OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
July 11, 2013
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:30 PM at the town office. Board members in attendance were Edee Edwards, Earl Holtz, and Lewis Sumner. Others in attendance were Jessica Bruno, John LaFlamme, Sirean LaFlamme, Margo Avakian, Ross Barnett, Joe Tamburrino, Len Derby, Charlene Martynowski, Robert Martynowski, Chum Sumner, Laura Sumner, Paul Blais, Rick Gay, Marilyn Allen, Wayne Courser, Joan Courser, Nick Bartenhagen, Maggie Bartenhagen, Mitch Green, and Jesse Ferland.
Location of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC)
Edwards explained that Irene hit on 8/27 and 8/28/2011. The EOC and fire department was open and staffed for approximately 3 weeks. It was her opinion that it was staffed longer than necessary to meet the needs of the townspeople. We had talked about an after action review to see what went well and what needed to be worked on. On 10/22/11 a group met to talk about next steps at the after action review. Twelve people voted to improve the EOC by possibly moving the location to the town office/school so that administrative support could be added. Eight people voted to improve communication (radio, Disaster LAN, Internet etc).
Edwards expressed some concerns about the current location of the EOC. The elevation can’t be changed and it nearly flooded, you can’t immediately expand it to access Internet, phone lines, and meet administrative needs, you can’t offer another space for the fire department and EMS squad so they can perform their duties. These concerns can be addressed by moving the EOC to the town office. School safety can be addressed by giving the school a list of drill dates, times and participants. Records management concerns can be addressed by improving the storage of vital records in this space. Any investments should be minimal to improve the town office space. She also noted that the fire department needs their own space and it also has accessibility issues.
Holtz expressed that he feels the EOC needs to be flexible enough to move it anywhere. Having the EOC tethered to a specific location is dangerous. Flexibility is key.
Lewis Sumner expressed that he doesn’t feel the town office is big enough. There are many people at the drills. No one has come up with the cost to move the EOC and it will be expensive. The way it is now, the majority of the drill participants are firemen, EMS, and highway crew members and he feels the best thing is to leave it where it is.
Edwards asked what Sumner associates with the cost of moving. Sumner replied that the antenna for the radio was just put in about a year ago and it’s cemented in. That will cost about $1800-1900 for a new antennae and cable, plus approximately $1400 for a new radio. Tamburrino expressed his concerns about where the money will be coming from. Taxes are high enough and it’s not fair to have the people put more money in.
Laura Sumner inquired what the school district feels about moving the EOC. Chum Sumner as school director, replied that the school is not willing to accept moving the EOC to the school. They have safety issues with the State- a camera system and buzzers have to go in. He agrees that it should be mobile. If there is no school and a disaster occurs and the fire department is not useable, and you want to use the school Internet, phones etc, that would be ok. He added that it is not acceptable to hold drills at the school. He added that the safety audit representative was not happy with the town office being so close to the school as it is. Blais agreed with Chum Sumner’s statements and asked if anyone has investigated the community center. He feels a lot of the administrative functions should be done separately in another location.
Edwards explained that when Irene happened, the space was not set up. It was 4-5 days before we had a working environment. The perception that everything ran smoothly is perhaps rosy-glassed. She added that these activities are happening in a building that is not town owned. There is no formal arrangement to use that space and that is a big concern. There is also no direct ability to manage that space.
Joan Courser added that she would love for the town to own the community hall. It is getting hard for the four members to maintain the space, but it would take a lot of work to get it ready.
Derby added that Irene was a learning experience. Another high water incident is probable and you shouldn’t travel through water on roads. The community hall may be a better choice. What would it take to move the equipment, and what would the cost be? The fire house is one of the better choices. What would it take to make it more portable?
Lewis Sumner added that the community hall was worse off than the fire department during Irene. Edwards added that the Internet was the tool used for the majority of communication during Irene. They used it to communicate with the town, to get resources, to request resources from the WRC etc. The town garage and the community center don’t have Internet, and it is so vital. This building is more flexible because if the DSL goes down, we could ask the school to use the fiber. Blais responded that the school’s Internet is more likely to be down because of how it’s routed through the state.
Maggie Bartenhagen added that during the lessons learned task force, redundancy was key. No matter where the EOC is located, you have to have a plan B. You also need mobility with the required elements of what’s needed during a response.
John LaFlamme presented a comparison of three potential sites for the EOC (Attached). The fire department, the town office, and the town garage were compared. A cost analysis to improve the sites was also included. As a co-EMD, he suggests that the primary EOC location be the fire department and the town garage should be the secondary location to fulfill the need for mobility. When an incident grows in size and complexity, an offsite multi-agency coordination group should be located at the town office. We need to make the EOC functional for a worst case scenario and have an alternative for a back-up. Edwards expressed that if an incident were to happen tomorrow, the town garage is not functional as there is no Internet. It was the primary form of communication during Irene. Tamburrino added that during Irene, he moved to the town office to do the purchasing because the fire department was too noisy. He had no trouble communicating with the fire department or the town garage. Edwards expressed that she has issues with spending money to upgrade the fire department which is a private building and then using more funds to upgrade the town garage to make it functional.
Chum Sumner reiterated that if there is a disaster and there is no school in session, then the building can be used, but he does not want it to be a primary or secondary official EOC.
Barnett added that the town office is an optimal place for administrative tasks, but not for emergency operations/public safety coordination.
Hearing of Visitors
Many individuals reiterated that redundancy, flexibility, and a backup plan are essential. There was a brief discussion about a storage trailer. The Selectboard let the visitors know that the trailer idea was let go due to cost (approx $20k).
Blais added that resources are available through the state Civilian Emergency Response Team, and they have a mobile unit (perhaps in Wilmington).
The group also discussed the importance of communication.
Wayne Courser added that he had attended at least three meetings regarding the EOC and the town of Halifax was commended for the job they did. They all looked up to Lewis Sumner. Sumner added that the road crew and fire department did an outstanding job.
John LaFlamme explained that the EMD’s are looking at creating a 72 hour shelter in Halifax with the help of the Red Cross. People interested in volunteering should contact him.
Holtz would like a written plan explaining how an alternate site would operate. How would the functions be broken up? We need a more detailed All Hazards plan.
Holtz made a motion to have the EMD’s create a plan describing how to staff and operate an alternate site.
There was no second to the motion.
Lewis Sumner made a motion to make the primary Emergency Operations Center at the firehouse and use the town office for administrative functions if needed during an emergency. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 3-0-0.
The Selectboard will follow up regarding any contractual/legal issues related to using the firehouse.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:00 pm.