OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
October 14, 2014
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 8:05 a.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Earl Holtz, and Edee Edwards were in attendance. Kate Staman, Brad Rafus, and Robbin Gabriel were also present, and Patty Dow joined the meeting after the first few agenda items had been covered.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Edee Edwards said she was not yet fully prepared to discuss employee health insurance, and asked that the item be preliminary conversation only.
Discussion with Kate Staman
Kate Staman told the Board that the pin marking the southwest corner of her property, where it abuts Leinings’, disappeared when the town put in a drainage ditch about three years ago. Staman said she’d discovered the pin was gone around the time of Hurricane Irene. Last winter, Holtz borrowed a metal detector and he and Rafus spent time attempting to locate the marker, without success. Holtz said the detector was designed to find sewer pipe buried as deep as six feet. He had tested the wand previous to searching for the Staman pin and found it worked as intended, so he thought it likely the marker was either not there at all, or perhaps they weren’t searching in the right area. The Board and Staman discussed details of the surrounding terrain, and Staman asked the Board’s advice as to what she should do next. Sumner asked whether a survey of the property had been filed. Staman knew a survey had been done by the previous owner, and after Rafus said a relatively recent document could have a map with it Staman checked with the Town Clerk, located the map, and brought it back to the meeting. After studying footage measurements and latitude/longitude notations, Rafus and Staman agreed to set up a time to go out with a measuring wheel and try again to find the pin.
Sign Road Commissioner’s Orders
The Road Commissioner’s orders were reviewed and signed. Edwards noted the yearly town garage bond payment—$17,000 this year—was included in this batch.
Sign Winter Road Maintenance Policy
As Board members signed the revised winter roads policy, Edwards and Holtz both expressed dissatisfaction with the removal of item #7 from the general provisions. That paragraph spelled out the limits of the town’s obligation to clear the school parking lot of snow, and stated that the town does not plow any other town or village lots. Edwards said the final version of the policy did not meet her principles, while Holtz remarked he had agreed to the deletion in order to get the policy processed, but if the Board received citizen complaints about the highway department plowing or sanding private property, he would vote to have the activity stopped. Edwards added that VLCT advises towns do not create committees to write policy. Rafus said that while at times he has differing opinions, as people often do, he gives his viewpoints in a respectful, professional manner. Had the Board decided to leave the above-mentioned item in the policy, he said, that would have been the end of it. Over the holiday weekend he received a call from an unnamed woman who told him he needed to stop picking on Edwards; Rafus wanted to make it clear that was never his intention. Edwards responded that she felt their exchanges had always been respectful, and certainly life would be boring if they always agreed.
The newly-signed road policy will be posted online and a copy added to the policies binder in the town office. Sumner also mentioned Windham Solid Waste will be collecting hazardous household waste at the town office on November 1st. A flyer giving details will be posted on the town web site.
Discuss Letter from Treasurer
Board members discussed with Patty Dow the content of a letter Dow had written pertaining to upcoming procedural changes in the handling of road orders. The Board is about to discontinue Monday morning meetings; Dow had concerns related to how that change might affect the town’s relationship with those vendors who have a net 10- or 15-day payment window, and the potential impact on Treasurer and Road Commissioner workflow. Various ideas and possible solutions were discussed. Per VLCT directive, payroll and certain pre-approved payments can be processed on a weekly basis with the signature of a single authorized Selectboard member, but other payables require signature by a quorum in open meeting. Of particular concern were those months when there is a three-week gap between meetings; Edwards said that would be a time to schedule a special meeting, but on an occasional basis rather than every alternate week. In conclusion, all agreed that this would be a transitional period of experimentation during which everyone would work together and communicate to learn which methods were most effective.
Town Employee Health Insurance
Using the 2015 cost sheet provided by VLCT, the board did some rough calculations to get an idea of health insurance costs for the coming year. Despite an approximate 7.9% increase, it appeared the total cost for the Platinum plan would not exceed the town’s budgeted amount. However, Edwards pointed out that the budget is based on a fiscal year while health insurance is invoiced per calendar year, so this may be deceptive. Full renewal packets should be arriving from Blue Cross/Blue Shield within the week; this topic will be on next meeting’s agenda.
In general discussion about future agendas Sumner said Ann Manwaring may come to a future meeting to talk about education funding. Holtz asked about the status of the state reimbursement check now that the final inspection has been done. As no one has heard, Edwards, thinking of the rapidly approaching budget discussions, asked Holtz to investigate.
Hearing of Visitors
Rafus expects the roof to go on the salt shed addition today. He and Holtz feel the west side should be closed in for storm protection and Rafus said he had already asked the contractor for a cost estimate.
Sumner was pleased with an old speed limit sign—probably from the ‘70s, Rafus thought—that Bill Sommerfeld had found on his property and given to Sumner. The sign itself is outdated, but the metal post is valuable; about ten feet long and a much heavier metal than the posts currently in use.
The Board told Rafus sufficient budgeted funds remained to purchase a finer grade of gravel for the school parking lot restoration. Rafus is reluctant to use the gravel he has on hand, as it contains larger stones which would likely cause problems when the lot is cleared with a snowblower through the winter. The Board approved purchase of the necessary materials.
Patty Dow said she had done some research on a prepaid Visa card to allow highway department employees to buy uniforms, and had learned this might cause a red flag on an audit. She advised having the crew make their purchases and turn in receipts for reimbursement. After considering the advantages and disadvantages of various alternatives, the Board agreed with this method.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:27 a.m.