OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
February 6, 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 Peggy Rafus, Stephan Chait, Ray Combs, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Mitch Green made a motion to approve the 1/16/18 regular meeting minutes with several corrections. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Lewis Sumner made a motion to approve the 1/27/18 special meeting minutes as written. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Employee Handbook Amendment
The Board reviewed an amendment to the Town’s Personnel Policy. Rafus read the additional wording for the record, as follows: “Health care insurance for eligible employees includes coverages of single, two-person, one adult with child or children, and family policies. The vested partners are eligible with qualifying paperwork and able to be added to the policy during open enrollment.” Sumner said the new wording was in conformance with State law, and qualifying individuals could only be added once a year. Open enrollment is November 1st to December 31st, said Rafus. Green made a motion to accept the changes to the Personnel Policy as written. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Rafus abstaining. Green and Sumner signed the amended policy, with Rafus abstaining.
Yearly Certificate of Highway Mileage
Each year the Vermont Agency of Transportation requires the Town to submit a certificate of highway mileage detailing any changes within the Town. Halifax had no mileage changes in 2017, but several numbering errors were discovered on the AOT road map, so the Board is including a letter to AOT, along with the mileage certificate, noting those errors. Stephan Chait asked whether the certificate goes to the State or Windham Regional Commission. Sumner said it is sent to the State. The State pays the Town so much per mile, said Rafus, and that’s how they determine qualifying mileage. How many miles do we have in town?, asked Ray Combs. Slightly over 68 miles, Rafus told him, not including the State section of Route 112. Sumner made a motion to sign the Certificate of Highway Mileage. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. The certificate will also be signed by the Town Clerk before being sent to the State.
Highway and Bridge Weight Restrictions
Weight restrictions for 2018 have been updated on the AOT web site. Rafus explained the weight restrictions apply to mud season (March 7-May 15), and two bridges have weight restrictions. Gabriel said the bridge on Josh Road has a year-round weight restriction of 6,000 pounds. The bridge on Hale Road has a 14,000-pound restriction that was put in place after Tropical Storm Irene, and will remain until removed by the Selectboard. Green made a motion to remove the weight restriction on the Hale Road bridge on the Halifax/Guilford town line, and change it to State limits. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In discussion, Rafus told Green the Hale Road bridge does not have an assigned number; it is actually a corrugated arch. Ray Combs asked whether all the bridges were numbered, and if the restrictions were posted. Most of them are numbered, said Rafus. The Josh Road bridge is posted for 6,000 pounds. The Hale Road bridge was posted, with signs removed after repairs were made.
Town Reappraisal Bids
The Listers have provided the Selectboard with a proposal from NEMRC (New England Municipal Resource Center) for a town-wide reappraisal. The bid details state that NEMRC could begin the project by July 1, 2019, and complete it by the end of June, 2021. Cost, based on 644 parcels, is $63,000. If there are more than 644 parcels there would be an additional charge of $85 per parcel, and any hearing requests beyond the BCA level would be billed at $125 an hour. Sumner said the other contractors the Listers approached for estimates could not begin an appraisal until well after 2020. He told Combs that NEMRC is located in Georgia, Vermont. The Listers use NEMRC programs to maintain Town appraisal data. Sumner made a motion to accept NEMRC’s $63,000 bid to perform a town-wide reappraisal. Green seconded the motion. (Note: This motion was not voted on—see following discussion.) Rafus asked whether a formal bid was done, in accordance with the Town’s purchasing policy. The Board told Chait bids were solicited by the Listers, after the Selectboard approved that action. Our purchasing policy applies to all Town officials for purchases over $25,000, said Rafus. Green recommended going back to the Listers with a request for documentation that the policy steps were followed. Rafus said that while he was not a big fan of policies, he would like the assurance this won’t return to us later, especially since the Town already does business with NEMRC. After further discussion, and examination of the purchasing policy language, the Board agreed to ask the Listers for documentation of a newspaper ad and a minimum of three RFQs, as required by the Town’s policy.
The Selectboard posted vacancy notices for the position of EMD after Ross Barnett resigned that post on January 16th. One applicant, Peggy Rafus, expressed interest in the position. Chait asked what EMD stood for (Emergency Management Director), and what happened with Barnett. The Board said he had resigned because he did not have enough time to devote to the task.
Is there a lot involved?, asked Combs. Rafus described the current project—a $15,000 VY grant that will be used to upgrade our radio system. He told Chait our system is mounted on the Mutual Aid tower on the Honora Winery property. Sumner made a motion to appoint Peggy Rafus as Emergency Management Director for a term ending in March 2018. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Rafus abstaining. Rafus announced a WRC training session on consequences of ice jams and similar occurrences is scheduled for next week in Westminster. He and Peggy will attend.
Discuss Green River Road Bridge #17
When the highway department patched a pothole in the #17 bridge they discovered the damage is more extensive than originally expected, it goes through to the rebar. Rafus recommended having an engineer do an inspection of the whole bridge structure and advise the Town how to proceed. My opinion is we are going to need a deck replacement, he added. That bridge was built in 1939. The Board agreed Rafus should ask Sven (Scribner), a State Structural Engineer, to examine the bridge.
