OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
December 2, 2014
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. Selectboard members Edee Edwards and Earl Holtz were present; Lewis Sumner was absent. Also in attendance were Margo Avakian, Ray Combs, Jesse Ferland, Marilyn Allen, Sue Kelly, Mary Horne, John LaFlamme, Greg Marguet, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Edee Edwards requested discussion of a letter she had received via email, and Earl Holtz wished to add commentary on the one-ton truck. Gabriel asked an opportunity to report progress on several items of Board business.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Edwards made a motion to approve the 11/17/14 special meeting minutes with two additions. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Edwards made a motion to approve the 11/18/14 regular meeting minutes with two additions. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Carl Barmen, Dog Kennels
Carl Barmen has expressed interest in the dog kennels housed at the town garage. Barmen acquired these for the town in 2005, but they were never used. Selectboard records show that Barmen made the purchase and was reimbursed. Holtz agreed to call Barmen and offer the kennels for a nominal fee.
Vermont Alert System Discussion
Vermont Alert is a web-based system providing a means of disseminating safety notifications and alerts to the public and a wide array of government bodies, schools, and emergency services. Having reviewed the PowerPoint presentation provided by John LaFlamme several weeks ago, Edwards advised the town should plan to participate. Holtz agreed, saying there were no other good alternatives. Reverse 911 has been difficult to understand, Edwards said, and LaFlamme mentioned reverse 911 would go away with the Vermont Yankee shutdown. The Board discussed possible candidates within the town who might take responsibility for handling communications, and Edwards said 5-7 people wouldn’t be too many, as not everyone would be available at all times. Authorized users, said LaFlamme, would be required to attend training sessions. He also mentioned that Glenn Herrin was willing to answer questions about the system if needed. Gabriel will assist LaFlamme in preparing a letter advising DEMHS (Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security) the town will be using VTALERT.
After reviewing information about the purpose of the Special Investigative Units which are the subject of this VLCT survey, the Board agreed to fill out and return the form. While the term Special Investigation Unit can refer to Vermont’s drug task force, computer crimes unit, or drug diversion, in this case it refers to units focusing on domestic violence, child abuse, and sex crimes. The survey is asking whether the town has made financial contributions to support local Special Investigations Units in the past or would consider doing so in the future. Edwards will answer and return the survey.
Overweight Truck Permits
As budget planning season opens, Edwards advised the Board should be examining revenue streams as well as expenditures. She asked Gabriel to gather data on the number of overweight permits issued by the town in the past three years and to whom those permits were issued, as well as general information about fees charged by other Vermont towns. The data would be used to aid the Board in considering a future fee increase on overweight permits to assist in offsetting highway repair and maintenance costs. Edwards said the average cost of labor, equipment, and supplies for Halifax road maintenance, based on budgeted amounts for FY13 through FY15, is $15,878 per mile. Edwards also questions whether log trucks fall into the agricultural category under the law. “That’s a lot!” said Sue Kelly in reference to the $15,878 figure. After the school budget, roads are our largest expenditure, Holtz replied. Ray Combs asked who determines weight limits and Holtz said the state sets those limits. Marilyn Allen mentioned our current climate is occasioning erratic mud seasons such as last week’s thaw, and wondered whether rules could be set to govern heavy trucks traveling during those times when ground thaws occurred outside of traditional mud season. Holtz said that might require posting the roads and Combs brought up the point of enforcement difficulties. LaFlamme felt businesses operating overweight trucks could afford more than the nominal $10 permit fee. Permit holders should check with the Road Commissioner during mud season, said Greg Marguet, and, further, should be aware that overweight permits come with a set of rules to be followed, including responsibility for the cost of repairing road damage they might cause. Edwards said applicants provide the town with their insurance information when purchasing an overweight permit.
Hearing of Visitors
Quarry Hearing Preparation
The first order of business at the December 6, 2014 Selectboard meeting will be preparation for the December 9th Act 250 quarry hearing, specifically, Criterion 9e: Earth Resources and Reclamation, which includes a sub-topic relating to municipal roads. While the criterion related to traffic issues—which is a main area of Selectboard focus—will be heard at the January 23rd, 2015 Act 250 hearing, Edwards would like to be sure the Selectboard is prepared to respond to that topic when criterion 9e is considered on December 9th. To that end, Edwards asked that copies of various related documents, including material from Windham Regional Commission, from the quarry permit application, and pertinent existing case law, be provided to Board members. Jesse Ferland asked if Criterion 9e included impact of trucks on the roads. There is a small paragraph about it, responded Edwards, which refers to earth extraction in particular, and the possibility of additional heavy equipment using town roads during the reclamation period should be addressed. Combs asked what would happen to the lease should the land change ownership. Holtz believes the contract would still be valid under the law. In reference to Edwards’ earlier comment that she would like to see photographs of reclaimed quarry benches, Marilyn Allen mentioned there are existing photographs of the quarry in Ashfield, but they do not appear to show a reclamation process.
