OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
February 5, 2019
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 Everett Wilson, Stephan Chait, Ray Combs, Nancy McCrea, Diana Conway, Jessica Cooney, Cara Cheyette, Bob Spencer (WSWMD), Athena Lee Bradley (WSWMD), Michelle Cherrier (WSWMD), and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Mitch Green made a motion to approve the 1/15/19 regular meeting minutes as written. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Green made a motion to approve the 1/29/19 special meeting minutes as written. Lewis Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Bob Spencer—WSWMD Guest Speaker
Sumner welcomed the guests from Windham Solid Waste Management District; Bob Spencer, Director; Michelle Cherrier, Chairman of the Board; and Athena Lee Bradley, Program Manager. Michelle Cherrier said they were very happy to be here and have the opportunity to answer questions and hear suggestions. Cherrier emphasized the value of member towns inviting WSWMD representatives to open meetings to share information. Sumner thanked Cherrier and mentioned that she is also a WSWMD representative to Dummerston.
Spencer distributed copies of the WSWMD 2018 annual report to member towns, and left additional copies for citizens interested in learning more about WSWMD operations. (Note: These copies are available on the front counter in the Town Office.) Spencer said that since recycling was discontinued at the Ferry Road plant people have been asking what the waste district does; the annual report details the various services WSWMD provides. For Halifax specifically, district membership cost has decreased from $8,897.79 in FY17 to $5,003.56 in FY20. Costs are calculated on a dollar amount per resident. The District has been working to implement cost control; currently Athena Lee Bradley, who took Kristin Benoit’s position when Benoit accepted a job in another state, is the only full-time employee in the office. Halifax residents purchase about 40 yearly access stickers at $35 each. Stephan Chait mentioned the composting program and Spencer said there is no charge for dropping off compost materials. A list of other recyclables accepted is available on the WSWMD web site. Cara Cheyette asked if Spencer has considered tracking day pass (single use pass) sales. Spencer said they are not doing that now but may in the future.
Spencer also discussed the now-operational Sky Solar group net metered project, which at 5 mega-watts is the largest in the state of Vermont. The project is providing energy cost savings to member municipalities, including Halifax. The State-mandated hazardous waste program, with four yearly collection events required, is the most expensive service WSWMD provides. Towns without District membership must provide this service on their own, and Spencer estimated the cost per year at $3-$4,000 minimum for set-up, plus a per-container charge, which could increase the initial outlay to $10-$12,000. Cherrier noted that hazardous waste collection represents a hidden cost; individuals pay $5 per car at collection points but the actual cost is much higher. WSWMD hires professional contractors for collections and utilizes State grants to offset some of this expense. We do have one District staff member at each collection site, added Bradley.
Spencer said State law requires the District to provide education and outreach, which is Bradley’s responsibility in her role as Program Manager. WSWMD also made roll-off containers available as loans to the member towns now contracting with recycling providers. Halifax has two of those containers. Bradley said she would be willing to spend some time at the recycling bins, or the post office, distributing flyers and educating people about correct recycling procedures. She will also provide flyers for the Town Office. Bradley works with schools, teaching disposal compliance and composting methods; she is also involved with municipal garden projects utilizing community composting bins, and said her goal is to offer backyard composting lessons in each town. Spencer advised that Vermont’s bear management biologist, Forrest Hammond, would be speaking at the WSWMD March meeting. Hammond has concerns about backyard composting attracting bears. There are options for minimizing composting-related bear problems, said Spencer. Cara Cheyette asked what land was being used for community gardens. In Stamford, replied Bradley, raised beds have been built on an old tennis court behind the school, and a tumbler will be used for composting. Diana Conway asked about buying compost from WSWMD. The District is not doing retail sales, but there are five local distributers, including Boyd’s in Wilmington and D&E Tree. WSWMD also provides community outreach through site visits to local businesses, another State requirement.
