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).

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

July 13, 2020







Monday, July 13, 2020

7:00 PM


PRESENT: Neal Speer, Village President; Chris Leach, Trustee; Adam Paxman, Trustee; Eugene LaBombard, Trustee; Reginald Beliveau Jr., Village Manager; Elisabeth Nance, Economic Development Coordinator; Suzanne Washburn, Mark Rocheleau, Joel Clark, Nicole Gadouas, David Hemingway, Darci Benoit, Lenny Bates, 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 he needed to add personnel under executive session.


  1. Public Comment:


Mark Rocheleau stated he was there as a taxpayer and a concerned citizen of the Village. He said what he thought started out as a great idea has turned out of control and it’s not necessary. He was talking about the local art boards. He said the character assassination that is happening now, right or wrong, needs to stop. He wants the Village to think about temporarily shutting down or removing the art boards. He said this is way beyond ok, what’s happening now and whatever side of the fence you’re on or neutral area what’s happening on Facebook now is terrible. He said we’re better than this. He said he is requesting the Village to take down these boards for a period of time until some common ground or rules can be established.


Lenny Bates agreed with Mark and said these boards are on Village property and the messages are political and to allow that to be put upon the Village property is not appropriate. He said if anything like this is said on Facebook, if you have an opposing view, you are labeled a racist and bad person. He said he has a child of a different race and he’s being called a racist because he doesn’t agree with them. He said this is not the right place for it period. He said he doesn’t feel they should profit off Village property by selling their art and there is something to be said about that.


Suzanne Washburn said this is a wonderful little community and she’s lived here for about 23 years and this is the first time she’s seen hate speech displayed using these boards. She said maybe this wasn’t their intent, but it comes across as hate speech and if anyone approaches these individuals like she did she felt she was being bullied. She said she was told to go back and look up and better learn her history to find out what all of this means. She said she told them she knew her history. She said it didn’t promote the perfect opportunity to have a meaningful conversation, that wasn’t happening. It was “this is what we’re doing, end of story, go look it up, figure it out on your own.” She said she concurs, she pays taxes in this community and it’s not just about paying taxes. She said what bothers her the most is the hate that is being generated by these people and maybe their original plan was well intentioned but that is not what’s happening now. She said the character assassination for one of the individuals in the community is just appalling. It’s just not right.


Nicole Gadouas said she wanted to speak not as vice president of the Arts Council but as a community member. She said as a person in the community she agrees with all of them and was ashamed to see the character slamming on Facebook, it was horrible. She said he’s an upstanding community member and it’s terrible to do that to anybody for any reason. She feels the intentions started out in the right direction but ended up contradicting the point they are trying to prove. If they’re trying to prove the point of peace and kindness that’s not happening. She said its separation and divide and judgment and she said she is disgusted by all of it. She said she is ashamed as vice president of the Arts Council and am distraught by all of it. She said their mission as an arts council is to support local art and promote local art. She said she knows there is controversy over what’s art but this is more about political statements and agendas and the nation as a whole is so full of agenda right now it’s too much for everybody. She said within their community they are there to support and care for one another but they’re not doing that right now. She said as a community member she feels the walls need to be addressed because they are being used in the wrong way right now. She said she is not a racist and not judging art but this is not positive energy that is coming from them. She said that is not their mission as an arts council. She said she apologizes to any community member who has been hurt or stressed out in any way by this situation.


