OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
June 21, 2016
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:41 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were present, as were Ray Combs, Joe Tamburrino, Edee Edwards, Cara Cheyette, Blaise McGarvey, Stephan Chait, Bonnie Brown, Norman Fajans, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Two items—a Better Back Roads grant and a resignation letter—were added to the agenda under New Business.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Lewis Sumner made a motion to approve the 6/7/16 special meeting minutes with several corrections. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Mitch Green, who was not present at that meeting, abstaining.
Sumner made a motion to approve the 6/7/16 regular meeting minutes with one correction. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
FY 17 Sand Purchase
Three price quotes on winter sand were received, as follows: Cersosimo Industries, $8.25/yard; Zaluzny Excavating, $7.70/yard; Renaud Gravel, $8.60/yard. Sand will be picked up by the town at vendor’s location. Rafus calculated distance and trucking costs. While Renaud’s price per yard is higher, their location is closer than Cersosimo’s, with easier access, which will reduce time and vehicle costs. This translates to a $0.35 per yard savings. Zaluzny offered the lowest price per yard, said Rafus, but each truck trip would be 22 additional miles and an additional hour of travel time. All three products are of good quality. Rafus told Ray Combs the town has been hauling its own sand for the last four or five years. Edee Edwards disagreed with the concept of choosing the higher bid to take advantage of transportation savings, and asked how the time saved would be used. Green mentioned that some of the savings would be in fuel and maintenance costs, while Sumner said sand hauling is usually done on days when rain prevents grading and other road work. It costs the town roughly $6 a yard to haul in our own trucks, said Rafus, while the cost to have it delivered is $11-$12 a yard, not including the material. Green made a motion to accept Renaud Gravel’s winter sand bid at $8.60 a yard. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0, with Rafus abstaining. Stephan Chait asked if the Board was obliged to accept the lowest bid. No, replied Sumner; someone could come in with a five-dollar bid, but the product might be poor quality.
Broadband, Cell, Economic Development—Edee Edwards
Edee Edwards told the meeting she had been doing what she could from a distance to keep up with broadband and economic issues. Referring to a March 17th Deerfield Valley News article on VTel, she said it is still hard to know who can get what kind of service where. I think this intrastructure is still important to the town, she added, and I’m not convinced we have everything we want in terms of internet access. Whitingham has an active economic development and broadband committee; they are engaged in discussions with the state concerning grants to improve coverage. Edwards said Halifax now has cell coverage on Route 112—microcells have been installed—but coverage is still spotty. As Halifax no longer has an active broadband committee, and no new members have come forward, Edwards, who is now based in Massachusetts, tendered her resignation. She made two recommendations; that Halifax find someone to work with the Whitingham committee, and that the town find a Windham Regional Commission representative willing to serve on WRC’s Community Development committee, which concerns itself with broadband as well as other topics. Green asked for feedback on service from the VTel tower in Halifax Center. Edwards said some residents fairly close to the tower were unable to get access. She has switched to VTel basic here in town, and speeds are a concern. Rafus brought up cell tower at the town garage. Is that the intended design, or did they run out of money? he asked. He had been told there should be a pod every mile between the Halifax and Whitingham facilities, but that is not the case. There is a big dead spot between the town garage and Jacksonville. Edwards suggested calling or emailing Clay Purvis at the state, but the response might be that grant money is gone. Cara Cheyette wondered who was responsible for determining who has coverage and who does not. Edwards said she thought that issue was confused.
Discuss Town Dog Ordinance
Green made a motion to repeal the Town of Halifax dog ordinance. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In discussion, Green explained to Stephan Chait that under state statute, if a town has a dog ordinance it takes precedence over state statute. State statutes apply in towns without an ordinance, and the Board would have been better able to make a decision to resolve a recent dog bite incident had the town ordinance not been in effect. Joe Tamburrino asked whether the repeal process would require a town-wide vote. No, said Green and Sumner. In this case the Board can vote to repeal, the action will be publicly noticed, and if no petition is filed in opposition, the repeal will take effect in 60 days. Blaise McGarvey asked for particulars; Green said the town had a situation with a dog who had bitten twice, but due to the town ordinance the Board could not order euthanization of the dog. Does state law requires dogs to be leashed, asked Tamburrino. Edwards was concerned that if the town ordinance were repealed there would be no leash law. We don’t have a leash law now, answered Rafus; our ordinance simply says the dog has to be under control. There is no state-wide leash law. Edwards suggested repealing the current ordinance and then adopting the VLCT model. The current dog bite situation must be handled under the existing ordinance, the Board told Chait.