Chait asked about a plan for building a biomass anerobic digester. That’s on hold, said Spencer. Since the landfill closed, the methane produced has been used to power a generator and the electricity is sold to Green Mountain Power. However, the landfill is just about out of gas. Methane is explosive, and has to be handled very carefully. We have an ideal set-up to put in a methane generator powered by food waste, and we were funded by Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund to conduct a feasibility study, but the District board does not want to take on that project; there is too much risk. Sky Solar has purchased the landfill gas lease, and they have considered an anerobic digester, but they would need liquified food waste, and there’s not enough of that available right now. Ray Combs asked if a digester would have to be contained in a membrane. Yes, answered Spencer, it has to be airtight. The digester facilities are amazingly high-tech, he added, and spoke of viewing anerobic plants in Denmark late last year. Do you macerate the compost (at the landfill)?, asked Combs; what about the bones? They break down, said Spencer, we turn the piles with a loader. It takes about a year, then it has to be screened. Spencer told Chait that WSWMD might reconsider a digester project if the new laws generated more composting material. There would need to be a greater degree of material separation, however, as the liquefaction process requires pure food waste.
Spencer shared information about the differences between single and dual stream recycling, the effect of Chinese laws prohibiting import of recyclable materials, and the large savings Brattleboro has achieved through composting and their pay-as-you-throw bag program. Jessica Cooney stressed the importance of planning to reduce waste overall. She mentioned Brattleboro’s plastic bag ban, and said her household produces one bag of waste every two weeks. We compost, we buy bulk, and use cloth diapers, she added. Spencer said WSWMD will be discussing the possibility of a flow control ordinance—a mandate that all food wastes go to the District’s composting facility. Recently the District was approved for a 1.2 million dollar grant to buy a mixer and screen, and install an aerated slab and a de-packaging machine. WSWMD declined the grant because they could not guarantee they would have enough compost material to justify the project.
At the close of the presentation, Michelle Cherrier said she was happy to attend the meeting and hear what another town is doing. I’m glad you’re willing to continue to invest in the District, she added; it’s a good cooperative effort. Athena Lee Bradley encouraged people to contact her with questions and said she would be back in town to visit businesses and deliver flyers.
Employee Vacation Leave
After recusing himself on this topic, Rafus explained that currently employees get one week’s vacation after one year of employment, two weeks after three years, three weeks after seven years, and four weeks after twelve years. He has researched the subject, and our vacation time is comparable to other towns. Rafus recommended leaving the vacation schedule as it stands now, but suggested considering an additional week of comp time through the winter. That saves the town money, and is a benefit for the employees, said Rafus; they trade an hour of overtime for an hour and a half of vacation time. Rafus also learned we are not comparable with other towns in the areas of sick time or personal time, but said if those benefits were to be explored he would like to have a neutral party take on that project. We are just above the State mandate, he added. He suggest postponing any discussion of comp time changes until next year, as we are already halfway through this fiscal year. The Board agreed to revisit this discussion sometime in FY20.
Set Informational Meeting Date
Sumner advised that the Board had previously set a date for the yearly pre-Town Meeting Informational Meeting and Meet the Candidates night, but had then learned the meeting must be held within ten days of Town Meeting. The School’s time frame is a little different, so that meeting can be held more than ten days in advance. Sumner made a motion to hold the Informational Meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. in the School multipurpose room. Mitch Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Hearing of Visitors
Ray Combs said some washboard was appearing on the section of Collins Road that was paved last summer. We’ve met with the contractor, Rafus told him, and once the road settles from frostheaves, we’ll take a look at it. Rafus thinks that during paving they were pushing the trucks up the hill with the paver, which caused the ripples. It’s just the section before the first rise, he added.
Stephan Chait has seen the advertisement for Conservation Commission volunteers; he hopes there will be a good response to the notice, and we can move ahead with it.
Selectboard’s Order to Treasurer for Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Correspondence was reviewed and filed. The Board signed one overweight permit.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:23 p.m.