David Hemingway said he is the guy who has painted over the black fist. He said he painted over it three times and the fourth time he came over to paint he was approached by five people. He said this woman was hollering and screaming at him and the others were video taping him. He said they were calling him every name in the book as well as a racist. He said they told him to get out of this town because he didn’t belong here. He said he has lived here for 68 years and he has never been approached by anybody like this in his life. He said if he had done that to them and did what they did it would have been in every newspaper around. He said as a combat vet he respects the flag and stands for it really strong. He said he was surrounded and never said a word to them. He said one guy came over, reached over with a spray can and almost sprayed him in the face. He said he came over to paint just like everyone else has been doing and was told to get out of town and called names. He said he decided to pick up his paint and leave and told them to go ahead and repaint it, that he would be back again. He said he has just as much a right to paint over it as they do. He said he was then splashed all over Facebook and made to look like the bad guy, that’s wrong. He said they took a picture of his license plate with his purple heart and put that on Facebook. He said he received that purple heart from the Vietnam war. He said he painted a peace sign, he fought a war and knows what it’s all about. He said he can see who lives in this town and who doesn’t and said this is an outside move that they don’t appreciate. He said he would like to see the boards removed for one year to give this a break.


Nicole Gadouas said it’s unfortunate it has come to this. She said they have followed billboard rules and never took into consideration political agendas. She said she is concerned about the safety of the community. She said it has become hurtful and disrespectful and she feels terrible about that. She said as a community member she apologizes to Mr. Hemingway. She said everyone should be respected.


Neal Speer, Village President, said at the last Trustees meeting they gave this a chance and talked about revising the rules for the art boards. He said it’s supposed to be “art” and they decided to let it settle for a while. He said the controversial end of it exploded and now there is defamation of character for our long-time citizens and what really upsets him is the Arts Council has done nothing to right this or modify it. He said there is one group that’s instigating this and they gave them a chance. Nicole Gadouas said they have acted independently.


Darci Benoit stated she wanted to apologize to Mr. Hemingway as well because the people doing these actions do not speak for the Arts Council as a whole. Our arts council is extremely divided right now because half want to change this and take the walls down and the other half wants to continue with this. She said this isn’t the arts council as a whole and she’d like to see the dust settle.


Neal Speer stated some members of the Arts Council have been intimidated by this and there’s some fear there and there’s inaction because of this. Adam Paxman said he’s very disappointed with what’s going on with the art walls. He said it’s a great idea to show art but these have become message boards. The fact that someone was verbally abused is disgusting. He said he doesn’t condone that type of behavior in the community. He said there are a lot of keyboards warriors talking on Facebook and it’s not right. He said the Swanton Enhancement Committee is working on a diversity and equality committee and that’s where people should start talking and be done with painting symbols. He said it’s time to talk and get involved in this committee so they can make positive changes. He said he’s afraid if they don’t do something with these art walls someone is going to get hurt very soon. Adam Paxman made the motion to remove the art walls effective this week and revisit this in January 2021 with the Arts Council. Chris Leach stated he’s been approached by people regarding these boards. He said he canvased about 20 people about these walls and heard remarks such as “wow I really like that art, that’s very cute, I wonder who made that one, or that one made me laugh.” He said it’s nice seeing them and it was a joy and compliment to the community and now they have turned into a message board. He said Mr. Hemingway was wounded in service and there is no one more patriotic or understanding for what our country is and what it stands for than David Hemingway. He said he agrees with Adam and would second the motion. Nicole asked for more clarification on which boards they were talking about. Adam said all three boards should be removed. He said he knows the Arts Council will make the right decisions and feels they should steer people towards this committee so progress can be made. He said there’s too much hate coming out of this and they want to promote change. He said he recommends all three boards come down and revisit it in January. He said it would be a great spring project to put them back up. Suzanne Washburn said all existing art boards should come down. More discussion took place regarding the number of boards and their location. Eugene LaBombard stated this could be used as an educational tool because young people need to learn that conflicts happen and what was happening here is disgusting. Nicole said by doing this, by whiting out a painting or taking down a wall, it’s not trying to silence someone it’s trying to remove the hate.


Shawn Cheney said he spent quite a bit of time painting over white supremacy symbols here in town, more time than he did painting over black fist. He said what happens is once one side starts the other side comes in for a reaction. He said we want to keep our town stable and enjoyable and civil. He said the arts council has done a phenomenal job. He said he would work on finding them a commercial space where they can use in town for a long period of time so they have a place to go and control their art so they aren’t hijacked. He said they’re good people and military people would call them softhearted. He said they need to work together and he would like to help the arts council going forward.


