Dept. of Public Service grant audit reveals mismanagement

By Heather McKim

Police coverage, cell towers, and a pedestrian bridge were among the topics discussed at the April 22 meeting of the Shelburne Selectboard. Town Manager Joe Colangelo offered updates on a number of issues, including an increase in health premiums for town employees and a proposed solar array on Old Orchard Lane.

The fate of the Suspension Pedestrian Bridge spanning the LaPlatte River is still undecided. Colangelo and others met with state representatives and engineers. He said those involved in storm management and floods did not have an issue with the bridge; however, those working with wetlands were worried about its impact. The bridge remains closed. More information will be required before a decision can be made.

The high-profile settlement agreement in the MacIver vs. Lawton case requires instatement of a formal written policy to address complaints concerning police conduct. The Board chose to table consideration so the Town attorney could review the policy.

Discussion turned to the heavily-debated police service agreement between Shelburne and Charlotte.

“I am not interested in subsidizing Charlotte any longer,” Chair Gary von Stange said. The relationship between the two towns is not mutual but “unilateral aid,” he argued. Von Stange suggested the Board authorize Colangelo to speak with Chief of Police James Warden and approach Charlotte about a more equitable solution.

“We have to know, and they have to tell us, what their long-range goal is,” Warden said. Member Allison Cranmer wants Charlotte Selectboard members to attend a meeting. The matter was tabled to an undetermined date.

During a routine audit of Shelburne’s Department of Public Service, some deficiencies were found in two grants – one for system-wide radio equipment and another for radio tower and equipment building.

An operational audit found several complications and delays with the projects. Equipment was not inventoried nor was all of it installed. Changes made to equipment and locations weren’t approved by the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

These findings led to a financial audit, which determined payments were made after the grant period ended. The vendor received full payment but had not completed all of the work. There are $46,596 in funds that may need to be returned. The town is required to respond by May 5.

Finance Director Peter Frankenberg said that things were not managed well. Once the town responds, DPS will issue a follow-up response. “Shelburne is not unique in having this kind of audit,” Frankenberg said.

Other business:

  • The Board approved formalizing its support of the Planning Commission to address cell towers in the Town Plan and bylaws.
  • Members approved a Vermont League of Cities and Towns equipment grant for gas meter and calibration station to be used by firefighters.
  • Town Manager reports will be available online each Friday.
  • A public hearing was warned for May 27 to consider adopting proposed amendments to the Lake Shore Overlay Zone.

The next meeting of the Selectboard will be May 13.