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Selectboard gets an update on BaBB

BRATTLEBORO—After a tumultuous start to the year, Building a Better Brattleboro delivered a message of progress to the Selectboard on June 18.

BaBB and the board disagreed on the organization’s budget and work plan during the town’s budgetary process, which spanned the end of 2012 and the start of 2013.

Though an independent downtown organization, BaBB received a portion of its budget from a tax assessment on downtown properties within the Downtown Improvement District.

The board puts the budget request pertaining to the tax assessment on the agenda for Annual Representative Town Meeting. The Town Meeting Members then vote on the budget request.

Disagreements arose between the Selectboard and BaBB over the amount to be raised by taxes. The board, then chaired by former board member Dick DeGray, told BaBB to lower its budget. BaBB responded by cutting its full-time executive director position to 18 hours and announcing it wanted to divest itself of its downtown property, the Robert H. Gibson River Garden.

“It was a grueling process, as you all remember,” said BaBB board president Donna Simons. “We are really rebuilding from the ground up.”

Simons said that the organization was “on the road back to solvency.”

According to Simons, the organization has trimmed its budget and repaid a loan.

BaBB has not hired a new executive director. Instead, it has hired Leslie Myette as an interim merchant coordinator.

Myette will focus on outreach to downtown businesses and property owners. Simons said that outreach is an important part of BaBB’s mission, one that’s lagged lately.

“[There is] definitely some discontent, but I don’t think we’ve hidden from it,” she said.

The downtown beautification effort is going strong, said Simons. Missy Galanes and Dick DeGrey have contributed cash and elbow grease to planting flowers downtown.

Some of the planters have been damaged, she added.

“It’s sad we have people in the community who don’t take pride in the work volunteers do.”

Simons added that the process of divesting BaBB of the River Garden will take longer. The organization received three “very creditable, very wonderful proposals.”

As Simons sits on the board of The Strolling of the Heifers, one of the organizations vying for the building, she said she has removed herself from the RFP process.

Selectboard member Kate O’Connor also disclosed at the start of the presentation that she is vice-president of the BaBB board.

Outgoing board member Ken Schneck said he hoped BaBB would find a better method of measuring its goals and productivity. BaBB listed great goals in its work plan, but goals that proved hard to measure, he said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #209 (Wednesday, June 26, 2013).

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