Neal Speer stated he hopes as much of this positive conversation gets out to the public instead of all the negative Facebook conversations. He thanked everyone for their comments. He asked if there was a second to the motion to remove all art boards on Village property. Eugene LaBombard stated there is an art board near Webster Terrace that is not on Village property. Adam Paxman stated he would amend his motion to state that the Board of Trustees remove the art wall on the municipal office property, remove the art wall on Canada Street by Webster Terrace and remove the art wall on Route 7 until January, when they will revisit the topic with the Arts Council. Chris Leach seconded the motion. Motion carried. Adam stated he would like it noted that they initiate a meeting in January with the Arts Council to discuss putting the boards back up in the spring.


  1. Approve and Accept Minutes from Monday, June 22, 2020:


Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve and accept the Minutes from Monday, June 22, 2020 as presented. Chris Leach seconded. Discussion: Chris Leach asked if any progress was made on Mr. Yates request about the boats being launched at the Swanton Beach. Reg Beliveau stated he was still working on it. Motion carried.


  1. Approve and Accept Village Warrants through Friday, July 10, 2020:


Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve Village Warrants through Friday, July 10, 2020 as presented. Adam Paxman seconded. Discussion: Adam Paxman asked about the payment to VEEU for $50,281.99. He asked if VEEU stands for Efficiency Vermont. Reg Beliveau stated yes it does. Adam mentioned this payment is monthly. Chris Leach said this is a tax the rate payers had no say in. Motion carried.


  1. Economic Development Coordinator Update:


Elisabeth Nance, Economic Development Coordinator, presented the Board with an Agreement for Consultant Engineering Services with VHB who will conduct engineering investigations, develop construction plans, specifications and estimates and provide design engineering services during the construction phase for the Downtown Transportation Study project. The total amount to be paid to the consultant for all services shall not exceed a maximum limiting amount of $33,997. There is a 20% match on this grant which is included in the $33,997. Chris Leach stated he would like a minimum of three plans submitted so at least all designs can be viewed. He said he didn’t see any real answers to the truck issue and he would like to see some real results. Elisabeth said they did a site visit and saw the truck issues, saw people trying to turn left off of Canada Street, etc. Chris said he would like to see real solutions to these issues. Adam Paxman made the motion to authorize Village Manager Reg Beliveau to sign the Contract Agreement with Consultant VHB for the Downtown Transportation Study Project as presented. Eugene LaBombard seconded. Motion carried.


Elisabeth said the second document she handed out pertains to Complete and Green Streets which are roadways designed and operated to safely and comfortably accommodate users of all ages and abilities, including cyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, elderly, wheelchair users, delivery and service personnel, and emergency responders; and to reduce, accommodate and slow stormwater runoff as part of a comprehensive stormwater management system. She said she’d like the Trustees to look this over, study it and this can be discussed at a future meeting.


Elisabeth said through RiseVT the Town and Village were both awarded the bike repair towers. They will be shipped in late August so can hopefully be installed this fall. She also said the Healthy Community Taskforce was out doing a sidewalk inventory last Thursday. She said the idea is to work with the Town and Village highway departments to help prioritize sidewalk projects.


