OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
October 4, 2016
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were present, as were Stephan Chait, Homer (Chum) Sumner, Joe Tamburrino, Tim Putnam, Jesse Stowell (Encore Renewable Energy), Lou Bruso (Windham Solid Waste), Patricia Dow, Emily Blake (Deerfield Valley News), and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Brad Rafus added an update on Green River Road paving.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Mitch Green made a motion to approve the 9/20/16 regular meeting minutes as written. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Solar Project—Jesse Stowell, Encore Renewable Energy
Lewis Sumner welcomed Jesse Stowell, of Encore Renewable Energy, and Lou Bruso, Chairman of the Board for the Windham Solid Waste Management District. Stowell told the meeting that for some years WSWMD has been working to develop a solar project on top of their capped landfill. The project is unique in that it has earned a special provision in Vermont legislation allowing a larger-than-usual project of 5 megawatts which, through net metering, will benefit electrical consumers. Stowell went on to describe the process through which the school and town garage could purchase discounted net metering credits which would then be applied to their electrical utility costs. Savings for the school, based on usage history, are estimated at approximately $2,000 per year. There is no up-front investment; Windham Solid Waste is asking for a twenty-year contractual commitment from participants. Sumner asked whether the fire department could participate. He pointed out that although our fire department is private, it is insured through VLCT, as though it were a municipal entity. Stowell thought that was a good possibility. We are targeting municipalities and schools because they have great investment-grade credit, he said; we can certainly talk about it. We should consider that for other towns with private fire departments, added Lou Bruso. Using a spreadsheet analysis he had created, Stowell explained how the credit system would work. The chart shows standard cost per kilowatt hour ranging from $0.190 to $0.237 over the twenty-year period, while net metering credits would be be locked in at $0.139/kwh. Participants will not be responsible for the project’s operational costs.
Stephan Chait asked about the life of the solar panels; Stowell said the panels are guaranteed to be 80% productive after 20-25 years. What if electricity rates should go down? asked Chait. Under the terms of the contract, Bruso responded, if the residential rate were to drop below $0.139/kwh, participants would pay the lower rate. If Vermont were to discontinue net metering the contract would become void, and participants would go back to paying the regular rate, Stowell told Green. Do we have to buy a lump sum of credits up front, asked Patty Dow. No, Stowell, answered; your monthly bill is simply in two parts—approximately 80% in credits purchased from Encore, and 20% to Green Mountain Power. Stowell had explained earlier that purchasing credits at 80% of projected usage would prevent participants from buying more credits than they could use. There is also the possibility of reallocation, said Bruso. Should a change in circumstances result in a customer buying more credits than they can use, those excess credits can be sold to another credit-worthy group member. Stowell told Rafus that a customer could have its own solar panels and still be a member of the net metering group, but no one could belong to more than one group.
Chum Sumner posed some questions which will require further research. He spoke of the impact Act 46 is having on our school system, and the attempt currently underway to create a three-town merger proposal acceptable to the State, and asked how a net metering contract would be handled if Halifax should successfully merge with Readsboro and Stamford, or if the Halifax School were forced to close. There are a lot of “ifs” coming down in the next two years, he said. We thought we had created a viable merger proposal, but the State has sent it back to us. This engendered further discussion, with no definite answers. Bruso recommended reviewing the terms of the contract, which he said has been thoroughly vetted from the standpoint of the consumer.
Discuss Purchasing Policy, Item 12
Chait, who had suggested at the last meeting that professional services be put out to bid, noted that the purchasing policy on the Town web site was not the most recent version. (Note: The web site has been updated as of this writing.) Green said a main reason not to request bids on professional services is stability. We don’t want to be shifting around; we prefer to keep the same companies, he added. That clause was put it to make it easier for us to keep capable people on the job, said Joe Tamburrino. You don’t want a new attorney for the Town when our attorney has served the Town for many years, as did his father before him. He knows our Town, he’s consistent. Chait said there would be an advantage to reviewing performance periodically. If there is room for improvement, you have the ability to go out for competitive bid. A fresh view can be very rewarding. The Selectboard is capable of deciding what to do, and who and what they want, responded Tamburrino. If we have a problem, added Green, we can change the people we are using for our professional services. Engineering projects—bridges, for instance, or the garage roof—always go out to bid, said Rafus. And insurance is purchased through VLCT; they handle the bidding for the towns. So there is a competitive process, said Chait. Where there is not a competitive process is with the town attorney. If you look at quality and price, it is an opportunity to improve. And I think if the Town could improve quality in its town attorney that would not be a bad thing. Lewis Sumner spoke of the savings benefits to the Fire Department when they began buying insurance from VLCT years ago, and mentioned that VLCT refunds any surplus monies to the Town each year. Green said he would prefer to keep the wording of the policy as it stands.
Drug and Alcohol Policy
Board members received copies of a VLCT Drug and Alcohol policy template for review. The Town’s current policy was approved in 1995; the new VLCT template is a more lengthy and complex document which will require editing in certain areas to fit the Town’s specific needs. Sumner suggested that Rafus and Dow, who recently attended a State training session on the subject, review the policy, compare the contents with the 1995 version, and make recommendations as necessary. Sumner pointed out that there have been many changes in federal regulations since the adoption of the 1995 policy. He told Chait the Drug and Alcohol policy applies to employees with a CDL operating Town equipment. Green verified that Dow is the Town’s random drug testing officer. Discussion of the policy will be on the Selectboard’s October 18th agenda.
Cemetery Land Discussion
Surveyor Merrill Mundell recommended that the Cemetery Committee meet with Irene Wineburg and stake out the parcel of land Mrs. Wineburg has offered to donate to extend the Halifax Cemetery. Once that is done and the required subdivision paperwork is in process, Mundell will survey the parcel.
Green River Road Paving
Rafus told the meeting Lane Construction is scheduled to start repaving the damaged sections on Green River Road on Tuesday. In preparation, Lane cut the joints in the existing pavement today. Rafus estimated the cost to Lane for the repair work will be about $70,000.
The State has given preliminary approval to the Hazard Mitigation Plan developed for the Town by Windham Regional Commission. Copies were distributed to the Board; they will review and the Plan will be on the October 18th agenda for adoption and signature.
Hearing of Visitors
Emily Blake introduced herself as a reporter for the Deerfield Valley News, and said she would be attending future meetings.
Sign Orders to the Treasurer
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed. These included KAS Engineering’s landfill Post-Closure Custodial Care and PFC testing plans, which have been submitted to the State, and the VLCT 2017 renewal application for Town insurances, which was completed and sent in this week.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:25 p.m.