OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
June 23, 2014
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 8:04 a.m. Selectboard members in attendance were Lewis Sumner, Edee Edwards, and Earl Holtz. Also in attendance: Robbin Gabriel, Peter Silverberg, Nick Bartenhagen, Maggie Bartenhagen, Jesse Ferland, John LaFlamme, Margo Avakian, Alyssa Sabetto (Windham Regional Commission), Mary Horne, Janet Taylor, Paul Taylor, and John Bennett (Windham Regional Commission).
Road Commissioner’s Orders
The Road Commissioner’s orders were reviewed and signed.
Amidon Road Trees
Holtz told Brad Rafus a resident had asked when the dead trees on Amidon Road were going to be removed. Rafus said he had looked at the trees last week and found it would be necessary to hire a bucket truck for the project, as the trees are quite large, and are too close to a house and fence to be felled in one piece.
Edwards, after recounting her last week’s adventure assisting in the removal of a downed tree in a public roadway, asked that some traffic cones be made available in an accessible location for future use. She also suggested setting up districts in the town with someone delegated in each district to have traffic cones on hand and to set them out in hazard areas when needed.
The town received three bids on diesel fuel (17,500 gallons) and #2 heating oil (2,000 gallons) as follows:
Guy Nido, Wilmington: #2 heating oil, deliveries from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015, to be prepaid in full by August 22, 2014, $3.45 per gallon. Summer diesel, deliveries from July 1, 2014 through October 31, 2014 and April 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015, $3.49 per gallon. Winter diesel, deliveries from November 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015, mix of 50/50 ultra sulfur diesel fuel and ultra low-sulfur #1 kerosene, $3.76 per gallon. Prices subject to change due to extreme market fluctuations during the time frame of the bid award.
Barrows and Fisher, Brattleboro: #2 heating oil, $3.599 per gallon ($7,198.00). Summer diesel, 8,750 gallons, rack priced out of Gulf, Albany, plus 20 cents per gallon markup. Price includes hauling. Rack price as of 6/17/14 $3.0965 per gallon, not including any taxes if applicable. Winter diesel, 8,750 gallons, rack priced out of Gulf, Albany, plus 25 cents per gallon markup. Price includes hauling. $3.0965 per gallon.
Sandri Energy, Greenfield: #2 heating oil, delivered to Halifax town garage on an automatic 10-day delivery cycle, $3.439 per gallon. Summer diesel, 8,750 gallons (see Nido, above, for delivery schedules), $3.45 plus tax, per gallon. Winter diesel, 8,750 gallons (see Nido, above, for delivery schedule), $3.45 plus tax, per gallon. Automatic 10-day delivery required.
As the Sandri bid came in below the Nido bid, and the rack prices quoted by Barrows are subject to change, Edwards made a motion to award the bid for winter and summer diesel fuel and #2 heating oil to Sandri Energy. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.
Winter Sand Bids
Two bids were received for winter sand, as follows:
Zaluzny Excavating Corporation, Vernon: ¾-inch winter sand, picked up (from Fort Dummer pit), $7.70 per cubic yard.
Cersosimo, Brattleboro: ¾-inch winter sand, picked up from the Chesterfield, NH, River Road pit, $8.00 per cubic yard.
Sumner made a motion to award the bid for winter sand to Zaluzny, at $7.70 per cubic yard. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Roadside Mowing Bid
A single bid was received for the mowing—from Bruce Orchitt Mowing, Chester, Vermont. The bid, for one to two passes on approximately 120 miles of road, with three to four passes where possible, and any necessary over-the-rail mowing, is for an estimated 98 hours at $77.50 per hour, totaling $7,600.00. All signage and proof of liability insurance provided.
The town has budgeted only $4,500.00 for roadside mowing, and last year’s contractor has a full work load and isn’t available this year. Holtz asked Rafus to check on equipment rental prices and availability, while Edwards suggested that hiring Orchitt at the higher cost might result in a more thorough job this year, or perhaps the bidder would be open to negotiation—fewer passes and hours at a reduced price. These alternatives will be researched, and the item will be put on the July 1st meeting agenda.