  1. Swanton Village Police Department Update with Chief Stell:


Chief Stell said the Village Police Department responded to 149 calls for service during the month of June. He said one of those calls pertained to a homicide which caused them to spend 3 ½ weeks of time working on it doing interviews, write ups, etc. He said they also issued 13 warnings for traffic offenses and issued 2 traffic citations totaling $344. He said the other issue that came across his desk was the speeding issue on First Street. He said they set up a speed monitor in two different locations to see what the average speed was. He said in the easterly direction they recorded over 13,000 vehicles and the average speed was 28 mph. He said they did have over 4,000 vehicles that were over the speed limit and that range was 31-34 mph. He said 23 vehicles in a three-day period were in the 44 mph range in the middle of the night. He said in the westbound direction the average speed was 30 mph. He said during the daytime hours everything is between the 28-30 mph speed limit range. Neal asked if there were any new COVID-19 cases in the County. Chief Stell said he believed there were 6 to 8 new cases in the county, with 3 or 4 of them being in the Swanton/Highgate area. He said the virus is still here and until they have a vaccine it will be here. He said the schools are getting ready to reopen and they need to stay diligent, wear a mask in public and wash your hands. From a medical standpoint they are learning about transmission in pediatrics. It discusses how in really young children it shows they are unable to transmit the virus. Adam Paxman asked if there was any opportunity to put a crosswalk in the area of Greenwich or New Streets. Chief Stell said the State of Vermont would have to determine that. He suggested the Board of Trustees sending the state a letter requesting that crosswalk. Chris Leach asked if there were any issues with firework complaints. Chief Stell said there were numerous complaints in the Village and in the Town. He said now that the 4th of July is over they haven’t had as many complaints. Suzanne Washburn asked out of the 149 calls they had were any from suicide due to COVID-19. Chief Stell said they haven’t seen an increase in suicide attempt calls. Reg Beliveau asked about the COVID-19 weekly updates sent to the Town Selectboard and Village Trustees from the Chief, he asked where citizens could go and check for accurate up to date information. Chief Stell said the Vermont Department of Health and the Vermont Emergency Management sites are full of information.


  1. Sign VT State Revolving Fund Loan Agreement for $147,900 for the Wastewater 20-Year Evaluation:


Reg Beliveau stated this was for the 20-year evaluation study for the Wastewater Treatment Plant that has already been discussed and approved by the Board of Trustees. Eugene LaBombard made the motion to approve and sign the VT State Revolving Fund Loan Agreement for $147,900 for the Wastewater 20-Year Evaluation. Chris Leach seconded. Motion carried.


  1. Any Other Necessary Business:


Chris Leach said he has mentioned this before about a drive through mailbox in the Village and said he would really like to see this happen. He suggested maybe the end of Academy Street or maybe on the end of Elm Street by the Village office. He said people have complained to him about the traffic on Grand Avenue and how dangerous it is trying to cross to go to the Post Office. David Hemingway said this could be an issue in the winter with the snowplows. Chris said they do this in other towns successfully so why not here. Suzanne Washburn said they have a drive-up mailbox in South Burlington and it works very well. She said it doesn’t have to be on a one-way street. He said he’d like to alleviate the dangerous situation on Grand Avenue.


Any Other Business: Eugene LaBombard stated he walks around town just about every day and said there are some crosswalks that need to be painted. He said some are very faded. He said he’d like to see them painted before school starts.


Any Other Business: Mark Rocheleau stated he appreciated the Board considering his request to remove the art boards because there will be backlash either way. Suzanne Washburn said it still makes her sad that this lovely little community had to go through this.


Any Other Business: Reg Beliveau said Abenaki Chief Menard contacted him and has requested a totem pole be erected in the Village Green. Adam Paxman said they should put that on the next agenda so it can be discussed further.


  1. Executive Session to Discuss Real Estate and Personnel:


Adam Paxman made the motion to enter Executive Session to discuss real estate and personnel at 8:24 p.m. Eugene LaBombard seconded. Motion carried.


Eugene LaBombard made the motion to exit Executive Session at 9:05 p.m. Adam Paxman seconded. Motion carried.




  1. Adjournment:


Chris Leach made the motion to adjourn the Regular Board of the Trustees meeting at 9:05 p.m.  Eugene LaBombard seconded. There being no further business at hand, Neal Speer, Village President, adjourned the meeting at 9:05 p.m. Motion carried.




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Neal Speer, Village President                            Date





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Dianne Day, Village Clerk                                Date