Vergennes recreation group proposes big pool fixes

VERGENNES — The newly formed Vergennes recreation committee last week shared with the city council the list of priorities its members created after its first two meetings — and up to $147,000 of work to the city pool was at the top.

The committee, founded to advise the council on maintenance of existing facilities and ways to improve recreation offerings in Vergennes, listed obtaining a grant to fund that work as its first of a number of goals it shared with the council.

Recreation committee chairman Tim Cook recommended to the council at its Nov. 27 meeting that it pursue a grant from a new program founded by Gov. Phil Scott to support that work, but also said the application was due by Dec. 18.

Council members and City Manager Matt Chabot were not sure the city could complete an application before that deadline.

“We don’t have a proficient grant writer in our toolbox right now,” Chabot said.

Council members Lynn Donnelly and Jeff Fritz suggested the council formally support making that application. Fritz made that motion, which the rest of the council then supported unanimously. Aldermen agreed to pursue leads.

 The other catch with that grant, Cook said, is that the application for it has to demonstrate its award would support the local economy. But Cook and others noted that Vergennes Champs’ home swim meets boost some businesses’ bottom lines, and a grant application could quantify those meets’ impact. Committee meeting minutes also cited revenue from pool passes and swim lessons.

Committee and council members agreed the city could pursue other grants to fund work at the pool if this particular grant didn’t pan out.

Cook and the council only briefly discussed and made no real comment on another major recreation committee goal, finding a city employee to organize and oversee programming.

But minutes of the committee’s Nov. 14 meeting showed the group — and Chabot — took seriously the issue of hiring at least a part-time, part-year employee.  

According to the minutes, Chabot suggested a grant “include hiring an events coordinator, p/t winter, full time summer.” The committee also debated whether the city “would need to hire someone by May 1 for summer programming” or to “figure out programs,” or whether the city could “hire a consultant to figure out what the programs should be.”

The recreation committee also wondered if it should take a hands-on, rather than just an advisory role, according to the Nov. 14 minutes: “This committee could be (an) ‘events coordinator’ just to try things out. There have been activities in Vergennes that have not been run by Vergennes and that might be a model.”

In the committee’s list of goals, Cook also told the council on Nov. 27 the committee recommends more work to the recreation area off East Street, near Vergennes Union Elementary School, with a specific focus on resurfacing the skating rink (Cook suggested at least “a temporary fix” in 2019) and repairs and upgrades to the skate park.

In the Nov. 14 minutes, the committee noted that city officials “promised that the skate park would have some work done to it.”

The Nov. 14 recreation committee minutes listed a number of other targets:

•  “Organize work party to put new roofs on the skate park and pool house — Summer 2019.”

•  “Organize Work party for painting for buildings” at Veterans Park, as the East Street recreation area is technically known.

•  “Identify recreational opportunities and job responsibilities for a city employee to be hired.”

•  “Investigate plan and opportunities for bike paths … maybe routes that connect parks in city, or wayfinding for bike tourists, make a map of ‘loops’ for local pedestrian/bikers.”

•  “Work with Basin Committee to establish a dog park.”

•  “Start working towards opening city right of way from outdoor classroom to New Haven Rd.” Cook told the council that a new path from New Haven Road would not only open up that wooded area, south of both VUES and Vergennes Union High School, for public use, but also make it less prone to be used for undesirable activity.

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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