A bit later in the meeting Ferland asked whether the Saturday, December 6, meeting was public. Holtz said yes; the primary focus on December 6th and several subsequent Saturday morning gatherings will be budget preparation, but the Board has chosen to also address quarry preparation on the 6th, and the meeting is open to the public.
Sovernet Fiber Quote for Town Office
The town has declined Sovernet’s fiber optic package in the past, for several reasons, including cost. Edwards would like to consider the Sovernet quote again, but would first like some cost figures from other local towns for comparison. LaFlamme advised caution in considering a long-term contract at a high price when other options may be available in the near future.
Economic Development Survey
Edwards told the meeting there have been ten responses to the Economic Development Survey on the town web site thus far. She encouraged people to respond, and pass the word to others. Holtz said he was reluctant to fill out the survey, as he does not own a business in town, but Edwards said the questions were directed at all residents, not just business owners.
LaFlamme recommended the Board make a formal motion to participate in the VTALERT system. Edwards made a motion to use VTALERT and receive training in utilizing the system for the purpose of public and some private communications. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0. LaFlamme asked whether the Board wanted to include names of potential authorized users; Holtz said they would consider that separately.
One-Ton Truck, New Town Truck
Combs asked if the new truck had arrived. Not yet, said Holtz; it was scheduled for delivery last week, but is currently being painted. Also, he continued, the one-ton the highway department uses for backup needs an engine rebuild. A replacement engine from GM will cost $6,500 with a three-year warranty, or the town can do its own rebuild for $6,800 with no warranty. Combs suggested investigating the availability of after-market engines. Marguet mentioned the possibility of a crate engine, which Holtz said would be similar to the $6,500 rebuilt engine from GM. Edwards requested this discussion be included on a future agenda when Lewis Sumner could be present.
Marilyn Allen asked for details on the hazard mitigation flyers posted in town. Edwards explained the Board is looking for volunteers to form a group for the purpose of discussing what actions could be taken to minimize the impact of a future event such as Hurricane Irene. LaFlamme advised he would be working with Windham Regional Commission’s Alyssa Sabetto to formulate a hazard mitigation plan which would then go to FEMA for approval and be adopted by the town. Once the approved plan is in place, the town’s potential eligibility for reimbursement dollars after a catastrophe will increase. Edwards asked whether material from a previous draft prepared by the town but never finalized could be utilized in the developing the current plan and LaFlamme said yes.
Email from Abutter: Act 250
The Board has received a lengthy letter from Debra Foster. The letter, addressed to the Selectboard, Planning Commission, ZBA, and town attorney, lists the writer’s concerns with the current schedules for addressing Act 250/Denison quarry and zoning rewrite topics. After review, Edwards and Holtz are appreciative of the time and effort Ms. Foster expended in researching her subject, but are also concerned that several statements made in open meetings by town officials and the town attorney have been misquoted or misinterpreted. Edwards has composed a partial draft in response to the letter, but was hesitant to reply in advance of consulting with her fellow Board members. Holtz concurred with this opinion. Responding to Ferland’s query, Edwards said that although the letter was addressed to the various people mentioned earlier it had not been received by the Halifax secretary, and was subsequently forwarded directly to Edwards by the author. After further discussion it was agreed that Edwards would phone Ms. Foster and attempt to clarify some misconceptions before talking to the town attorney; Edwards will also talk to Planning Commission Chair Sirean LaFlamme.
Gabriel told the Board Ann Manwaring would come to the December 16th regular meeting which will be a Selectboard/School Board joint meeting. There was additional discussion regarding tasks to be done in advance of the first budget meeting, and conversation between Holtz and Christina Moore about EMS financial needs. Holtz agreed to also talk to Christina Moore about the old town garage. On other fronts: Malicious code has been intercepted and removed four times from the town web site by the SiteLock service purchased at the beginning of November. A joint Planning Commission/Selectboard meeting will be warned for the Act 250/Denison Quarry hearing on December 9th in Brattleboro.
Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer for Bill Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed and appropriately filed.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:18 p.m.