OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
December 1, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Doug Grob, and Brad Rafus were present. Joe Tamburrino, Stephan Chait, Rick Gay, Blaise McGarvey, Cara Cheyette, Janet Taylor, Paul Taylor, Pete LaFogg, Joan LaFogg, Linda Lyon, Arthur (Jesse) Ferland, Maggie Bartenhagen, Nick Bartenhagen, Sirean LaFlamme, John LaFlamme, Norman Fajans, Lesley Pollitt, Sue Kelly, Andrew Rice, and Robbin Gabriel were also in attendance; Russell Denison arrived at approximately 7:15.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Lewis Sumner added Andy Rice to the agenda. Doug Grob wished to discuss a possible ZBA/Selectboard joint meeting to talk about how the ZBA had arrived at the Denison conditional use decision.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Grob made a motion to approve the 11/17/15 regular meeting minutes. Rafus seconded the motion with one correction. The motion passed, 3-0.
Open Bridge #15 Bids
Three bids were received for repairs on the Branch Road bridge at Hubbard Hill, as follows:
Daniels Construction, Ascutney, Vermont: Mobilization, working over water plan, traffic control plan, warning signs, jersey barriers, fall protection staging, repairing concrete posts and curbs, fill for guardrail terminals, rip-rap, guardrails, cleaning and greasing steel beams and restoration. Lump sum price, $100,000.00.
LaFogg and Hathaway Contruction, Inc., Williamsburg, Massachusetts: Secure area signs, safety jersey barriers, close off one lane at a time, hang scaffolding with safety rails, existing blacktop to be removed three feet on each side to expose concrete curb, remove all loose concrete to sound concrete on curbs, posts, and bridge drains. Chip concrete down to expose rebar, install and cast in place concrete posts in same location as existing posts, rebuild and repair 16 concrete posts, cast concrete curbs in place, fill existing drains. Abutment beam pockets: First post on lefthand side, north end of bridge, remove four feet deteriorated concrete, cast in place concrete. Install guardrails both sides bridge, clean and grease I-beams. Total bid, $99,150.00.
Renaud Brothers, Inc., Vernon, Vermont: Rebuild and repair 16 concrete posts and curbs, concrete existing drains, install guardrail on approaches and both sides bridge, clean and grease I-beams. Total bid, $88,500.00.
Sumner said the Board would review all bids in detail and make a decision in the future. They have all done work for the town in the past, he added, and we have been happy with it. Renaud did three bridges in town after Irene.
WRC’s November 19th Shared Services Meeting
Gabriel, who had attended this Townshend meeting, gave a brief summary of topics discussed. WRC Associate Director Susan McMahon’s follow-up report on the March 2015 shared services meeting touched on the Google Group listserv which is now functioning as a means of discussion between towns, practical ways of handling shared animal control services, and aspects of equipment sharing such as insurance and the need for participating towns to have an inventory and procurement policy. WRC Executive Director Chris Campany also spoke of possible upcoming legislation which could amend state statutes to permit the creation of an entity similar to the Franklin County (Massachusetts) Council of Governments. Grob suggested that if a town were to lend a piece of equipment they could also supply the operator, to simplify insurance requirements. Maggie Bartenhagen asked whether other regional commissions were exploring shared services; Gabriel will relay that question. Cara Cheyette suggested soliciting advice on insurance from an insurance agent rather than an attorney.
Planning Commission Public Hearing—Zoning Regulation Revision
Sirean LaFlamme said the zoning regulation revisions have been completed. A Planning Commission public hearing has been noticed for Wednesday, December 16th, 7:00 p.m. at the Halifax Town Offices. A Selectboard hearing will be held at a later date, and the updated document will go before the voters on March 1, 2016. Would there be a single vote on the entire text, asked Sue Kelly, or would different aspects of the regulations be broken apart for separate votes? There will be a single question on Australian ballot, responded Sumner.
Constable Andy Rice
Andy Rice told the meeting that at one time a constable had full police powers as soon as he was elected, with no training or certification. State law has changed, however, and now certification is required for any elected or appointed constable. Because certification is an arduous process, requiring hundreds of hours initially plus additional specific classes and 60 hours of ride-along training, Rice would like to see an article on the town warning asking voters to approve conversion from a one-year elected position to a three-year appointment. The longer term would make more sense given the amount of training needed and subsequent training updates. Rice recommended an appointment because, as he pointed out, it would be possible for the voters to elect an individual who subsequently proved ineligible for the training due to a criminal record or physical limitations. Rice was certified when he served as constable previously, but the certification lapsed in intervening years, and he would need to invest another 400 hours in recertification now. John LaFlamme asked whether there should be a voter petition for a warned article; Sumner said the item could go on the warning either way.