The town received one bid on chloride. All States Asphalt, from Sunderland, MA, submitted a price of $0.87 per gallon for 10,000 gallons of calcium chloride to be delivered to the town garage in Halifax. Total price: $8,700.00. As the town has budgeted $10,000 for chloride this year, Edwards suggested the $1,300.00 surplus might be put toward the mowing bid. Sumner made a motion to accept All States Asphalt’s bid for 10,000 gallons of chloride at $8,700. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Holtz noted the price was up a penny per gallon from last year’s cost.
Discussion of Legislative Changes to Open Meeting Laws
Edwards read portions of a handout outlining what municipalities and towns need to do before July 1, 2014, to comply with the law. To meet requirements, the town must designate specific areas where meeting notices and agendas will be posted—one located near the municipal office and two in other locations in town–post regular meeting notices 48 hours in advance and special meeting notices 24 hours in advance, and notify all board members, a newspaper or radio station serving the area, and anyone who has requested notice of a meeting.
Edwards made a motion that meeting notices and agendas be posted on the bulletin board outside the entrance to the town office, the bulletin board in the Post Office, and the bulletin board at Halifax Center. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Edwards pointed out that the post office isn’t always open, which could interfere with posting a special meeting in the required time frame. The Board discussed ways of resolving this difficulty.
Edwards also brought up the Monday Selectboard meetings, which have been warned only through the end of June. Edwards made a motion to have regular Monday meetings at 8:00 a.m. on July 7th, July 21st, August 11th, and August 25th. The motion passed, 3-0.
(Here the Board agreed to table further discussion on the open meeting laws until after the question and answer session with John Bennett.)
John Bennett, Windham Regional Commission
Sumner introduced John Bennett, who said he had come at the Selectboard’s request to shed some light on procedues pertaining to Act 250. He brought with him, for the town’s use, a packet of information containing Act 250 rules, some background information which is also available on the Natural Resources Board website, detail on party status and proceedings, and the District Commissioner’s manual on addressing the 32 criteria.
Edwards asked for guidance on two specific issues–wording a letter requesting that the initial hearing be held either in the evening or on a weekend, and how to best word a request for a traffic study to address safety concerns. Bennett said April Hensel, District Commission Coordinator, had indicated in conversation with him that the Commission can, at their discretion, schedule meetings outside of traditional working hours. The new Chair, Steven Morse, is willing to accommodate the change, so Bennett suggested the Board start by calling April to discuss possible days and times, and then provide written confirmation if April desired it. Also, the site visit, which precedes the hearing, can be scheduled for 5:00 p.m., allowing time to walk the site during daylight hours.
Bennett then addressed the traffic issue, reading portions of Criterion 5 (from the District Commissioner’s manual) which is concerned with unreasonable congestion or unsafe conditions. The criterion text states that while the burden of proof is on a party opposing the application, the applicant is responsible for producing sufficient evidence to allow the Commission to make a positive finding. A permit cannot be denied under Criterion 5, but reasonable conditions and requirements may be attached. Edwards listed a number of concerns—dust, noise, damage to culverts, the possible need for guardrails and a truck ramp—and Bennett reminded the meeting that the town has statutory party status, and can raise issues under any of the criteria. While some of the items on Edwards’ list may not fall under Criterion 5, they can be addressed under other criteria. He stressed the importance of being prepared at the hearing to bring up particular points as the pertinent criteria is under discussion, rather than waiting until the end of the hearing and attempting to backtrack. Bennett mentioned the possibility of a pre-hearing conference, which might be useful is helping the town organize their presentation before the actual hearing. He also suggested asking April Hensel’s advice regarding the best way to present the town’s list of concerns.