Set New Dog Hearing Date
The Board, having sent a proposed agreement on the dog Shilo’s confinement to Kayte Bak and her attorney, received an alternate agreement in return. The alternate contained numerous deletions and changes which Board members found unsatisfactory. Cheyette requested specifics on what the dog owner was willing to agree to. Green said the entire section speaking to consequences should the agreement be violated had been removed, and Sumner added that “fence” had been changed to “kennel,” height from six to five feet, and a chain link floor was proposed rather than burying the base of the fence. This latter, Sumner and Green said, might be acceptable. No dimensions were specified, and requirements for locking the enclosure were removed. Sumner made a motion to send notice to the dog owner that the original agreement, prepared by the town attorney, be signed by June 30th. If the agreement is not signed, the Board will set a hearing date for July 5th. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Gabriel has talked to Guilford surveyor Thomas Wagener about surveying the boundary line between the Town Garage and the Boyko property. Wagener has an overly full schedule this summer and indicated the town might want to speak with other surveyors. Edwards is of the opinion that there is not enough harm to the town to justify paying for a survey. Rafus, who has recused himself from this issue because he is one of the abutting property owners, commented that had the property lines been researched when building permits were granted, the problem would be nonexistent. I’m not concerned about mine, he added; it doesn’t bother me. Bonnie Brown said that in Massachusetts, if someone uses your property for twenty years, and you don’t assert your property rights, that person then owns your property. She suggested finding out whether Vermont has a similar law. Gabriel will solicit estimates from other surveyors.
Discuss Lane Litigation
Sumner showed the Board a newspaper article announcing that Lane Construction had been purchased by a company in Milan, Italy. Thus far, Gabriel has not been able to locate the 2012 Lane contract and warranties, although the town does have a letter from Lane addressing the Green River Road paving problem. Tamburrino offered to search Irene-related archives for the missing paperwork. We may want to think about this (pursuing litigation) some more, said Green.
Set Date for Special Election
Vermont’s primary elections are scheduled for August 9th this year. Sumner made a motion to set a special election date for August 9th, 2016, to vote by Australian ballot on the citizens’ petition to repeal zoning in Halifax. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. There was considerable discussion regarding wording of the article on the warning, which will be published not more than 40 or less than 30 days prior to the election. The final version reads “To see if the Town will vote by Australian ballot to repeal zoning regulations in the Town of Halifax, Vermont.” Edwards made the point that as the vote would be by Australian ballot, voters will be able to request absentee ballots in advance of the election date. Linda Lyon said that should the town vote to keep the regulations we could start working right away to revise them
Brian McNeice has submitted his resignation from the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Sumner made a motion to send a thank-you letter to Brian McNeice for ten-plus years of service on the Planning Commission and ZBA. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Gabriel will post the vacancy.
Better Back Roads Grant
Under the Clean Water Act, towns are required to take inventory of road-related erosion and culvert projects, prioritize problem areas, and set up a three- to five-year capital budget plan. Rafus has applied for and received a $7,600 Better Back Roads grant to fund this process. The grant, which is good until October 2017, covers Windham Regional Commission’s estimate of project cost. WRC will be doing the work and creating the maps. There is the possibility that FEMA monies may be available to offset some of the costs of identified projects. Edwards recalled the town had recently completed a culvert inventory. This is a separate program, said Rafus, although it could include culverts. We haven’t received our maps for the culvert inventory, but it is complete. Now, when culvert work is done, Rafus sends the information to WRC, and the maps are updated. Eventually the map program will be installed on the town computer, so we can do our own updating.
Executive Session (if necessary)
Rafus said Renaud has installed new guard rails on the Branch Road bridge at Hubbard Hill, and the concrete work has been completed. Work on the stringers has not yet been done.
Hearing of Visitors
Does Old County Road go all the way through to Green River Road, asked Bonnie Brown. No, only if you walk, Lyon answered. Brown also wanted to know the best way to notify the highway crews about downed trees. An email is usually the fastest method, said Rafus.
Norm Fajans has noted an expected increase in traffic on Deer Park Road now that the Green River bridge in Guilford is closed for construction. With dry weather, and people moving right along, the dust clouds are so thick at times it’s impossible to see, he said. Could the town put some chloride down, and maybe do some grading? Rafus said the highway department had been holding off on the second round of grading because it is too dry. I have about 800 gallons of chloride left until the fiscal year begins on July 1st, he continued. We can lay chloride down in spots, but don’t have enough to do the whole road. We spend $10,000 a year on chloride; you wouldn’t be able to do Deer Park road twice with that amount.
Sign Orders to the Treasurer
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed and appropriately filed or signed.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:40 p.m.