OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
January 19, 2010
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:28 PM. Board members in attendance were John LaFlamme, Lewis Sumner, and Mitchell Green. Others in attendance were Al Dacey, Mike Drummey, Greg Marguet, Ron Smith, Linda Smith, Mary Brewster, Merle Eggert, Margo Avakian, Christina Moore, Keith Stone, Brad Rafus, Craig Stone, Becky Jurek, and Board Secretary Phyllis Evanuk.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Sumner moved to accept the minutes of the January 5, 2009 meeting as written.
Mr. Green seconded the motion.
The motion carried 3-0, and the minutes were approved.
Ø Mike Drummey, Energy Conservation Officer was in attendance to advise that legislation had been adopted in 2009 that allows towns to set up Clean Energy Districts. This allows towns to accept applications for clean energy projects by homeowners in their town and then apply for municipal funding of those projects which are then paid back through a tax lien, a line item on your tax bill. There is no town liability. They are structuring the program so that if there was a foreclosure, when you set the loan up there is a fee applied to an escrow account so that if one in twenty went to foreclosure, there would be money to cover it. He requested that an article be put on the warning for Town Meeting to see if the voters will approve Halifax being designated as a Clean Energy District. This is the first step in the process. Then the program would need to be set up and approved by the voters before it could be implemented. He advised that he only found out about this program a week ago and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get the concept before the voters this year. He also advised that by Town Meeting he will have much more information to pass on to the voters regarding how the program works.
Ø Linda Smith, regarding the Road Crew pay raise. Mrs. Smith was in attendance to ask for a more complete explanation regarding the Road Crew pay raise than the one line that was in the news article. She advised that probably everyone had read her letter to the editor about it, and she felt that she should come to the meeting so that people had a chance to discuss it. She advised that she would like to understand the reasoning behind the increase during such hard economic times.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that the Board had considered a number of things when they were discussing the cost of living increase (COLA) among which were the fact that they had only given a partial COLA last year, they did not give performance bonuses or increases last year and do not anticipate giving them this year, and the pay rate for road crew workers is less in Halifax than in the surrounding towns. He advised that the town is fortunate to have dedicated and skilled workers and they felt that the COLA approved was a step toward keeping good workers. He further advised that the Road Crew had voluntarily cut back their normal 45 hour week to 40 hours for the summer months, to assist the Town in dealing with the tight budget.
Mrs. Smith raised the question of guaranteed overtime, which she advised she had never heard of such a thing.
The Board advised that in the Employee Handbook it states that the work week for the Road Crew is a 45 hour week. This does not guarantee overtime, but does allow a worker to complete 5 hours of overtime. If a worker only completes 40 hours then that is what he is paid for. There is no guaranteed 45 hours of pay no matter what. The Board can change that at any time, but the reason for the option of overtime was another attempt at equalizing pay with other towns that offer a higher hourly rate. Mr. Green advised that they have a very good Road Crew and they are trying to keep them.
A discussion of the storm damage recovery and costs followed. Questions regarding the reimbursements from FEMA and the use of subcontractors for tree removal were raised and answered. The Board advised that the system they implemented of using the town workers and equipment when they could, and contracting out for what they could not do had been the most cost-effective method for the town.
Mr. Marguet suggested that the Road Commissioner should be an elected position rather than appointed by the Selectboard. He feels that then the voters would have the control of how the Road Crew is managed.
The Board advised that the Road Commissioner could be an elected position, but the Road Crew Supervisor is hired by the Board and is the one who manages the Road Crew. It would be hard to find a qualified person to fulfill the duties of the Road Commissioner for the amount that the position pays ($350) per month. By appointing the Road Crew Supervisor as the Road Commissioner they have the advantage of having a working, knowledgeable person filling the two positions.
Having had her questions regarding the COLA answered, Mrs. Smith advised she had one more question. She inquired as to when the road signs at the junction of Branch Road and Route 112 would be replaced. She advised she was not aware that she lived in ‘Hallifax’.
Mr. Rafus advised that the state highway department was responsible for them and that they knew they were wrong but put them up anyway. He gave her the number to call to lodge a complaint.
Ø Al Dacey was in attendance to request permission to use Josh Road for skidding logs from the Medeiros property at the south end of Josh Road. He advised that he may have another solution, and now wants to know what the liability to the town is regarding the bridge on Evans Road. He advised that the bridge is in very poor deteriorated condition and wanted to know if Mr. Dennison and/or he wanted to fix it, what implications or liabilities would it pose. Evans Road is a trail and as such the town doesn’t maintain it.
After a short discussion it was decided that any improvements would be welcome and that as the town doesn’t maintain trails, there would be no liability to the town. People use the trails at their own risk.
Mr. Dacey advised that if he and/or Mr. Dennison undertake the repairs he would inform the Board prior to doing so to be sure they are aware of the situation. He further agreed that if he does use Josh Road for logging he will be sure that no damage is left uncorrected.
The remaining ‘new business’ items were deferred until visitors were heard.
Hearing of Visitors
Ø Ms. Brewster advised that the Auditors had received almost all of the information they needed from the Treasurer. There was one area remaining that Mrs. Dow could not provide the answer to. The alternative funding sources under the 6100 line item – salaries. She gave the 3 amounts and asked Mr. Green to identify the sources.
Mr. Green advised that one was from Town Clerk Fees and the other two were FEMA reimbursements.
Ms. Brewster advised she had also given them the figures for the old and new excavators and read off the figures she had and asked if they were correct. There was a short discussion of insurance and rental amounts and Ms. Brewster advised she would get the deposit information on the rental reimbursement from Mrs. Dow.
