardous Waste Day at the Town Garage on Fourth Street. He informed the Board that the legislature did not pass the plastic bag and water bottle waste bill. He said things are looking pretty good and their goal is to not cause more cost to their local haulers. He also said that members can drop off computers, TV’s, monitors, etc. due to the Electronics Bill that was passed. He said these items can be dropped off at the Georgia plant.

Chris also stated he wants to begin discussion on the Grand List in the near future.

Any Other Business: Adam Paxman wanted to remind the viewers that Saturday, May 5th is Green Up Day and that people are meeting here at the Village Complex at 8 a.m. and is again being run by Camille Freeman. He encouraged residents to show up and help out.

Any Other Business: Eugene LaBombard asked if the generation has been low in the last couple of weeks due to low precipitation. Reg said yes it was down due to that fact. Eugene asked how the Water Treatment Plant upgrade was going. Reg advised they are working on the new lagoon, have installed the sprinkler system and that Drummac will drain the other two lagoons. He said due to high arsenic levels they could not land apply so they needed Drummac to remove the sludge. Eugene asked if the filtration system was installed yet. Reg said not yet and that they are coming in June. He said the inside is ready, the plumbing is ready and that everything is progressing fine.

Any Other Business: Ron Kilburn asked if the Village ordered copies of their meetings from Channel 15. I said that we’ve needed to order one in the past but we don’t on a regular basis. The Board thought that this was a good idea and that way the meetings wouldn’t have to be taped by the Clerk.

8. Executive Session to Discuss Contracts and Real Estate:

Chris Leach made the motion to enter Executive Session to discuss Contracts and Real Estate at 9:15 p.m. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.

Adam Paxman made the motion to exit Executive Session at 9:40 p.m. Chris Leach seconded. Motion carried.

ACTION TAKEN: The Board of Trustees advised Village Manager Reg Beliveau to re-visit raising the rent on farmer’s rental property in 2013 and having them sign five year rental leases on these rental properties.

ADJOURN: Eugene LaBombard made the motion to adjourn the Regular Board of Trustees meeting at 9:41 p.m. Chris Leach seconded. There being no further business at hand Ronald Kilburn, Village President; adjourned the Regular Board of Trustees meeting at 9:41 p.m.

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Ronald Kilburn, Village President                                Date

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Dianne Day, Village Clerk                                           Date

