OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD/CEMETERY COMMITTEE SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
January 10, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 8:31 a.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner and Edee Edwards were present. Earl Holtz was not able to attend but participated briefly by speaker phone in the final minutes of the meeting. Brad Rafus, Cliff Inman, Jeff DeForest, and Robbin Gabriel were also in attendance.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
FY16 Budget Preparation
Having worked through all Selectboard and Highway Department line items in previous budget meetings, the Board turned to addressing totals and various individual items earmarked for additional discussion. They verified current sand and salt prices with Brad Rafus. Noting that the Cemetery Commission has been showing a surplus, Edwards asked whether that yearly appropriation should be reduced. We’re running out of room, said Cliff Inman, especially in Niles Cemetery. The cemetery owns additional land, but it needs to be cleared, stumped, and prepared for use, and the monies currently in reserve will pay for that work. Pennel Hill and Worden cemeteries also have more land in need of clearing, and there is fence work to be done, particularly at Niles. Headstones in a number of cemeteries need repair. Jeff DeForest has done some research and said there may be federal grant money available for restoring veterans’ headstones. Inman pointed out that while the Cemetery Commission sometimes has a difficulty hiring a sufficient number of maintenance workers, contracting for professional maintenance services would require a much larger cemetery appropriation. Halifax has over twenty cemeteries—maybe more than any other town in the state—and uneven terrain makes many of them hard to mow. DeForest has been reading a Vermont Department of Health publication titled “Digging Deep,” available online at www.sec.state.vt.us/media/616600/digging-deep-2014.pdf. In Vermont, he said, embalming is not required, and burials on private land are legal. Edwards wondered how many burials the town has in a year; the estimation is five to eight. The Board agreed the Cemetery Commission appropriation should remain at the current $5,000 level. Edwards suggested the Commission should make any special project plans known to the residents at Town Meeting. She also advised advertising for cemetery maintenance workers.
The Board returned to reviewing portions of the highway budget; they had reserved some questions for Rafus, who was unable to attend the last budget meeting. Rafus recommended that in the future contractors bidding to supply the town with sand be requested to provide prices with and without trucking. Presently the highway department is doing the trucking, and he estimates it is costing the town $7 a yard to truck, not including wear and tear on equipment. At times the trucking is cutting into hours needed for tree cutting and other work. Rafus would also like to pave an additional two-tenths of a mile on Jacksonville Stage Road next year, so pavement would extend from the Branch Road intersection to Tucker Road. Town trucks use Tucker Road as a turn-around point, and paving to Tucker Road would solve the problem of the eternal mudhole at the present juncture of pavement and gravel, where the highway department has to add stone loads every year during wet season. Edwards asked whether building a turnaround at the top of Jacksonville Stage hill would be an option. Further discussion covered projected equipment cost estimates for future years, upcoming bridge repairs, and overall insurance costs. Sumner suggested using the available FEMA dollars to purchase the next truck replacement outright. Using that money to reduce the FY16 budget total would look good this year, he said, but the following year the total would climb again. Paying for the next truck in full would eliminate five years worth of lease payments and keep the next few years’ budgets on a more even keel.
The Board will present the preliminary budget at their January 20th regular meeting. They also set a January 26th meeting to put the final touches on the budget and discuss and sign the Town Meeting warning. Edwards called Earl Holtz and confirmed via speaker phone a January 13th meeting at the town garage to check in with the highway crew.
Hearing of Visitors
The meeting was adjourned at 11:35 a.m.