OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
July 19, 2011
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:35 PM. Board members in attendance were John LaFlamme, Lewis Sumner, and Edee Edwards. Others in attendance were Carl Barmen, Jesse Ferland, Earl Holtz, Marilyn Allen, Maggie Bartenhagen, Nicholas Bartenhagen, Gretchen Becker, Joe Tamburrino, Rick Gay, Margo Avakian, and Board Secretary Phyllis Evanuk.
Mr. LaFlamme reminded those in attendance of the rules of procedure to be followed during the meeting.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Sumner moved to accept the minutes of the June 21, 2011 meeting as written.
Ms. Edwards seconded the motion.
The motion carried 2-0-1, with Mr. LaFlamme abstaining, as he was not at that meeting, and the minutes were approved.
Mr. LaFlamme moved to approve the minutes of the July 5, 2011 meeting to sign the warrant for payment of bills with two corrections. Ms. Edwards was not in attendance at that session and it had taken place after the Special Town Meeting, rather than before it.
Mr. Sumner seconded the motion, which carried 2-0-1, with Ms. Edwards abstaining.
Mr. LaFlamme moved to approve the minutes of the July 8, 2011 Site Visit to Hall Road with the clarification that Selectboard permission had been given to Cara Cheyette to improve the road to her property.
Mr. Sumner seconded the motion, which carried 3-0.
Regarding the Hall Road property, Mr. LaFlamme advised that power to the Cheyette property would be coming in from Michael Drummey’s property, not from Collins Road. He further advised that the utilities would be overhead, not underground.
It was subsequently determined that the road would be improved from the southern access rather than from Collins Road.
Hearing of Visitors
Rick Gay advised that there is a barking dog issue that has been brought to the Constable’s attention. He hopes something is done about it before it gets any worse.
Joe Tamburrino advised that the Grand List had been lodged.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that now they are waiting for the land use calculations from the state and then they will be able to set the tax rate.
Earl Holtz advised he would like to read a statement (a copy of which is attached and incorporated by reference) and was told he could. He read the statement which summarized his visit to the Town Office “on or about the 24th of June” of this year. He stated that John LaFlamme and Lewis Sumner were both at the office and in his last paragraph he stated that the purpose of the memo was “to document a meeting that was not warned and in my estimation was improper.”
He submitted a copy of this statement to be attached to the Selectboard Minutes.
Mr. LaFlamme advised his concern was that he had only asked Mr. Holtz a question regarding the ordinance requiring all trees within 18 feet of the center of the road, and if those trees would require Tree Warden approval. He further advised that Mr. Holtz was making assumptions that it was an unwarned meeting.
Ms. Edwards advised that she was not warned of this meeting.
Mr. LaFlamme replied that it was not an unwarned meeting.
Ms. Edwards replied “There were two people on the Board of Selectmen who were discussing a public matter in an unwarned meeting.”
Mr. LaFlamme advised all he had said was when they were going to meet and then he had called Ms. Edwards and told her the same thing. The rest of the conversation between he and Mr. Sumner had been Fire Department business. He again stated that assumptions were being made with no knowledge of what if any conversation had transpired prior to Mr. Holtz’ arrival.
Mr. Sumner advised that he had been in the office doing some work when Mr. LaFlamme stopped in, and it was only a couple of minutes later that Mr. Holtz arrived.
Mr. Holtz stated that his statement only referred to the conversation he had and he had no knowledge of anything else that may have taken place either before he arrived or after he left.
Carl Barmen advised that he had been “brought down on the same thing when I was on the Selectboard. I was talking about something on the outside with another Selectman and they told me right then and there, we can’t talk about anything outside of a regular meeting.” He further advised that the conversation they had (with Mr. Holtz) was not right, it should have been in an open meeting.
Margo Avakian asked for clarification from Mr. Holtz regarding the unwarned meeting. She advised she had the impression that what Mr. Holtz was referring to was only in regard to the short time he was present, not implying that it was anything else.
Mr. Holtz advised that he was only referring to the time he was conversing with them and that if someone came in to the town office they might interpret it as an unwarned meeting.
Mr. LaFlamme advised he is concerned that this might happen whenever anyone sees him talking to Mr. Sumner, at the fire station, the Post Office, or anywhere else.