Joint ZBA/Selectboard Meeting Discussion
An appeal has been entered in the matter of the Halifax Zoning Board’s conditional use permit decision on the Denison quarry project, and Doug Grob stated he would like the ZBA to explain to the Selectboard how that decision was reached. I am not looking for opinions, Grob said; I would like to understand the legal reasoning. To that end, Grob suggest a joint meeting of the ZBA and Selectboard. This topic engendered lengthy discussion. We had (Town Attorney) Bob Fisher advising us at all of our meetings and hearings, said Sirean LaFlamme, but we ended with three members in favor of denial and two in favor of approval. It all came down to different interpretations of statute. Stephan Chait noted two separate actions in process—the appeal itself, and a request that the application be deemed approved by the Environmental Court due to a lack of timely notification to the applicant after the application was submitted. Chait recommended, in the interest of good communication, that the Zoning Board offer the Selectboard a step-by-step explanation of the ZBA thinking process, to assist the Selectboard in deciding on a course of action. Sirean LaFlamme suggested Selectboard members review the audio of the conditional use hearings. Fisher advised the ZBA on specifics of what does and does not comply with our zoning regulations, said LaFlamme, but there were three topics that just seemed to keep going around and around. One of those points was the definition of the term “undue adverse effect;” another was a difference of opinion as to whether information the applicant had submitted to Act 250 (and later to the ZBA) was adequate. The written minutes also offer a good summary, said Chait.
Does the Selectboard want to deliberate on a decision that has already been written?, asked Sue Kelly. If they are just reviewing it for the appeal, that is two different things, said Blaise McGarvey. Now we are at the appeal stage, offered John LaFlamme, and the Selectboard has an active role, the biggest benefit I’ve found in the past is the Town Attorney’s legal advice. Sumner agreed; none of us are lawyers, he said. We will be having an executive session with Bob Fisher. It might be helpful to have the dissenting ZBA members offer a written opinion, said Cara Cheyette. That’s not required by law, answered Sirean LaFlamme, adding that both dissenting members had stated their belief that the town’s zoning regulations as they are currently written allow the quarry as a conditional use. We don’t have a lot of time, said Sumner; there is a twenty-day response deadline. Sue Kelly and Cara Cheyette both felt a joint meeting could be held after the response was filed, and Linda Lyon agreed. Doug Grob made a motion that the Selectboard and ZBA have a joint meeting in January. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
After the motion and prior to the vote, further discussion ensued. Do you feel we could gain useful information from such a conversation?, Grob asked his fellow Board members. We may, responded Sumner, but I’m still going to listen primarily to Bob Fisher. He has the legal knowledge and he attended all the hearings. Lyon said the ZBA had put hundreds of hours into their study of the conditional use request and urged the Selectboard to avail themselves of the results of that work. Joe Tamburrino suggested ZBA members summarize their thinking in writing for the Selectboard. Maggie Bartenhagen also saw value in the Selectboard getting background on the ZBA’s reasoning behind the decision. John LaFlamme expressed concern that a joint meeting might result more in an attempt to appeal to the Selectboard with varying opinions than an outline of reasoning process. However, he added, there is nothing to prevent Selectboard members from asking questions as individuals. You have the written decision of the Zoning Board, said Rick Gay; shouldn’t you now only be concerned with the legal points you need to defend? If you have a joint meeting it could go on indefinitely. It seems you should consult with Bob Fisher and go from there. I would want to have the most information that I could going into this, said Norm Fajans. He, too, advocated for a joint meeting. In legal terms, argument is discussion for clarity, Nick Bartenhagen said. I see no reason to rush into this; you can put in a placeholder (for the appeal response), then go through this process of argumentation in a rational way. The Board confirmed for McGarvey that the joint meeting would be an open meeting.
Sumner now moved to Hearing of Visitors prior to the Board entering executive discussion on the court case.
Hearing of Visitors
John LaFlamme had several items to bring before the Board. He submitted the Emergency Management Director checklist and report for Board review and signature, and announced a meeting to be held in Vernon, on Tuesday, December 8th, 5:00 p.m., with Entergy, for an update on the current status of the VY plant and plans for the next six months. The meeting will be held at the Governor Hunt House, and a meal will be provided. LaFlamme also would like to meet with the Board to discuss current fiscal year (FY16) spending and plans for emergency equipment in the next fiscal year when funding has ended.
Tamburrino read a letter for the record, and submitted a copy to the Selectboard. I have been a Lister for the Town of Halifax since March 2008, he said, and I think it is time for me to resign and finally relax and enjoy my retirement. I’ve retired four times, he added. Tamburrino thanked everyone who has supported him these past seven years. His resignation is effective January 30, 2016, but he will make himself available for training if needed. The Board’s thanks to Tamburrino for his service was accompanied by applause from the floor.
Denison, having read newspaper accounts of Brad Rafus’ appointment as Selectboard member, came to the meeting especially to voice his support of that choice. I grew up in Colrain, and spent over fifty years in and out of the town offices there, Denison said. Serving in law enforcement and as fire chief, Denison worked alongside town officials; he remarked on the benefits of town officials working closely together. Here you’ve had an opportunity to put a man in the position who works full-time for the town. If problems are brought to a meeting he will be able to speak to them immediately. In a small town like this we need to work together; I don’t understand why there is opposition to a man who is qualified for both jobs. You have an experienced man, he’s here, I think you made a good choice.
Discuss Court Case Mediation
Sumner made a motion for the Board to enter executive session to discuss the Denison conditional use appeal, with Gabriel present. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Sumner then asked for objections; there were none.
The Selectboard entered executive session at 7:55 p.m. The Board exited executive session at 8:50 p.m., with no decisions made.
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 9:43 p.m.