SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — The Springfield Selectboard hosted an active Monday meeting as members acted on the revolving loan fund application for the Springfield Food Co-op with a unanimous vote and named both the interim and new town managers.
Selectman George McNaughton recused himself from points of action and discussion.
“The [Springfield Food] Co-op has applied for a $75,000 revolving loan fund loan,” said Town Manager Tom Yennerell. “They have agreed to a 2% interest rate on a 10-year payment schedule with their first payment due March 15, 2021 and there will be a standard lien that the town does with these types of loans against the co-op’s equipment and fixtures.”
Yennerell also commended Neomi Lauritsen, general manager at the Springfield Food Co-op, on the written loan proposal.
“This is probably the most elaborate and complete revolving loan fund application I have ever seen. So hats off to you, Neomi Lauritsen.”
Lauritsen noted that the money is needed for relocation expenses of the Springfield Food Co-op.
“We were hoping this money would be part of our funding package.”
Selectman Michael Morris commended Lauritsen and her team for the work they have accomplished to date and asked about the potential revenue margin after expansion.
“I am very impressed with the strength of the revenue statements,” Morris said. “It’s really quite remarkable what you have done up there with the co-op. It looks like you are running a tight ship and need to expand.”
He also inquired about any revenue forecast the organization has for 2021 following the relocation of its services.
“Right now we are just under $2.5 million at our location. We are trying to design and build a store that can handle $4 million. It’s not a huge co-op. It’s probably right around the size of the Putney Co-op or Upper Valley Co-op and they do right around $4.5 million,” said Lauritsen,, explaining the revenue streams of larger yet similar co-ops like Brattleboro which handle $20 million in gross revenues.
Lauritsen said that the move will also bring employment expansion within the co-op, from entry level to management positions.
Selectboard names new town manager, assigns interim town manager
The selectboard also reported its decision to name a new town manager — who currently serves as director of economic development in East Dover — with a start date loosely scheduled around the first week of April. Springfield Selectboard Chair Kristi Morris made the announcement.
“At this time we are prepared to announce that the board has unanimously selected from a list of candidates, interviews and background checks. We are pleased to announce this evening that Steve Neratko from East Dover, Vermont will become our town manager as of April first-ish, 2020,” Kristi Morris said. “When I say ‘ish,’ that is because he is currently employed and will need to provide for a termination period before he leaves that job to come here.”
During questions and comments, former police chief Doug Johnston asked what the salary associated with the position would be for Neratko.
“The salary range was advertised at $95,000 to $120,000 and it has been agreed upon that he will start at $108,000,” Kristi Morris responded.
According to Kristi Morris, Neratko has several degrees in education and is working on his masters. His background is significantly involved with his employers in planning and community development projects.
According to the town charter, Neratko will move to and reside within the town of Springfield.
McNaughton made a public motion to accept the selectboard’s decision and ratify the contract. Selectman Walter Martone seconded the motion and the vote was unanimous.
“Since the retirement of Tom Yennerell as of Feb. 1, we have a couple of agreements regarding staff to announce,” Kristi Morris said. “So the board has considered several candidates — town employees — that could possibly act in this regard…”
In addition to the appointment of Neratko, Kristi Morris also announced that Cathy Sohngen from the finance department will become the interim town manager and begin her role on Tuesday, Feb. 11 until April. The selectboard voted unanimously to this motion.
“We will not have dual coverage, so whenever Mr. Neratko gets here then Cathy Sohngen will revert back to her regular duties,” the chairperson said. “[Sohngen] will handle the day to day responsibilities but her agreement doesn’t include hiring, firing or making adjustments to personnel.”
Kristi Morris went on to inform those in attendance that the former town manager will assist in the transition process from Sohngen to Neratko.
“I had previously recognized that Mr. Yennerell would be staying on as a consultant to help out with the transition from his retirement to when the new person comes,” said Kristi Morris about an agreement that Yennerell would remain on call and work a maximum of 24 hours per week during the town manager transition. “[Yennerell] agrees to provide consulting services. He has been doing this in this capacity for a week and it ends May 30. That is so we don’t lose continuity with where just came from to where we’re going and that we have got some transition consultant information available.”
The former police chief inquired about the hourly rate associated with Yennerell and his consulting through the transition period.
“The hourly rate we have agreed to [is] $75 an hour, which is based off of salary benefit packages,” Kristi Morris said.
The selectboard moved to ratify the agreement with Yennerell in unanimous agreement.