Mr. LaFlamme noted that at the site visit the topic was discussed and Mr. Holtz said he would have an opinion. Mr. LaFlamme asked if he had that at this time.
Mr. Holtz advised that he has sent out inquiries to other tree wardens and foresters but has not received anything yet. From his perspective, because there is no job description for the tree warden so he has to go by state tree warden working description.
A discussion of the application of the 1983 town ordinance stating that all trees within 18 feet of the center of the road must be removed followed. The subject will be put on the agenda for the next meeting.
Jesse Ferland advised that he was confused by the rules for meetings. He noted that they say you can’t bring up certain items unless they’re on the agenda. He wanted to know why Mr. LaFlamme asked each visitor if they had anything to bring to the meeting if it needed to be on the agenda to discuss it.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that public meeting rules allow for visitors to be heard. The reason for having discussion items on the agenda is to allow everyone to know what topics will be discussed and have time to prepare in advance. This evening there were no scheduled agenda items so if visitors have something they wish to discuss they can do so, and if further discussion is warranted it can be put on a future agenda for continued discussion.
Nicholas Bartenhagen offered the suggestion of adding the rules at the top of the printed agenda and also the agenda online so that people would be aware of the rules prior to coming to the meeting. Mr. LaFlamme advised they would consider it.
Carl Barmen wanted to know who was in charge of the website and why things weren’t up to date.
Mr. LaFlamme advised the Selectboard was responsible. He advised that there are some issues, but the main one is the speed of the Internet connections used by the town for uploading information. He advised that the website was supposed to be on the agenda for tonight but the person who had requested it could not be here and so he had not scheduled it.
Ms. Edwards advised she would like it on the next agenda whether or not a particular person can be there.
Mr. Holtz advised that the Broadband Committee had requested that their meeting agendas and minutes be put on the official website. He volunteered that members of the committee could edit and upload them if someone would train them.
Marilyn Allen advised software is so easy now and there should be something easier to use that doesn’t take so much time.
Rick Gay advised that with dialup it’s about useless to try to access the website.
Margo Avakian said that she has dialup and can access it.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that there is nothing wrong with the website, the problem is with the slow speed of the Internet providers that make it a time consuming task. He also reminded them that the website is not the officially designated place to get town information. The website is a convenience, but not required.
Edee Edwards advised that she had a statement to read in response to the rumored petition asking for her apology for her conduct at the special town meeting. A copy of that statement is attached and incorporated by reference.
After she finished her statement, Mr. Holtz asked to make a comment. He advised that he thinks that in the past year Ms. Edwards has done a hell of a job, taking minutes at site visits, make analyses of expenditures, and she should be supported and encouraged to continue what she’s doing.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that with him being away and then her being away it was not possible to discuss the town meeting information with her in advance, and that in some respects he could see the advantage of having a larger Selectboard. Ms. Edwards agreed with him.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that every time he wanted to talk with her for 5 minutes he’d have to call a special meeting. She advised that to her that was a good use of the special meeting rule and told him to go for it.
Regarding the special town meeting Ms. Allen advised that she felt that a decision had already been made before they held the meeting, and would like to see more totally open discussion regarding town purchases of equipment, and explanations of why there are so many breakdowns and repairs. She suggested that it is because of road construction and the widening of the roads. She asked if they ever asked the people if they want wider roads. She advised that the taxpayers should have a lot more input before purchases are made.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that they had received a letter from Sam Groves regarding the Cael Scholarships awarded this year. They had awarded two $900 scholarships and there is not enough interest in the account to cover them. He advised he had spoken with Mr. Groves and if he uses unused interest from prior years, rather than only that from one year previous, then the awards can be covered.
Mr. LaFlamme advised they need to schedule a special Selectboard meeting with the Road Crew and Brad Rafus which will be in executive session for employee reviews. He will check with Brad to see what day is better: Tuesday or Thursday of next week.
Mr. LaFlamme advised he has been made aware of two small parcels that the town owns as a result of tax sales. One is on Branch Road and one is on Jacksonville Stage Road. It would be nice to get them back on the tax rolls. The voters would have to approve allowing them to sell them.
The mail was reviewed and appropriately 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 8:58 PM.
Phyllis H. Evanuk