Brandon SB allocates ARPA funds


BRANDON—The Brandon Selectboard convened for its regular meeting on Monday evening.  As the first order of business, after the approval of the agenda and the previous meeting’s minutes, Town Manager Seth Hopkins offered his report, the full text of which is available in the Selectboard packet for 9/25/23 on the Town website.

Highlights from the report included:

  • $70,000 in delinquent taxes and utility payments has been recovered by the Town since the previous Selectboard meeting.  
  • Demolition has been completed on the three Town-owned properties on Newton Road that were bought out as part of state and federal flood-mitigation programs.
  • The wastewater plant project is slated to finish in winter of 2024.  This project entailed upgrades to the processing of the wastewater itself and it is projected that the plant will need other structural upgrades in the coming years that were beyond the scope of the current work and funding.
  • The Town is still seeking bids on the damage sustained to the chimney of the Town Hall during the tornado in July.
  • The historic-preservation survey of non-downtown areas is underway.  The goal is to identify properties and other features deserving of preservation.
  • The Brandon Police Department has been awarded an $18,000 grant to purchase an electric motorcycle.  The grant was obtained through Senator Sanders’s office.
  • Brandon will not be receiving a grant for the McConnell Road culvert in this application cycle.  The project was ranked #21 on the grantor’s list and only 17 projects were funded, leaving it in an advantageous position for the next cycle.
  • The paving has been completed on the municipal parking lot behind the new Dunkin’ Donuts. The grant that paid for the work is now closed.
  • The paving on Arnold District Road will be completed in October.

Rec Department Director Bill Moore then presented his report, the full text of which is available on the Town website.  Highlights included thanks to Arturo Mendiola for his work building frame for the Leaf People that are a hallmark of Harvest Fest (October 8 at Estabrook) and to McGee CDJR and Pockette Pest Control for their sponsorship of jerseys for the soccer teams.

During the Public Comment portion of the meeting, Frank Briscoe and Jeff Dordozzi presented a request to the Board for $40,000 in ARPA funds to help them complete work on the old Brandon High School that will qualify them for $71,000 in state tax reimbursements.  Board member Tim Guiles asked what the public benefit of the project would be and Board member Heather Nelson asked whether the Town would be asked for continued support beyond this money.  Briscoe and Dordozzi replied that the project would provide public spaces in addition to housing and that it was designed to be financially self-sufficient once completed.

The Board held off on a response to the request until it took up the topic of ARPA funding later in the meeting.  Please see the article on the old Brandon High School in this issue of The Reporter for further details on the project.

The Board then announced that it was accepted letters of interest from community members who wanted to join this year’s Budget Committee.  The Committee will meet twice in November and twice in December to hammer out the budget that will be presented to voters at Town Meeting in March. Anyone interested should send a letter to the Town Manager.  Members of the Committee will be announced at the Selectboard’s meetings in October.  Mr. Guiles reminded the room that these budget meetings are public and membership in the Committee is not required for attendance.

The Board approved a letter of support for Yossi Schorr, who is seeking to convert the Compass Center at the old Brandon Training School into 19 affordable and moderate-income residential units that will include a variety of sizes.  The letter will be used by Mr. Schorr to secure financing and grants for the project.  A diagram of the proposed layout is available in the Selectboard packet for 9/25/23 on the Town website.

The Board also approved tax stabilization for MT Associates LLC, the owners of the lot encompassing the new Dunkin’ Donuts, gas station, and car wash on Conant Square.  The agreement will freeze for 10 years MT’s municipal tax liability based on the property’s current appraised value of $280,000.  MT has invested over $3 million into the property and qualifies for the stabilization under the Town’s policy.  Moreover, the original purchase of the municipal lot from MT contained a clause guaranteeing the stabilization.

Mr. Hopkins emphasized that there had been three instances at Monday’s meeting of significant investment in Brandon: the rehabilitation of Brandon High School, the repurposing of the Compass Center, and the investment by MT Associates.  Mr. Hopkins noted that these investments were evidence that Brandon continues to be an attractive place to live and work.”

The bulk of the meeting, however, was devoted to a discussion of the allocation of the Town’s remaining ARPA funds.  Of the original $1.1-million grant, $569,624 remained undesignated at the beginning of Monday’s meeting.  At a previous meeting, Board Chair Tracy Wyman had expressed a desire to designate the remaining funds and had asked the other Board members to come to this meeting with projects they’d like to see funding with the remaining ARPA money.

Heather Nelson made four proposals:

  • Repair the roof of the Town Hall
  • Repair and/or repurpose the tennis court at Estabrook Park
  • Consider the possibility of funding the request for the old Brandon High School
  • Saving and investing some portion of the remaining funds for future use

Brian Coolidge made three proposals:

  • Construct a new town salt shed
  • Repair town sidewalks
  • Repair Town Farm Road

Tim Guiles made three proposals:

  • Give $60K to the Brandon Energy Committee to spearhead the development of a town-owned solar facility
  • Repair the roof of the Town Hall
  • Use ARPA funds to match the grant for the municipal parking lot behind Dunkin’ Donuts

Tracy Wyman made three proposals:

  • Construct a new town salt shed
  • Repair town sidewalks
  • Complete more paving (asphalt) projects

Cecil Reniche-Smith made four proposals:

  • Repair town sidewalks (particularly on Pearl and Carver Streets)
  • $60K to the Brandon Energy Committee for a solar facility
  • Put funds toward the matching grant for the Union Street sidewalk project
  • Replace old sewer lines

The Board then discussed the individual proposals.

Mr. Wyman was not in favor of the grant to the Energy Committee, believing that it was premature to give money to a project that still had not been the subject of a meeting among all the stakeholders (school district, fire district, town, developer).  Jim Emerson of the Energy Committee explained that the money would be used to initiate the project and bring the stakeholders to the table.  If the project failed to gain traction, the money would be returned to the town.  Ultimately, the Board approved $60,000 to the Energy Committee in a 3-2 vote, with Mr. Wyman and Mr. Coolidge voting against.

There was consensus on the importance of repairing the town’s sidewalks, especially since there are several stretches where those with mobility issues are severely impeded.  The Board ultimately decided to designate $175K for sidewalk projects to be prioritized by the Town Highway Foreman rather than specified by the Board.

The Board also approved $50,000 to be used as the Town’s match for the grant that paid for the paving of the municipal lot behind the Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Board approved $30K to be used to resurface the tennis court at Estabrook Park and make it suitable for additional uses such as skateboarding and pickleball.

The Board declined to designate $40K to the Brandon High School project.  Mr. Guiles and Ms. Reniche-Smith voted in favor.  Mr. Wyman and Mr. Coolidge voted against.  And Ms. Nelson abstained, wanting additional information before making a decision.

The Board declined to designate $150K for the roof of the Town Hall.  Mr. Guiles had made the motion and was the only vote in favor.  Other Board members wanted to get more recent information about costs before committing any money.

The Board then voted unanimously to hold off on designating the remaining ARPA money. 

Altogether, the Board designated $315K of the remaining ARPA funds, leaving $254,624 to be designated.  ARPA guidelines stipulate that all funds must be designated by December 2024.

The Board’s final bit of business for the evening was to approve a corrected payroll roster (to correct erroneous pay rate for two town employees and change the employment status of a third) and to approve a warrant in the amount of $216,689.63, which included $120,000 in expenses to be reimbursed by FEMA.

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