OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
January 7, 2014
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:32 pm. Board members in attendance were Lewis Sumner, Earl Holtz, and Edee Edwards. Others in attendance were Jessica Bruno, Margo Avakian, John LaFlamme, Greg Marguet, Kane Smart (VTel attorney representative), Marilyn Allen, David Brewster, Mary Horne, Howard Smith, Larry Crosier, Nick Bartenhagen, Maggie Bartenhagen, Jesse Ferland, Ray Combs, Kathy McLean, Linda Lyon, Abigail Bak, Katharine Bak, Steve Andrews, Sandy Cohen, and Steve Cohen.
VTel Tower Proposal for 4G LTE Wireless Broadband
Kane Smart from Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC attended the meeting as VTel’s attorney representative. He would like to get a recommendation from the Selectboard that VTel can take to the public service board (PSB). Smart explained section 248(a) which allows wireless providers to choose a path for approving facilities. Whereas before it was subject to local zoning, the applicant can now choose instead approval from the public service board. The public service board has criteria to review and incorporate many of the ACT 250 criteria, but they are not subject to Act 250. The PBS also imposes a 45 day pre-filing period during which the applicant provides notice to towns and landowners.
The project is on Old County Road. A 90 foot single carrier communications pole is proposed. The antennas are flush mounted to the pole. VTel intends to provide wireless broadband. This would be one of 200 sites which are part of a network. Their primary objective is to bring Internet to homes and businesses without wired service. A router or laptop dongle is needed to receive the signal. Speeds are comparable to the wired lines and the footprint is small. The pole will be atop a 10×7 concrete pad with a single equipment cabinet. The site chosen on Larry Crosier’s property was picked to minimize clearing. A 100 foot gravel surfaced access road will be off of Jacksonville Stage Rd. Propagation maps in the package sent to the town show predicted coverage areas. Coverage depends on terrain, height etc, but it is projected to cover 300 rooftops.
The group briefly discussed the Whitingham pole, but it is not certain where it is located. Smart was not certain when service would be available. Edwards asked for the status of other local towns- Smart will inquire and get back to her but he noted that Guilford is approved. Smart explained that the existence of a gap doesn’t mean the downfall of the network. It could affect the location of another, but one gap will not impede employment of the network. Smart explained briefly how the towers communicate via microwaves and fiber, and discussed boosters to amplify the signal.
Andrews noted that the height of the trees at the site is 20-25 ft taller than as noted in the VTel proposal. He inquired whether this would affect the height of the tower or if trees would need to be trimmed. Smart replied that trees and buildings do have an effect on service but the trees at the site should not impact it. There was never a plan to trim trees or a discussion about having a tower higher than 90 ft. The tower is not constructed to be expandable. The antennas are flush mounted and not intended to be above the pole. He indicated that it’s rare to find trees over 90 ft tall, but the suitability of the location was determined by VTel’s engineers and the site is sufficient to meet their coverage objectives.
The group discussed the height of the tower. On page three of the proposal it mentions that the facility doesn’t exceed 140 ft total height. Smart explained that paragraph is in reference to the classifications created under section 248(a). If a tower exceeds 140 ft, it is no longer of limited size and scope and no longer falls under section 248(a).
The group discussed setbacks. The pole was originally in a different location but has now been moved to a 100 ft setback.
The group discussed the pole location. The site is at the gateway to a 250 year old cemetery. Smart noted that he has not received feedback from VT Historic Preservation yet, but VTel has to comply with NEPA which ensures against environmental and historic impact. He also noted that the VT Historic Preservation officer gets a checklist. This phase is only addressing local zoning and the town plan. Cemeteries have no specific recognition in the town plan according to Smart. He also noted that cemeteries are addressed in the pre-filing package by VTel. Andrews noted that he spoke with the state historic officer who indicated that the project will require a section 106 review as it’s on the foundation of an old schoolhouse and is so close to the cemetery. He indicated they will need an architectural historian and an archeological study which is a slow process. Andrews recommends choosing another site now as the delay will be longer if it needs to be addressed during state or federal review. Smart explained that there is no backup site. A lot of diligence goes into selecting a site. If this location doesn’t work, they are ultimately at square one. Crosier indicated that the schoolhouse bricks were sold long ago, the site is not an official historic site, and there is absolutely no foundation left. When it was torn down, it was bulldozed smooth and no artifacts are left of the school.
The Selectboard thanked everyone for their time and interest. Holtz and Sumner are leaning towards a recommendation with no stipulations. Edwards would like to process the comments from tonight’s meeting and discuss the issue at the next regular Tuesday meeting (1/21/14). Smart noted that Windham Regional Commission did not have concerns but also noted that Dinah Reed is new to the 248(a) process. He also noted that 45 days after the filing of the application, a decision should be made by the public service board.
Everyone except the Selectboard, Bruno, and LaFlamme left the meeting.
Bid & Construction Schedule- Old County North Bridge
The schedule was revised to receive bids on 1/31/14. The schedule is now as follows:
Plans available for purchase by bidding contractors- 1/10/14
Bids to be received by Halifax Town Hall- 1/31/14 (3:00pm)
Bid Opening at Halifax Town Hall- 1/31/14 (5:00pm)
Contractors must not withdraw bids until- 5/30/14
Notice to Proceed Construction- 5/12/14
Construction Start Date- 5/19/14
Bridge Closure (30 days maximum)
Construction Completion- 7/2/14
Holden is working to get easements and will send the Selectboard a new cost estimate.
Hazard Mitigation Plan
Edwards located the Halifax Hazard Mitigation Plan. LaFlmme noted that it was sent to FEMA region I but was never approved (due to Irene). As a plan was already adopted, the Selectboard would like to make any minor updates and resubmit it for approval. They do not want to undertake the whole planning process again.
Sumner noted that the fire department tried to submit another year of paperwork but it wouldn’t go through. They are working on getting this resolved.
Edwards would like Christina Moore to meet with them to give them a status update on their Deer Park Bridge appeal.
Holtz met with the co-EMD’s regarding workload and priorities. He also noted that the VTA approved/recognized the Halifax business district.
Future Agenda Items
Approval of Minutes
Holtz made a motion to accept the December 18, 2013 Regular meeting minutes as corrected. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed 3-0-0.
Sumner made a motion to accept the December 23, 2013 Regular meeting minutes as written. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 2-0-1 (Edwards abstained).
Edwards made a motion to accept the December 30, 2013 Regular meeting minutes as written. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 3-0-0.
Holtz made a motion to accept the January 4, 2014 Special meeting minutes as corrected. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed 3-0-0.
The mail was reviewed and filed.
Selectmen’s Order to Town Treasurer for bill payment
The order for payment of bills was completed and signed.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:49pm