OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
July 17, 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, Sue Kelly, Cara Cheyette, Tristan Roberts, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Lewis Sumner added a Board of Health update from Sue Kelly.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Sumner made a motion to accept the 7/3/18 regular meeting minutes as written. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Mitch Green, who was absent on 7/3, abstaining.
Green made a motion to accept the 7/5/18 special meeting minutes as written. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Road Reclassification Discussion (continued)
Rafus advised he had measured the portions of Aldrich and Hall Roads under consideration for reclassification to Class 3. Hall Road’s section is 1,000 feet, averaging 19 feet wide, and Aldrich’s section is 1,452 feet, averaging 21 feet wide. We’ve been plowing one for six or seven years, he added; if we change classification we’ll get some State money. Green asked about other town roads which had been mentioned at previous meetings. Sumner recommended discussing Aldrich and Hall first, as they were Class 4 roads which might be changed to Class 3. They can all be addressed in one hearing, but separately.
Stephan Chait remarked that Class 3 and Class 4 roads have different State requirements. If you change to Class 3, do you have to comply immediately with those requirements, or only if you were to modify that section of road?, he asked. We are required to make changes as needed for maintenance reasons, answered Rafus. If we change a Class 4 to a Class 3, for instance, we don’t have to alter all the culverts. But if during maintenance we learn a culvert is bad, we must replace it to Class 3 standards. Actually, culvert specifications are now the same for both classes anyway. After Irene, the State changed the requirements.
Sue Kelly asked whether, now Act 64 is in place, there was a plan to review all the Town’s Class 4 roads and perhaps change them to Class 3 or Legal Trail. Rafus has started researching classification change on Worden Cemetery Road, and thinks the portion may need to remain Class 4, due to State law regarding roads leading to cemeteries. Perhaps the rest of the road could be reclassified as trail, but there must be public access to cemeteries. And, said Green, you have to be able to get to them with a vehicle. How many cemeteries do we have?, asked Ray Combs. Twenty-seven, answered Rafus. Tristan Roberts asked what class his end of Thurber Road was, and what was the difference (in classification). It’s trail, replied Rafus. The main difference is legal trails don’t count as road frontage, which is required if a landowner is going to build. One of the recent changes, said Green, is that the Town now must maintain water flow on Class 4 roads. Cara Cheyette, who arrived a few minutes into the meeting, asked whether a hearing date had been set. No, said Sumner, we just started discussion. Rafus told Chait that a part of Old Stage Road is currently Class 3, and the rest is Class 4. There is a difficult-to-access spot on the Class 4 section which the State has noted needs water control maintenance.
Sumner made a motion to change Hall Road, as far as the Drummey driveway, and Aldrich Road, from the beginning of the Class 4 section to the Whitingham town line, from Class 4 to Class 3. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In further discussion, Chait asked if there were other Class 4 roads which might become Class 3. Not presently, said Sumner. Does it cost to go to Class 3?, asked Roberts. Green said the Town receives money from the State to assist with Class 3, but not Class 4, maintenance. That’s the reason we want to go to Class 3. Rafus told Combs Aldrich Road has a plow truck turn-around; one would have to be created on Hall Road. Regarding other roads, Rafus will do more research on Worden Cemetery Road, and Gabriel will research past legal rulings on Old Stage Road. Sumner remembers that a previous attempt to change Old Stage from Class 4 to Legal Trail was denied in an Environmental court ruling in the 1970s. The Board will solicit Town Attorney Robert Fisher’s advice. Old County Road North is also a possibility for reclassification, said Sumner; a property owner with frontage on the Legal Trail section on that road would like to build a house on their land. The Board may set a hearing date at their next regular meeting.
Employee Handbook Revision/Discussion
Sumner advised that under current law, an employee cannot be without health insurance. Therefore the Town’s Personnel Policy has been revised to delete wording in the insurance section stating that employees will be insured after a 90-day probationary period. Green made a motion to sign the amended version of the Halifax Personnel Policy. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Board members signed the updated document. New employees will now be insured as of the first day of the month following the month in which they were hired.