Discuss LaRiviere Letter re Aldrich Road
The Board has received an email from Michael LaRiviere, who owns a house and property on Aldrich Road in Whitingham, on the Halifax/Whitingham town line. Whitingham does not plow that section of Aldrich Road; Halifax plows to the town line, and LaRiviere has been hiring a private contractor to plow from the line up the hill to his house. LaRiviere is requesting that Halifax town crews, with their larger equipment, plow and sand that section of road in return for a yearly $500 donation. Sumner said Whitingham had discontinued a portion of Aldrich Road, and the rest is probably Class 4. Rafus, who drove out to inspect the road, said it is narrow, steep, and used by VAST snowmobilers in winter. The highway department uses the tandem to plow the Halifax section of Aldrich, so they would have to make a special trip up there with a smaller truck to plow on the other side of the line. We can’t get into plowing private driveways, said Rafus; we would be setting a precedent for everyone in town. Years ago, recalled Sumner, the Town used to plow private driveways, but they voted at Town Meeting to give it up. It took too long, driveways were narrow, and there was no place to turn around. Rafus also mentioned liability issues; would be plowing in another town, on someone else’s property, he said. Sumner made a motion to have Gabriel draft a letter to Mr. LaRiviere declining to plow Aldrich Road from the Halifax town line to the LaRiviere residence. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In discussion prior to the vote, Rafus said he had been approached by Michael Drummey about reclassifying the section of Hall Road as far as his driveway as Class 3. Currently the Town plows/maintains the road to the point where it becomes Class 4, before it reaches the Drummey property. We would have to go through the hearing process, said Green. Sumner added that, per Town policy, the landowner would need to bring the road up to specifications. How long a stretch is it?, asked Combs. About 600-700 feet, Rafus responded. There are three houses on the Class 4 section. The road would need to be widened and the culvert should be bigger. Rafus and Green agreed that if the road were rebuilt/reclassified out to the third house, it would make sense to open the road straight through. Plowing all the way through would be more efficient than plowing to the turn-around and coming back out. Bridge and culvert maintenance on a Class 4 road is the Town’s responsibility, said Rafus. He told Combs there were three or four culverts beyond Drummey’s, but they are up to spec. Green and Rafus said the landowners should petition the Town if they wish to have a reclassification considered. Chait asked what the upgrading cost would be. Most of the road needs to be top-dressed, answered Rafus, and there is one 12-inch culvert that should be replaced.
Sumner signed Windham Regional Commission’s contract for assistance with the Town Plan update. The work will be funded, up to $8,000, by a Vermont DHCD municipal planning grant. The Planning Commission Chair will also sign the contract at next week’s meeting.
Hearing of Visitors
Chait, as Windham Regional Commission’s representative to the Town, shared information on several topics. On February 5th, WRC met with Windham County legislator Jeanette White. One topic under discussion at that meeting was a Senate bill, now in committee, pertaining to law enforcement. It has some requirements that seem onerous, said Chait. The bill, if passed, would end Vermont State Police contracts with municipalities, and require municipal studies to determine how towns would meet their law enforcement requirements. Chait said Senator White seems to feel strongly that VSP should not be contracting with towns, as they should devote their limited resources to major crimes and other State business. He recommended Town officials communicate with Senator White on this subject. Green said that with the reduction in Constable powers, if the Town lost its ability to contract with VSP we would have no law enforcement options. These are overtime hours, he stated; we are not taking anything away from the State. Combs asked about Sheriff’s department jurisdiction. They have contracts with a number of towns, he was told, but can operate anywhere in the State.
Chait said another bill, now in the House, is a proposal to change open meeting law, imposing further restrictions. VLCT (Vermont League of Cities and Towns) is opposed to the bill, advised Sumner; they have a lot of influence in the legislature. As this is a House issue, said Chait, the person to talk to would be John Gannon.
Third, the Green River Watershed Alliance has been gathering material and working to clarify its mission. Chait asked if he or Everett Wilson could share some of this information at Town Meeting. One planned event will bring road crews from Halifax, Marlboro, and Guilford together to learn about road resiliency in relation to watersheds. There is also a planned snowshoe tour of the Green River headwaters. Green suggested setting up a table with informational flyers and/or posting materials on a bulletin boards. Rafus asked if WRC is working on the information sheet for Act 64 (Clean Water Act); he has questions about the impact of the law on individual landowners, particularly in relation to new ditching requirements, and tree and berm removal. WRC is putting together a brochure on the topic, said Chait; he will get copies and more information for the Board. Rafus said the flyer would be a good addition to the materials presented at Town Meeting. Chait and Coombs said they had agreed to disagree—Combs has concerns about trails bringing in more people and possible harm to the environment. Rafus expressed doubts about Act 64 plans for berm removal; in practice it might actually create more erosion points. The new requirement for stone-lined ditches also came under discussion. It only works well on paved roads, said Rafus, where there is not a lot of silt build-up.
2018 Informational Meeting: Sumner made a motion to hold the pre-Town Meeting informational meeting on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. in the school multi-purpose room. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Notices will be posted ten days before the meeting, on Town bulletin boards, online, and in the Annual Report.
If you have a septic system put in, does it have to go through the State?, asked Combs. Yes, said Board members; an application goes to the State, and the system has to be professionally engineered. The town health officer used to do this, but now the State approves and inspects.
Sign Orders to the Treasurer
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
New correspondence was reviewed. The Board signed one overweight permit. Applications have been received from AOT for this year’s highway grant process. Rafus will apply for a structures grant, although Halifax was awarded a grant last year so we’re not high on the list. A letter from the State advised that Vermont municipalities have the option of taking responsibility for wastewater and potable water permitting. Few towns have exercised this option, due to the time and expense involved.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.