Brattleboro Selectboard OKs BaBB budget, approves ice rink repairs

Thursday January 24, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Town Meeting Representatives will have another $250,000 to consider at town meeting this year after the Selectboard approved two spending articles at a special board meeting Wednesday morning.

The board called the special meeting to consider an emergency upgrade to the equipment at the Nelson Withington Skating Facility, and also to have a third look at the proposed 2014 budget for Building a Better Brattleboro

Both articles were unanimously approved by the board, and the spending requests will now go before the Town Meeting Representatives at the March 23 meeting.

The first time BaBB board members came before the Selectboard with a proposed spending plan, the Selectboard made them go back because they never held a membership meeting to approve the budget.

Then, when BaBB presented the board with a second budget there was $36,000 in unspecified spending which upset the Selectboard and the budget was rejected once again.

On Wednesday morning, BaBB Vice President Kate O'Connor presented a more detailed budget, but the budget will bring some big changes for the downtown organization in the coming year. BaBB is reducing the hours of its executive director, and changing the title to downtown coordinator. There are 18 hours allotted for the position in the budget.

It is not clear if current Executive Director Andrea Livermore will continue serving in the organization at the reduced salary.

O'Connor told the Selectboard members that the BaBB board took the Selectboard's recommendations to heart and produced a more realistic budget.

"We went through our income projections and took out all assumptions," she said. "We wrote down what we took in fiscal year 2012, so we're pretty sure if we did it in 2012 we'll be able to do it again."

O'Connor said the BaBB board amended the budget after talking with downtown merchants, and said some of the former executive director pay will go toward website development, downtown beautification, marketing and cleanliness.

BaBB is asking for $78,000 from the downtown property owners who partially fund the organization, the same amount of money BaBB received this year.

Town Meeting Representatives will be asked to approve the collection and appropriation of the $78,000 for BaBB at Town Meeting.

The Selectboard tried to stay away from discussions about the Robert H. Gibson River Garden, though the BaBB board members, some Selectboard members and some members in the audience wanted to talk about the fate of the downtown public building.

BaBB does not have any money in its budget for keeping the River Garden open, and the organization has said that it wants to sell the property because it can not afford to maintain it.

"I understand the concern about the River Garden," Selectboard Chairman Dick DeGray said. "At another time it will be discussed. Today we are talking about the downtown program."

"I disagree," Selectboard member Dora Bouboulis said. "This is a property owned by the downtown organization. To say the two are separate does not make any sense. It is part of the Downtown Improvement District and it is a very important piece of property."

BaBB has promised to hold public information sessions on the future of the River Garden later this year.

At the meeting Wednesday the Selectboard also gave Recreation and Parks Director Carol Lolatte the authority to begin working to replace outdated machinery at the town skating rink.

Two compressors broke down earlier this month and Lolatte was asking the board to consider fixing the machinery or investing in newer equipment.

The board agreed that it made more sense to purchase new and modern equipment.

Town Meeting Representatives will be asked to approve the spending.

The town will be able to move the $172,000 from surplus out of the General Fund, and repay the money over time from skating rink income.

Finance Director John O'Connor said the town will not have to borrow the money and future skating rink income should be able to cover the expense.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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