OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
January 21, 2014
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:32 pm. Board members in attendance were Lewis Sumner, Earl Holtz, and Edee Edwards. Others in attendance were Jessica Bruno, Margo Avakian, Ray Combs, Ross Barnett, Maggie Bartenhagen, Nick Bartenhagen, Christina Moore, and Bill Moore.
Approval of Minutes
Edwards made a motion to accept the January 5, 2014 Special meeting minutes as corrected. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 2-0-1 (Sumner abstained).
Edwards made a motion to accept the January 7, 2014 Regular meeting minutes as corrected. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed 3-0-0.
Edwards made a motion to accept the January 13, 2014 Regular meeting minutes as corrected. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 3-0-0.
Irene Project Financial Update
Christina Moore reported that they are expecting closeout of 3 projects leaving only one project open. The town should expect to receive a check for about $210k. There is no word on the Deer Park permanent bridge appeal. She noted that we should budget for another audit if we don’t receive the money as expected this fiscal year.
Mid-Year Budget Review
The Selectboard discussed variances on the P&L versus budget through 1/5/14. Edwards noted that the Selectboard budget is 44% spent (not counting Irene bridge expense). There was a discussion about creating a reserve fund for unspent health insurance dollars for the town clerk so that it does not have to be included in the next fiscal year budget. The highway budget is currently at 70% spent (not including grant and insurance income).
The following items were noted for follow up:
Repairs and Maintenance- they need to ask the school board about the maintenance agreement and roof repair. They need to get specifications and bids.
Planning Commission Supplies- follow up with Evanuk to let her know how much money is left to print the town plan.
Bridge Maintenance- currently at 43% spent- need to watch carefully.
Gravel- request for bids on gravel need to be issued.
Holtz will talk to Patricia Dow about switching to a modified accrual system.
Edwards reported that the postmaster in Halifax has inquired if when the town trucks use the post office lot as a turn around, whether they can sand a bit. The Selectboard discussed the issue and were concerned about a precedence that it might set as well as a potential liability for the town. Their preference is that they contact their primary provider if they have ice issues, but if there are extenuating circumstances, he can call Rafus and see if there is any availability. Edwards will draft a letter.
Edwards spoke with Chum Sumner about the parking lot at the town office/school. He noted that the maintenance person is responsible for snow blowing the lot and to shovel and maintain the walkways including sanding. Sanding the full lot with a shovel is challenging. The Selectboard agreed that they should work out an arrangement for the town truck to sand the front lot as part of the $10k maintenance agreement of their lease with the school. The back lot may be sanded as requested when icy.
Quarterly Selectboard Priorities
The Selectboard discussed the following priorities:
-Town Meeting Preparation
-Old County North Bridge
-Personnel Policy Updates
Contract with WRC for Municipal Planning Grant
Edwards made a motion to ask the Planning Commission to create a contract with Windham Regional Commission for a Municipal Planning Grant for zoning updates. Holtz seconded the motion which passed 3-0-0.
Hearing of Visitors
Barnett presented a quarterly report/checklist to the Selectboard for signature.
Maggie Bartenhagen noted that there will be a meeting with herself, Brian McNeice, and John Bennett to talk about the planning grant. She also noted that it might be effective to have a projector at the town meeting. Edwards will inquire with Pusey about obtaining one.
Combs inquired whether Fairpoint and VTel are competing in the area for Internet service to which the reply was yes.
VTel Tower Proposal for 4G LTE Wireless Broadband
Edwards reported that she met with the Planning Commission. They were frustrated with the section 248(a) process and were concerned that there was not a lot of advanced notice. They indicated that they will be submitting their own recommendation and will not be filing it jointly with the Selectboard. Edwards will request a copy of what they submit.
Holtz made a motion to accept the VTel proposal as written in the documents submitted and send a letter to the Public Service Board recommending approval of the project. Sumner seconded the motion.
The following was discussed:
Holtz noted that his decision was based on the confirmation that due diligence will be done to protect historic preservation and environmental concerns and the need for Internet service.
Maggie Bartenhagen noted that a citizen has contacted the Windham Regional Commission and the application will be presented to a project review committee to see if it has regional impact. The meeting is scheduled for February 4, 2014. The WRC is only concerned whether the issue has regional significance.
Edwards noted that she followed up with the town attorney to discuss the information, process, and concerns about possible litigation. He felt that it would be unlikely that the town would be party to litigation.
Edwards noted that the commentary she received from citizens does express concern for the location of the tower. As she is not a telecommunications engineer, she trusts that the people who sited it know where it needs to be. She did do some research in the history books. Looking at the long term benefit, it opens up the possibility for communication and will allow for competition so people have a choice for providers. She can’t imagine doing anything to make it take longer.
Maggie Bartenhagen noted that the properties in town without service will suffer from decreased property values and the majority of people looking to buy homes expect that service is available. We need access to these services. Nick Bartenhagen also noted the fact that we all drive down roads and don’t notice phone poles anymore.
The Selectboard voted 3-0-0 to accept the VTel proposal as written in the documents submitted and send a letter to the Public Service Board recommending approval of the project.
Holtz noted that there is a problem with the scheduling of the RENTS training. He noted that the Selectboard should sign up for vtalert.gov and noted that they should encourage citizens to sign up at town meeting day (he will ask the co-EMD’s to include it in their town report). Holtz noted that there will be a meeting in Brattleboro on 2/21/14 at 9:30am regarding the impact on the area after VT Yankee closes. DisasterLan training is being scheduled- they will contact Guilford and see if they are interested in attending as they need 20 people. They will also check and see if the school has fiber yet. Holtz also noted that they are setting up wireless Internet and the printers at the EOC. Holtz reported that he spoke with Ed Gay about a clerk of the works for Bridge #37 and if the Selectboard is willing, Gay and Holtz could work on it together and only bill for expenses (no salary). Finally, Holtz noted that they went to try and find the missing property boundary marker discussed in previous Selectboard meetings but they couldn’t find it.
Sumner noted that there are a few problems with town equipment. The 10 wheeler is at Delurey’s as it has an electrical problem (no reverse). The one ton was fixed but then they noticed they could smell hydraulic fluid so it was towed to Automall and they got it back today. The axle is broken on Travis’ truck so they are still down to 2 trucks.
Edwards noted that the Planning Commission is having a discussion with WRC regarding the process for zoning updates. WRC may recommend we create interim zoning regulations which are approved by the Selectboard and valid for two years (and don’t require a town hearing). The concern would be whether this would delay getting the full grant to completion, but the interim regulations would give the town protections as they move forward.
The informational meeting on the town plan will be February 25, 2014 at 7:00pm.
It was noted that Cheyette tendered her resignation from the Rescue Inc board effective 3/1/14. She recommends getting someone to serve from the Thomas Hill area.
Future Agenda Items
-Bob Spencer- Windham Solid Waste Management District
Edwards inquired whether we could ask internet service providers again for information on getting 15/25/50 mbps service at the town office.
The mail was reviewed and filed.
Selectmen’s Order to Town Treasurer for bill payment
The order for payment of bills was completed and signed.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:08pm