Ms. Brewster advised that she had just one more piece of business. She advised that she had been “approached a week ago last Monday by Wayne Courser regarding a petition that has been circulating proposing the discontinuance of the office of town auditor. He mentioned that it was felt by the petitioning group that Halifax, a small hamlet, was being ‘citified’. Secondly the auditors are in receipt of the summary of accounts requested from Mitch Green, the bookkeeper for the Selectboard, which is computer dated November 30, 2009, meaning that on November 30, 2009 this report was printed. This is the same report that Mitch has said was unavailable as recently as January 5th 2010, at”
Mr. Green interrupted “Okay, wait, wait, stop right there”
Ms. Brewster replied, “No, you be quiet” and she continued “…at the last Selectboard meeting. It has become obvious to me that the auditors and Selectboard are not on the same page, and that I as one of the auditors am not willing to live with the shift in reality that so often occurs. My term as auditor has met with much resistance despite the community support and the support of most of the town offices to make the finances more transparent. The Selectboard appears not to support our endeavors, so after much consideration I am resigning as auditor, effective March 2nd at our Town Meeting, and here is my letter of resignation.”
Ms. Brewster handed the Board her letter of resignation and gathered her things to leave.
Ø Mr. Green advised “Okay, I want to clarify that date thing. I don’t realize why that printed out as 11/30 because this was printed the night that I put it in your file. I don’t know why the computer printed it at 11/30, whether the date was off and I didn’t notice it or what I don’t know. I noticed it when I got home that night…why does that say 11/30?”
Ø Mr. Eggert advised that he “has served four consecutive years as an auditor and prior to that two other years as auditor, and I feel I have done my civic duty and at this point I’d like to give somebody else an opportunity to be an auditor for the town and so I am resigning also effective March 2nd.” He submitted his letter of resignation.
Mr. Marguet advised that he couldn’t understand what was so difficult about coming up with the right figures with all of the computerization.
Mr. LaFlamme asked if he was familiar with those programs. Mr. Green advised that it is a whole lot different than working with personal finance.
Mr. Rafus advised that the main problem with the bookkeeping is that when you have grants or anything to do with FEMA, it may be as much as 18 months later when they send reimbursement money. You may be in an entirely different fiscal year and then you have to go back to see where the money is to be applied.
Mr. Sumner advised that another problem is that when they do send the checks, they don’t designate what it’s for so then they have to sit down and figure out what it is for and where it belongs.
Ø Ms. Jurek advised that she was planning on moving to Halifax and had decided to visit to see how Selectboard meetings go. She advised that she is the Town Administrator for Bernardston Massachusetts and she was impressed at how much information was given and with the participation encouraged by the Board.
Ø Mr. Rafus advised that he had been in contact with Rob Mitchell regarding crushing gravel from the Town’s supply. He advised that the cost would be $6.60 per yard for a minimum of 15,000 yards which is equal to 20,000 tons of gravel. Mr. Mitchell advised he could do it now if the weather cooperates. It takes about 2 weeks to get the equipment set up and with good weather it would be 2 to 3 weeks to crush. Mr. Mitchell will also defer part of the payment to the next fiscal year.
Mr. Rafus advised that currently they have been paying $16 per yard so that this would be a substantial savings to the town and would supply two or three years worth of gravel.
Mr. Sumner moved to approve contracting with Mr. Mitchell to crush a minimum of 20,000 tons of gravel as soon as possible with half payment to be deferred until after July 1, 2010.
Mr. Green seconded the motion., which carried 3-0.
On another note, Mr. Rafus advised that he had calculated the savings that the Road Crew including himself would give the town if they work only a forty hour week again this summer. He advised that at the new pay rate the savings would be $19,392.
Mr. Keith Stone advised that regarding the complaints about the Road Crew COLA he checked his 2009 property taxes and the municipal portion is just over one-half the amount of the education portion. He advised that he was not saying that the education funds weren’t needed, but he noted that it is always the municipal portion of the budget that is under fire.
Remainder of New Business Items
Ø Planning Commission Survey – Mr. LaFlamme shared a copy of the survey with the Board as an FYI.
Ø Representative to Rescue Inc. – Mr. LaFlamme tendered his resignation so that Christina Moore could be appointed in his place.
Mr. Green moved to accept the resignation of Mr. LaFlamme.
Mr. Sumner seconded the motion which carried 2-0-1, with Mr. LaFlamme abstaining.
Mr. Sumner moved to appoint Christina Moore to serve on the Rescue Inc. Board.
Mr. LaFlamme seconded the motion which carried 3-0.
Ø Mr. LaFlamme reviewed the proposed 2011 budget and the Board set January 26, 2010 at 7:30 PM for a work session to finalize the budget and work on the Warning.
Mr. Sumner moved to accept the resignations of Auditors Mary Brewster and Merle Eggert to become effective March 2, 2010 at Town Meeting, and to send letters of appreciation for their service.
Mr. LaFlamme seconded the motion which carried 3-0.
ü Mr. Rafus submitted some estimates for loaders to be considered by the Board for inclusion in the budget.
ü It was noted that there was an error in calculating the cost to the town on the first excavator. A piece of equipment valued at $7,500 had been used in lieu of a cash down payment. Mr. LaFlamme will notify the auditors of the change.
The mail was reviewed and appropriately filed.
Selectmen’s Order to Town Treasurer for bill payment
ü VLCT bill for insurance was reviewed. They combine the amounts owed by the Fire Department, EMS, and the Town on one bill. The Fire Department pays its own Workers Compensation and the EMS Workers Compensation will be paid by the Town from the voter approved money designated for EMS.
The order for payment of bills was completed and signed.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:35 PM.
Phyllis H. Evanuk