OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
January 16, 2018
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 Ray Combs, Patricia Dow, Dora Green, Leslie Green, Kaitlin Stone, Stephanie Powers, Chum (Homer) Sumner, Paul Blais, Peggy Rafus, Ross Barnett, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Lewis Sumner made a motion to approve the 12/19/17 regular meeting minutes as written. Mitch Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Brad Rafus abstaining.
Sumner made a motion to approve the 1/2/18 regular meeting minutes as written. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Green abstaining.
Meet with Representatives of the Southern Valley School Board
Chum Sumner, representing the Southern Valley School Board, told the meeting that Readsboro has agreed to include $15,000 in their budget for the newly formed School District’s general fund. The Halifax Selectboard will also include $15,000 in their Town budget proposal. Readsboro will meet to vote on its warned articles one day before the Halifax town meeting. In the event that Readsboro does not approve the funding, Sumner said he would ask Halifax to remove that dollar amount from their budget on Town Meeting day. Will the vote (on the school budget) be by Australian ballot?, asked Lewis Sumner. Yes, said Chum; both towns will vote by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 6th. Informational meetings will be held in both towns; Readsboro’s meeting will be the last Monday in February (the 26th), and the Halifax meeting will be Tuesday, February 27th. There appears to be a requirement that the School District must mail notices of the informational meeting to all registered voters. Gabriel asked whether it would be possible to do a combined notice, as in Halifax the School and Town informational meetings will be held jointly. Chum said he would ask that question; the unified school district is brand new and doesn’t have a budget in place yet, so there is some confusion about how basic tasks and procedures will be handled. Chum Sumner also said that when the ballots are cast in both towns on the school budget, the ballots would need to be delivered to a central location and commingled before ballot clerks could count them. He told Patty Dow the school vote would need to be on a separate ballot.
Rafus had a question about Halifax school parking lot maintenance. Would you like the highway department or the janitor to take care of it?, he asked Chum, adding that the timing isn’t working at present. The highway department is getting requests for sanding after the crew is already out on the roads. Chum said snow removal should be taken care of now, as Wayne Courser or Lewis Sumner will be available if the janitor’s snow blower isn’t operational. He asked Rafus to plan on laying down sand when it was needed.
There was some further discussion about the availability of ballot clerks for ballot counting, and the possible need for Justices of the Peace to transport ballots. Kaitlin Stone, who is a Justice of the Peace, volunteered.
Peggy Rafus—Private Well Testing
Peggy Rafus, speaking of PFC testing at the closed landfill, said she is presently satisfied with once-a-year sampling. However, if the next landfill test shows elevated numbers, she would like to have her private well tested on the same schedule as the landfill monitoring well. To date, test results have fluctuated, and she is concerned about her water supply should the numbers climb again. Green said it takes some time after a test to get results back—maybe a month—but a test of the Rafus well could be scheduled once the reports arrive.
Discuss Employee Handbook Amendment
Patty Dow noted that the Town’s employee handbook (Personnel Policy) did not specifically address domestic partner eligibility for health insurance; she asked whether the Selectboard should consider adding a clause covering domestic partners. Rafus said the Town has insured domestic partners in the past, but the policy wording is vague. He advised the handbook should state specific coverage offered, i.e., single, two-person, family. Green had a concern about the potential for rapid changes of partners. There are regulations, Rafus said; you have to be together six months and show proof of shared expenses. Sumner added that there is only one open-enrollment period per year. He suggested the town should revise the policy and Dow said she and Rafus would provide new wording at the next Selectboard meeting. Peggy Rafus pointed out that the policy does not permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or marriage. It’s federal law, said Sumner
Yearly Certificate of Highway Mileage
Halifax has no changes in mileage this year, but while Dow was creating the traffic ordinance she found a number of errors in road numbering on the Agency of Transportation map. We’ve tried and failed to get numbering errors corrected in the past, said Rafus. Sumner said we could write up the mistakes, provide a marked map, and the Selectboard could sign the certificate at the next meeting. The deadline for submission is February 20th.
Set Date to Finalize March 2018 Town Meeting Warning
Sumner advised the Town Meeting warning must be finalized and posted by February 3rd. Board members will meet at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 27th, to finalize the warning.
Prior to making a last examination of proposed FY19 budget figures, Sumner asked whether anyone in the audience wished to speak.
Hearing of Visitors
Ross Barnett tendered his resignation as Emergency Management Director. I don’t have enough time to do the work, he told the Board. He gave Board members a letter of resignation, the town laptop, and pertinent paperwork. The Selectmen thanked him for serving, and Barnett said they could call him for anything they needed.
Ray Combs mentioned that the ground around the recycling bins on Brook Road was very icy.
Finalize FY19 Budget
During several meetings in December Selectmen prepared the FY19 proposed budget, leaving a few line items open while they waited for figures from several sources. Tonight they added dollar amounts for WSWMD, Mutual Aid dispatching fees, and retirement contributions. The yearly county tax budget figure is not yet available, so has been estimated based on the FY18 amount. Rafus recommended budgeting some funds for the Fire Department, saying their equipment is costly, new members are joining, and the town only pays for dispatching fees. Board members agreed to add $6,000 for Fire Department equipment, which Rafus said the Department could also use for a VLCT grant match if a grant were awarded.
Rafus told the Board that years ago the Highway Department would use monies from the sale of scrap metal to stock edibles in the Town Garage for employee use during long storms. A previous Board discontinued the practice, and Rafus would like to see it reinstated. We have had three or four storms where the men have been out for 15 hours or more, he said, and one employee lives in another town. These dollars would not be coming out of the Town budget. Sumner and Green agreed to the proposal.
Sumner advised that he, Dow, and Gabriel had attended a FEMA briefing in Brattleboro where procedures for receiving reimbursement for the cost of October storm damages were discussed. We now have access to FEMA’s online site, he said. Rafus is the primary contact and Dow the secondary. A FEMA representative will be assigned to Halifax, and Rafus said a meeting will be set up in the near future.
The Board directed Gabriel to post notices of the Emergency Management Director vacancy on the Town’s bulletin boards, the web site, and Facebook.
Sign Orders to the Treasurer
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
New correspondence was reviewed..
The meeting was adjourned at 8:31 p.m.