OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
November 7, 2017
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were present, as were Stephan Chait, Raymond Combs, Peggy Rafus, Keith Stone, Vicki Stone, Benjamin Barnett, Sarah Barnett, Michael Fournier, Pete LaFogg, and Robbin Gabriel. Patricia Dow arrived a few minutes after the meeting opened.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Mitch Green requested a discussion of the public notice board at the entrance to the Town Office, and Brad Rafus requested an update on the return of Town property from a former Town official.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Green made a motion to approve the 10/17/17 regular meeting minutes as written. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
2018 Health Insurance
Rafus advised he would recuse himself during this discussion. Patty Dow distributed copies of spreadsheets showing health insurance cost comparisons in calendar year and fiscal year form. While the Town operates on a fiscal year, Blue Cross/Blue Shield cost changes occur on a calendar year schedule. The spreadsheets also indicated upcoming plan changes for two Town employees. The Board studied the numbers, and Rafus calculated that the net increase for FY19 would be $3,115. Sumner asked the Town employees present if they were happy with the current plan, and they said they were. This is not a budget meeting, said Sumner, but we can discuss the details. He and Green recommended staying with the current plan, with Sumner suggesting a lesser increase in wages to offset the rise in premium cost. Mike Fournier said he was in favor of that, but would like the Board to consider that his (Fournier’s) premium was less than others because he is single. Rafus suggested reducing wage increases from 3% to 2%, while keeping the present insurance plans. If we drop to the next lower tier, employees’ out-of-pocket costs will almost triple, he added. Dow answered a question from Green about the way deductibles are computed. Green made a motion to stay with the Platinum health insurance plan for FY19. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Rafus abstaining. Ray Combs asked whether this was municipal insurance. It’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield, answered Sumner.
Update on Storm Damage
Rafus told the meeting he had met with AOT and ANR to assess the Green River Road storm damage. ANR is preparing sketches outlining repair methods. Presently we don’t know whether this will be a state- or federally-funded project; FEMA will be inspecting the damage before the end of the week. Rafus wants to get the work out to bid as soon as ANR has submitted rebuild plans, as we are about to go into winter. We still have a few other washouts, Rafus said, but almost everything else has been repaired. There are three spots on Brook Road, three on Green River Road, and two on Branch Road where water undermined the blacktop. Rafus plans to ask for separate bids on these, so multiple contractors can do the work in the least amount of time.
Sumner asked for an update on the Stowe Mountain bridge repairs. The bridge rail has been replaced, said Rafus. Renaud has to go back and do a little bit of clean-up, but they’re waiting for the concrete to set. Gabriel told Rafus that the insurance company had received all documentation of the incident but had not yet responded. She will call them to learn the status of the claim. Deer Park bridge is also finished, said Rafus, the salt shed addition at the Town Garage has been completed, and gravel crushing is done, with 9,280 yards produced.
Keith Stone said in some places Town highways were damaged during the recent rainstorm because culverts under private driveways were either clogged or too small to carry the volume of water flow. In one instance, said Mike Fournier, the ditch is about 18” lower than the culvert. In the discussion that followed, Board members noted that current State regulations require a minimum 15” culvert for private driveways, and the Town issues driveway permits before installation can proceed. Many private driveway culverts were placed years ago, however, before regulations and permits existed, and the Town has no good way to enforce existing requirements. Rafus suggested that, when a driveway permit is issued, construction must be completed, inspected, and approved by the Road Commissioner or the Selectboard before a building permit is issued. Green said perhaps that duty should fall to the Zoning Administrator as part of the new construction inspection process. About all we can do for older, grandfathered, driveway culverts is encourage the landowner to upgrade and replace, he added; the Town will install culverts purchased by the property owner. Are the landowners aware of the problem?, asked Stephan Chait, who went on to suggest a letter outlining the problem and the benefit of correction could be helpful. We might have to put it in an ordinance, said Sumner. Chait asked how many culverts were inadequate; Rafus estimated hundreds of older culverts, plus a number of more recent installations that do not conform to issued permits. Green advocated approaching the issue on a case-by-case basis, and Peggy Rafus proposed working out a payment plan for those owners who might find it difficult to pay for a culvert. What does a culvert cost?, asked Combs. A thirty-foot culvert is about $180-$200, answered Rafus; the Town will provide the equipment and labor.
WRC/North River Geomorphic Informational Meeting
Sumner announced that Windham Regional Commission would be holding an informational meeting on their North River/Branch Brook Geomorphic study on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. in the Town Offices. This will be a Joint Selectboard/Planning Commission meeting, Evan Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Environmental will be giving the presentation, and the public is encouraged to attend and participate.
Set FY19 Budget Meeting Dates
The Selectboard will hold two meetings—the first on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017, at 8:00 a.m. and the second on Monday, December 11th, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.—to work on the FY19 proposed budget. Saturday, December 9th, and Saturday, December 16th, were selected as alternate dates in case of storms. Gabriel will send letters to Town officials requesting departmental budget proposals prior to those dates.
The two-sided public notice board at the entrance to the Town Offices was originally set up with the left side to be used for official Town notices and the right side for private notices, said Green, but recently a number of private notices have been posted on the left side. Gabriel said she would put up instructions for posting on those boards.
Town Property Return
Rafus asked whether the Town’s former EMD had returned the Town’s laptop in his possession. Gabriel said she had spoken with him, and he is interested in purchasing the computer, as he has personal files on it. Green was not opposed to the idea, while Rafus objected. It has been a year, he added, it’s Town property, and we would be setting a precedent. He could remove his files easily. The Board directed Gabriel to send a certified letter advising the laptop must be returned by December 15th.
Hearing of Visitors
Chait gave an update on the Green River Watershed Alliance project, which he said has been funded by the High Meadows, although they have not yet issued an official press release making the announcement. The groups involved have been meeting, however, and High Meadows has scheduled a larger meeting for all the groups they are funding on November 14th in Woodstock. In general, the purpose of that meeting is to facilitate communication between all parties. Chait said he plans to attend. At this point, he went on, my aim is to work out a mission for Halifax, and to learn what the Town wants to accomplish in the 18-month course of this initial grant. In Halifax, Chait plans to reach out to the Selectboard, the school, and as many others as possible to determine what results people would like to see regarding water quality, flood resilience, watershed identity, and possibly incorporating the project into the school curriculum. He has spoken with Chum Sumner about school involvement, and would like to hear suggestions from Town officials and citizens about areas to be explored. The Alliance meets once a month, and Chait will continue to report back as those meetings progress.
Sign Orders to the Treasurer
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed. This order included the semi-annual payment to the State Education Fund in the amount of $132,915.00.
New correspondence was reviewed. The Board signed Lawrence Crosier’s salvage yard application. A letter from the listers advised that Halifax must have a town-wide reappraisal by 2020, and requested permission to locate a certified appraiser to handle the project, as mandated by the State.
Ross Barnett stopped in just before the meeting closed, to touch base with the Board on the upcoming FEMA storm inspection visit.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:47 p.m.