Set Tax Rate
The State has provided education tax rate figures, said Sumner. Non-resident rate is $1.4444, Homestead rate is $1.2290. The municipal tax rate is $0.8525. Total Homestead rate is $2.0815, total Non-resident rate is $2.2969. Sumner said last year’s Homestead rate was $2.1279; this year’s rate is approximately four cents less. Last year’s Non-resident rate was $2.2765, this year’s rate is about two cents more. Sumner made a motion to approve the Homestead tax rate at $2.0815, and the Non-resident tax rate at $2.296. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Sumner told Chait the tax bills will go out on the same schedule as last year. Bills will be mailed in late July or in August, and will be due by September 30th. Sumner told Cheyette each town sets its due date schedule by Town Meeting vote.
Bridge #31 Inspection Report
The State inspects town bridges on a two-year schedule, and the Selectboard has received a VTrans report of damaged planking on bridge #31, the bridge on Josh Road at the Jacksonville Stage end. This bridge has been on our radar, said Rafus; we talked about it last fall. He said he closed the bridge today; as further damage was done by someone driving between the runner and the edge of the bridge. The structure will remain closed until repairs are made. We did put money in the Town account to fund these repairs, Rafus said. He told Chait there would be no financial assistance from the State. While we could apply for a grant, we would then be obliged to do everything, rather than just replacing the planking. The bridge has a 6,000-pound weight restriction. Sumner made a motion to have Rafus order the lumber for the project and to submit the State’s form confirming repairs would be effected within 60 days. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Rafus told Combs the deck would be repaired, but the I-beams and abutments are in good condition.
Board of Health Update
Town Health Officer Sue Kelly submitted a written report to the Board of Health detailing progress on a rental housing code situation in town. As of now, the property owner has indicated he will give the property in question to the tenant. Kelly explained to Rafus that the reported violations will go away if the tenant owns the property, because the rental housing code will no longer apply. What were the problems?, asked Green. The tenant made a complaint, replied Kelly, and new changes to State statute require that when a complaint is received the entire property must be reviewed for all potential violations. The list is very thorough, and Kelly found a number of violations in addition to those about which the tenant had complained. We favor mediation over enforcement, said Kelly, and now an agreement has been reached between tenant and landlord, we are not imposing the required fines for failure to meet repair deadlines. Kelly will be monitoring the situation to confirm that the owner retains an attorney and completes the property transfer. In the meantime, she went on, as long as no further rental monies change hands, the matter of violations is not an issue. Chait asked if the tenant would pay property taxes when she assumed ownership. Kelly said yes; deeds would have to be changed as currently two parcels are combined under one ownership. Sumner confirmed for Chait there would be no need for subdivision.
Sumner asked EMD Peggy Rafus for a status report on FEMA storm damage reimbursement. All our paperwork has been submitted, she responded; there were a few questions that required additional documents, but that has been completed.
Hearing of Visitors
Stephan Chait reported that he had spoken with WRC’s Emily Davis, and there may be an opportunity for Halifax to host a road resiliency and watershed workshop similar to the one presented by the Green River Watershed Alliance last May in Guilford. Chait said he would keep the Selectboard advised of progress, and perhaps the Board could arrange an announcement to make residents aware of the event once a date has been set. The purpose of the workshop is to demonstrate how water acts and reacts with the terrain, and also to teach people about the State’s new Act 64 requirements and their effect on municipal roads. And their impact on Town budget, added Rafus. Sumner noted that the Road Commissioners from Halifax, Marlboro, and Guilford were present to field questions at the Guilford event; he would like to have them available at a Halifax meeting, also.
Ray Combs mentioned some stone the highway crew has added to the shoulder partway up Town Hill (Jacksonville Stage). Rafus said the hill is steep there and gravel washes, so they filled the eroded shoulder with stone, which might hold. Rafus also said he had a replacement sign for the one missing from Tucker Road.
Selectboard’s Order to Treasurer for Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Correspondence was reviewed.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:59 p.m.