Monday, April 9, 2012

Trustee Meeting Minutes - April 9th, 2012


Monday, April 9, 2012
7:00 PM
PRESENT: Ronald Kilburn, Village President; Chris Leach, Trustee; Eugene LaBombard, Trustee; Adam Paxman, Trustee; Reginald Beliveau, Village Manager; Lynn Paradis, Assistant Village Manager; Dianne Day, Village Clerk/Administrative Assistant; Trish Foote, Staff Accountant; Marc Longway, Billing Clerk; Katie Judd, Customer Service Clerk; Brian Savage, Michel Consejo, and Ch. 16.
Ronald Kilburn, Village President, welcome all to the Regular Board of Trustees Meeting and Public Hearing and called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
The Board decided to hear Item #3 first.
3. Public Hearing to Discuss Electric Lien Process – Application for Service, Meter Deposits/Credit References, Billing Process, Disconnects, Liens:
Application for Service – Katie Judd:  Katie explained the process for setting up a new customer for Electric service with the Village of Swanton. She said the basic information needed is the location of the property, the landlord’s name, the last tenants name to ensure the correct meter and then their personal account information such as proof of ID, phone numbers, mailing address, etc. She then explained how a meter deposit is figured if that customer cannot get us a letter of credit.
The only forms of credit references are either from a previous utility company, a cable television company or a letter from their bank stating they have had a checking account for more than one year with no overdrafts within the last 12 months. If that customer can’t get one of those references she explained that we take the last 12 months of utility bills at that location and take an average of those bills and times it by two so that we have at least two months worth of electric bills on deposit. She explained that we break that deposit into three payments and that all these rules are given to us by the Public Service Board.
Gary Rice asked more about how the deposits are figured and what is allowed for letters of credit. Harold Garrett asked about paying one third of the deposit up front. Katie explained this process again.
Billing Process – Marc Longway: Marc explained that all electric meters are read on a monthly basis and that those readings are entered into the computer system to calculate a customer’s bill for the month. He explained how each property has a location number and each customer has a customer number assigned to them. He explained that a KW is energy used at a point in time and that KwH is energy used over time. Marc explained our residential rates and our residential demand rates. He explained that if a residential customer uses over 1800 kwh’s in a month’s time for two consecutive months, that customer would end up on a residential demand rate. That rate has a higher customer charge and once put on a demand meter the customer would remain on that rate for 12 months. He explained how a customer could come off those rates by demonstrating a kwh usage of below 1800 and a demand below 8 for 12 months. Once that was done the customer could then come off demand rates.
Raymond Roy asked how a customer can come off demand rates. Chris Leach asked what the average household uses per month for kwh, Marc explained approximately 700 to 800 kwh’s per month and said out of approximately 3,600 customers there are about 200 on demand rates.
Disconnects – Trish Foote: Trish explained the process of printing disconnects on a weekly basis for every “route” in our system. She stated that on average we print approximately 650 disconnects on a monthly basis. She further explained that if a customer is delinquent more than $50 a disconnect notice would be printed advising that customer they have a certain number of days to pay that bill or their electric service would be disconnected. She explained that she looks over these accounts and then makes phone calls to these customers reminding them of their past due  balance. She said she disconnects approximately 20 to 30 customers per month.
Trish explained how the Public Service Board governs our disconnect rules and that we have to follow their guidelines such as letting a customer have two signed agreements per year. She explained the complexity of disconnecting customers for non-payment. She said once disconnect notices are printed she looks through them and decides at that time who she is going to shut off. She then generates a list of these customers who have a large past due balance and thinks a lien should be placed on the property which she then gives to Dianne to further research. Also by calling these customers and talking with them she agrees to a payment plan with them and explained how we are always willing to work with a customer to help them pay their past due balance.
Gary Rice asked her about how many additional days a customer has at the time a disconnect notice is printed. Matt Juaire also asked how the payment plan worked.
Shawn Cheney  asked that if a landlord is ultimately responsible for a tenants unpaid electric bill if the landlord could be attached to their account so that they receive a copy of their disconnect notice as well. Trish explained our billing system does have that ability and she would contact Cogsdale to get that piece up and running. She explained the tenant would have to give permission to have the landlord attached to their account. This is called the verification form signed by tenants giving landlords access to their account to make sure they are paying their bills. She emphasized the importance of these forms and getting them signed by the tenants.
Stewart Bennett, Attorney for the Landlord Association, said he has contacted the Vermont Leagues of Cities and Town and the Public Service Board about this issue. He discussed the Statutes of Fraud in Vermont as well.
