Barre City Council: Policy change for Semprebon money
BARRE — City councilors have adopted a “use-it-or-lose-it” approach when it comes to projects that they agreed to fund with some of the money that former Barre businessman Charlie Semprebon left the city following his death in 2009.
On a night when some councilors raised fresh questions about the council’s responsibility, and potential liability, as the local liquor control board, they agreed the clock is now ticking on those who secured money from the Semprebon Fund over the past two years.
Although the council could not reach consensus on one member’s plan to annually set aside money to maintain projects that already have been completed using some of the nearly $2.6 million that Semprebon left the city for unspecified “civic improvements,” all agreed the city’s commitment to fund projects that remain unfinished should not be open ended.
Barring documented evidence that projects previously approved for funding are still being actively pursued, councilors agreed, designated money should be forfeited back to the Semprebon Fund on July 1, 2013.
Councilors arrived at that date, in part, because it is the one they chose earlier this year when they voted to appropriate $90,000 to cover half the cost of lighting the football field at Spaulding High School. School boosters were given until next July to match the council’s offer or the money will revert back to the Semprebon Fund.
Councilor Michael Smith, who suggested the deadline, also proposed a three-pronged plan designed to deal with long-term maintenance costs associated with projects that either have or will be completed with money that Semprebon left the city, as well as the city’s newly reconstructed North Main Street.
For purposes of discussion, Smith suggested the council appropriate $50,000 from Semprebon’s primary bequest — nearly $2.6 million — to a maintenance fund for the bike path for which he separately left $1 million. Smith suggested that seed money be added to it annually by using $10,000 from a life annuity that Semprebon created on the city’s behalf. That annuity has been generating roughly $50,000 in interest that is available for the city’s use.
Smith suggested another $10,000 a year from the annuity be set aside to maintain other Semprebon projects — most notably newly upgraded parks and playgrounds. He said an additional $5,000 a year from the annuity could be used — and possibly matched with parking fees or a special assessment — to maintain the city’s recent investment in its downtown.
The council took no action on that proposal, which received a vote of support from Cooley Street resident Jean Merrill.
Meanwhile, news that the South Side Tavern was recently cited for three violations of the state’s liquor laws and is facing the potential suspension or revocation of its license to sell alcohol, provoked a brief, but spirited discussion.
During that discussion Councilor Paul Poirier asked for a legal opinion and suggested the council craft a policy that spells out when it will haul bar owners in to discuss alleged violations, and Councilor Anita Chadderton called for a face-to-face meeting with the owner of South Side Tavern.
Chadderton said she believed that meeting should happen sooner, not later
“I want these guys in here. I want them to know that this council is taking this seriously,” Chadderton said, suggesting that she wasn’t comfortable waiting until after the state Liquor Control Board decides what to do about the alleged violations during a Dec. 7 hearing.
“We’ve got the holiday time (coming) … this is the worst time of the year for things to happen,” she said. “I want them on notice that this council is not going to put up with it.”
According to documents provided to the council, South Side staff allegedly overserved one patron, served another who was underage, and allowed a third to remain on the premises while showing signs of intoxication.
Poirier said he wants to know whether the council, which acts as the local licensing agency for bars, nightclubs and other establishments that sell and serve alcohol in Barre, can be sued in the wake of an alcohol-related accident that can be traced to a local establishment that has a pattern of violations the city was aware of, but did nothing to address.
Mayor Thomas Lauzon said he would get an answer to that question from City Attorney Oliver Twombly.
Lauzon, who suggested a meeting with officials from the state Department of Liquor Control might be helpful, agreed to write a stern letter to South Side Tavern owner Brian Parker, and appointed Poirier and Councilor Charlie Dindo to craft a policy spelling out when the council will require those who hold liquor licenses to appear before them. He said the council must decide whether it is interested in visiting with bar owners every time there is an alleged violation at their establishment, or multiple violations within a specified period of time. The policy, he said, should clarify that question.
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