Bennett said that traditional traffic studies usually focus on volume, speed, and congestion; therefore, rather than hiring a traffic consultant, it might be more appropriate for the town to request detailed information from the applicant about the type, weight, and travel schedule of trucks the quarry plans to use. He also suggested a condition of the permit might be a weekly inspection and repairs of any damage found. Edwards proposed a site visit for the purpose of mapping specific locations on the travel route where problems might arise. Bennett agreed it would be good to come to the hearing prepared with that information.
Peter Silverberg has done some research and developed a spreadsheet making comparison of road damage by heavy-duty trucks versus passenger cars. Nick Bartenhagen referenced a control study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials confirming that the impact of one truck on roadways was equal to that of thousands of cars. Both Silverberg and Bartenhagen will give their information and the relevant web site URLs to the Board.
Edwards asked whether research presented by the town would carry the same weight as evidence provided by an expert in the field. In response, Bennett said the Act 250 process was originally designed to be layperson friendly, and the District Commissions take that seriously. Also, as the hearings are civil proceedings the Commission considers the preponderance of the evidence rather than following the “beyond reasonable doubt” requirement of a criminal court of law. The Commission also considers the credibility of the evidence. Bennett will ask Matt Mann’s advice on locating a traffic consultant but encouraged the town to continue gathering their own information.
Vermont Local Roads (part of the national, non-profit, Local Technical Assistance Program) had previously volunteered to come to Halifax and assess the general condition of the roads, and Edwards asked Brad Rafus to follow up on that offer, as their input could be useful in the present situation.
Holtz wanted confirmation of his understanding that the new Halifax town plan would be applied during the Act 250 proceeding. After reviewing dates and materials on hand Bennett and the Board agreed that this was the case, and Edwards found text in the permit application to that effect.
In closing, Bennett gave a quick review of the documents he was leaving with the town, expressed willingness to answer future questions, and strongly advised the Board choose someone as primary point of contact with the Commission, a position Edwards agreed to fill. He also introduced the Commission’s newest planner. She is Alyssa Sabetto, and she will be handling the bulk of the Act 250 legwork and is doing all the Commission office’s emergency planning, working with the towns on hazard mitigation.
A site visit has been scheduled for Wednesday, July 9th, at 8:00 a.m. The Board will consult with the Planning Commission and then post notice of the date and starting point. To assist the process, Bennett will arrange to have WRC generate a route map showing culverts, bridges, and road class indicators.
Edwards made a motion to follow up today’s discussion with a letter to April Hensel, District #2 Commission, regarding the Act 250 permit application hearing schedule and a pre-hearing conference. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Hearing of Visitors
John LaFlamme will be out of town for a three-day interval and asked that someone be assigned as pager carrier in his absence. The Board agreed that Sumner would handle the job, as he has the training and, as Selectboard Chair, is the designated carrier by default. LaFlamme also told the meeting there would be an RERP (Radiological Emergency Response Plan) funding discussion for FY16 on Friday, July 25th, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Location has not yet been determined. This is also an informational session covering what to expect as the VY shutdown proceeds and RERP recommends EMD and Selectboard members attend. All three Selectboard members said they would be available.
New Business (continued)
Discussion of Legislative Changes to Open Meeting Laws, Part 2
Next on the open meeting law list is the requirement that meeting minutes be posted within five days. Sumner suggested a letter to all affected town officials, and Edwards said she would email them, highlighting the pertinent regulations. Edwards also asked Gabriel whether she would be available to take minutes at Planning Commission meetings until Phyllis Evanuk is ready to return. One other note: During a meeting, if an official is attending by phone or Skype, voting must be done by roll call.
Discussion of Wage Increases for Town Highway Employees
Patty Dow is still working on the 4th quarter report so this item will be moved to the July 1st meeting agenda to allow time to review the numbers.
Holtz reported that the trees have come down at the construction site and the project is proceeding on schedule.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:16 a.m.