Chris Leach stated that as a Village Trustee he is concerned about collecting these bills. He said the Village of Swanton has approximately$89,000 placed in liens and that by collecting these funds is key to keeping our electric rates the lowest in the State of Vermont. He said he is frustrated with the liberal actions of the Public Service Board and the rights they give to tenants not paying their bills. He said it is not fair to go five months without paying their electric bills. He said owning rental property is a legitimate business and there needs to be laws that allow the income to come in and that the legislature needs to get stricter about this. He said maintaining these low rates remains to be a struggle.
Gary Fadden stated that the Trustees went to the legislature to get approval for their Charter update. Michel Consejo also responded to this and explained the Charter update approval process in the legislature. Brian Savage also responded and said he has very little use for the Public Service Board and that they are too far reaching. He explained the Charter update process and said it is pretty much boiler plate and that if the Village residents approved it then the legislature would do so as well.
Electric Lien Process – Dianne Day:  I advised the public that Swanton Village updated their Charter in 2009 and one of the updates was to place liens on property owners for unpaid electric bills. I stated that in the year prior to the Charter update we held several board meetings discussing the changes and that we held three public hearings before the vote and had zero attendance. I explained that on March 23, 2009 the Village registered voters approved this Charter change and on May 18, 2009 the State Legislature gave their approval as well.
I explained to the Public that once Trish has gone through her disconnect notices she gives me a list of accounts that need further research. I explained that if a customer is delinquent more than one or two bills a lien would need to be placed on that property owner. I also explained that any customer holding an electric account delinquent would have a lien placed on them, that this does not just affect tenants and landlords. I said I have several liens on homeowners as well as businesses.
 I stated that the liens are placed at the Town Clerks office in which the property is located and that in order to collect funds left by a tenant we recommend the landlord not pay the lien right away. I said it is very likely the tenant would need service set up elsewhere and at that time I would collect the funds they left on a previous property and would then be able to release the lien on the landlord. I explained how important it was to have tenants sign the verification forms giving their landlord access to their electric account and that once these forms were signed we needed copies of it held in our office. I said the landlords needed to take some extra time to contact us to check on the account to see if it was being paid in a timely manner, that Swanton Village would not contact them. I also emphasized the importance of landlords contacting us to let us know who they are renting to and who is allowed to set up service. That way tenants aren’t allowed to put the account is someone else’s name because they may owe us money from a previous location. The key to this is communication between landlords and the Village of Swanton.
I informed the public that if their tenant is receiving Section 8 funding they are legally required to keep their utilities paid and if they are not doing so they could possibly lose their funding. I said that landlords could contact us at any time to ask the monthly average usage of an apartment in case they wanted to get a utility deposit from their tenant. I also informed them that we do not report to any credit bureau at this time.
I further explained that in 2011 the Village of Swanton collected over $11,000 in liens and that so far this year we’ve collected over $9,000 and this helps keep our rates down. I advised that the Village of Swanton was the ninth municipality to adopt this Charter change and that this is one way of keeping our rates the lowest in the State. I said that once a lien has been paid in full it is released and a copy of that release is sent to the land owner.
Ronald Kilburn advised we take a 10 minute recess at this time and then resume our regular meeting to address item #1 and #2.
1. Approve and accept the Minutes from Thursday, March 22, 2012 Special Meeting and Minutes from Monday, March 26, 2011 Regular Meeting:
Adam Paxman made the motion to accept the Minutes of both the March 22 and March 26, 2012 meetings. Chris Leach seconded. Motion carried.
2. Approve the following Warrants: Warrant #403 for $569,246.05; Warrant #404 for $294.10; Warrant #405 for $7,800.00; Warrant #406 for $146,991.49; Warrant #407 for $480.00; Warrant #408 for $271,579.23; Warrant #409 for $499.05; Warrant #410 for $39,407.46; Warrant #411 for $440.11; and Warrant #412 for $1,667.11.
Chris Leach asked about vendor Brian Derry, Lynn advised he put the new roof on the Waste Water Plant. He also asked about vendor VT Dept. of Corrections and we advised they printed our Village Reports. Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve and accept Warrants #403 through #412 as presented. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.
4. Any Other Necessary Business:
The Board advised they would like to schedule a Joint Legislative Body meeting in the very near future and stated they would choose a date at their April 23rd meeting.
Any Other Business:
 Eugene LaBombard asked how many water disconnects we did compared to electric disconnects. We told him there were many more electric disconnects.
ADJOURN: Adam Paxman made the motion to adjourn the Regular Board of Trustees Public Hearing and meeting at 9:15 p.m. Chris Leach seconded. There being no further business at hand Ronald Kilburn, Village President; adjourned the Regular Board of Trustees meeting at 9:15 p.m.
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Ronald Kilburn, Village President                                Date
_____________________________________                      _______________________________________
Dianne Day, Village Clerk                                           Date