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Brattleboro names eight to Police and Fire Oversight Committee

17 applied to Selectboard for positions to oversee $14.1 million project

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard named eight people to the Police-Fire Facility Committee during the board’s April 2 meeting.

According to Town Manager Barbra Sondag, 17 people submitted applications for the committee. The board interviewed 15 candidates in the Selectboard meeting room. Candidate Arthur Greenbaum could not attend the interview. Martha O’Connor and Steve Shaclumis withdrew their applications.

The nine-member committee — eight members plus Selectboard member John Allen — will oversee the $14.1 million upgrade and renovation of the police station, Central Fire station, and West Brattleboro Fire station.

Board members asked candidates why they wanted to serve on the committee, and what aspects of the project drove their decision to apply. Board member David Schoales also queried five candidates about why they had submitted their applications after the deadline.

The board voted on each candidate. Ensuring high quality for the police and fire station upgrades while keeping costs down underpinned most of candidates’ interviews. Joining Allen are:

• Philip Chapman, a Town Meeting Member from District 3. He chairs the Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Oversight Committee charged with monitoring the $32 million project, and has been involved with many other major construction projects in the region over his lengthy career. Chapman chuckled when he told the board that, as a hobby, he has also rebuilt 15 houses.

• Katherine Dowd, Town Meeting Member from District 1. She also sits on the Board of Listers and manages the Guilford Welcome Center on Interstate 91. Previous board experience includes the Vermont State Housing Authority, Southern Vermont Health Services Corp., and the Brattleboro Selectboard (1983-’88).

• Former Brattleboro Fire Chief David Emery Sr. Emery served 37 years on the department, retiring in 2007. He is a deputy with the Windham County Sheriff’s Department and works for part time for Vermont Emergency Management. In his application, Emery wrote, “I think we always need to look to the future, but we can’t neglect the needs of today. I believe that change is necessary but not just for the sake of change.”

• Anthony Farnum, a contractor and owner of Tony Farnum Construction, Inc. He is also a Town Meeting Member fromDistrict 1. “These renovations are badly needed,” he wrote in his application. “I think there should have been an alternative way to pay for them by taxing the people that use these services that don’t live in town.”

• Eli Gould, owner of Ironwood Brand in West Brattleboro, also brings design and contracting experience to the committee. “I would consider my involvement worthwhile if I am able to have some small impact on keeping costs down, quality up, and getting the maximum local benefit out of every dollar spent,” Gould wrote in his application.

• Prudence MacKinney, former vice president of planning and professional services at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, now owner of MacKinney Consulting. MacKinney told the Selectboard that she has managed multiple facility upgrades at BMH, such as the Richards Building. This experience provided her with the understanding and skills to keep a vital service functioning and open to the public during heavy construction.

MacKinney also applied for the position of project manager for the Police-Fire upgrade.

The town awarded that job to Steve Horton of Steve Horton Construction Consulting Services, Walpole, N.H., on March 13. MacKinney said she did not anticipate any conflict with serving on the committee. Instead, she felt that going through the RFP process prepared her for the project.

• Stephen Phillips, Town Meeting Member from District 3 and lawyer at Potter Stewart Jr. Law Offices in Brattleboro. He said that the project’s costs drove his decision to apply to the committee. Phillips said he wanted to see the renovations done well, but also felt the cost couldn’t fall only on the property taxpayers.

• Robin Sweetapple, director of operations for Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. She is an architect with experience in fire station design.

The committee’s meeting schedule has not been posted yet.

Deadlines discussed

During committee selection, Selectboard Vice-Chair Kate O’Connor questioned the propriety of considering candidates who’d missed the application deadline.

Alluding to the controversy over the skate park at the Crowell Lot on Western Avenue, O’Connor said the board risked setting a troublesome precedent. She worried the project’s “process” could be called into question.

“When we set a deadline, we set a deadline,” O’Connor said.

After some discussion, the board decided to consider all the candidates. Selectboard Chair David Gartenstein said that discussions at the March 23 Town Meeting drove home for him the importance of having a well-rounded committee.

Representative Town Meeting Members approved bonding for the project at a special meeting held at the Academy School in October 2012. In the five months between the bond vote and the March 23 Annual Representative Town Meeting, some town meeting members developed second thoughts about the project’s cost and the bond’s effect on the property tax rate.

The meeting members passed a non-binding resolution at the annual town meeting urging the Selectboard to scrutinize the Police-Fire bond and project plan with the goal of keeping town budget increases modest, similar to the fiscal year 2014 town budget increase of 1.9 percent.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #198 (Wednesday, April 10, 2013).

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