OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
May 17, 2011
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:30 PM. Board members in attendance were John LaFlamme, Lewis Sumner, and Edee Edwards. Others in attendance were Keith Stone, Brad Rafus, Peggy Webber, Earl Holtz, Joe Tamburrino, Charlene Martynowski, Linda Coombs, Ray Coombs, Mitchell Green, Patricia Dow, Jessica Bruno, Margo Avakian, Gretchen Becker, Hans Hammarquist, Ann Manwaring, Orrin Isles, Leonard Derby, Ray White, Curtis Carroll, Ben Barnett, Mike Fournier, Rick Gay, and Board Secretary Phyllis Evanuk.
Mr. LaFlamme advised he was impressed to see there was an increase in the number of visitors in attendance. He reminded them of the rules of conduct for the meeting. Anyone wishing to speak must wait to be recognized by the chair; all comments are to be addressed to the chair; any outbursts will be out of order; anyone speaking directly to others will be out of order; anyone who is out of order will first be warned, and if the action is repeated will be asked to leave. For clarification he further advised that no member of the Selectboard has more authority than another so these rules do not apply to Board members. For purposes of allowing all to know what is scheduled for discussion, any item that is not on the agenda is not open for discussion.
Approval of Minutes
Ms. Edwards moved to accept the minutes of the May 3, 2011 meeting as written.
Mr. Sumner seconded the motion.
The motion carried 3-0, and the minutes were approved.
1) Problems with Grader: Mr. LaFlamme advised that the grader broke down and they are in the process of trying to figure out the best way to proceed. He advised they have received further information regarding the issue and he invited Keith Stone to enlighten the visitors as to the condition of the equipment. Mr. Stone advised the visitors and Board members that the transmission was rebuilt 1500 hours before this breakdown. He advised that a transmission should go 10,000 hours before needing to be rebuilt or replaced. Milton Caterpillar took the transmission apart and found a piece of steel stuck in one of the electronic control valves, which put pressure on both sides of the clutch pack and caused it to “wipe out” the clutch packs on first, second, third, and fourth gears. . Mr. Rafus and Mr. Stone went to the Caterpillar dealer to see first hand the condition of the grader. He further explained that the problem was deeper than the transmission. He showed the visitors the damaged gear that was found in the rear end of the grader and which was the cause of the breakdown because it is so worn. Pieces of steel have flaked off of this gear and the identical gear on the other side of the rear end. A sump pump sends hydraulic transmission fluid to the clutch packs from the rear end and the steel flakes were pumped into the transmission along with the fluid. He advised that unfortunately the part he showed them is classified as Cat Part CS which is Caterpillar secondary, meaning if they choose to get a new one they will have to wait. In order to rebuild the rear end will cost $10,000 per side which does not include the transmission repair costs. He advised that Mr. Rafus had received the figures from Cat this morning and now it is up to the Selectboard and the voters.
Questions were asked and comments were made regarding whether or not another brand of equipment might be better, whether this piece of equipment was inferior in quality, and how long a life a grader could be expected to have.
It was noted that this grader has over 10,000 hours on it and it is basically suffering from metal fatigue. Mr. Rafus advised that this grader is only two-wheel drive whereas other towns that have a similar terrain to ours have four-wheel drive graders. Mr. Rafus presented a cost estimate for repairs at $49,195.04.
For a new grader the cost would be $290,000 and an additional $25,000 if they opt for a four-wheel drive. Currently they are $40,000 over-budget on the equipment line.
To purchase a new grader they would need $64,000 up front on a 5 year lease plan or $34,000 per year for a ten year lease. At the end of either term the equipment can be purchased for $1.
More discussion followed regarding what should happen. Ms. Edwards suggested they continue the rental until they gather more information. Mr. Stone suggested a special town meeting to decide. Mrs. Dow concurred, saying that with this much money the voters should have a say in the decision.
Mr. Sumner suggested that the bids requested should be 1) two-wheel drive new; 2) four-wheel drive new; 3) two-wheel drive used; and 4) four-wheel drive used. This would give the voters the broadest range of options upon which to make a decision.
Mr. Craig Stone advised that the specifications for bids should also include weight requirements.
Mr. LaFlamme moved to begin the process for having a Special Town Meeting and work with Mr. Rafus and Mr. Stone to develop the specifications for a grader to be requested in bids.
Ms. Edwards seconded the motion which carried 3-0.
In order to review and approve the bid specifications for the grader the Selectboard will meet on May 24, 2011 at 7:30 PM.
2) Orrin Isles, Current road conditions: Mr. Isles questioned how this year is different than other years, as the roads seem to be in terrible shape, and they weren’t this bad in other years. Why haven’t they put down the gravel to correct the roads.
Mr. Rafus advised that there are 53 miles of gravel roads, which under ideal conditions takes 5 weeks to do it once. With the bad winter, late snowfall, long wet spring, two weeks without a grader, and all of the rain they are behind. If we didn’t have the rain this week they would have had that whole section done. They started it on Friday.
Mr. Isles stated that Mr. Rafus had told him two years ago that he needed 30,000 yards of gravel to bring the roads up to specs. With all of the gravel that was crushed, why aren’t they putting it down to bring the roads up to specs?
Mr. Rafus advised that there isn’t enough time to put down 30,000 yards of gravel in a year. They put down 10,000 yards last year because they were doing no other road projects, no paving, so they had the time for that amount. What they have been doing is taking a section of a road each year and when that section is done then they do the same on another road. This is fairer than to spend all of their time on one or two roads only.
Ms. Edwards suggested that in order to let people know the expected schedule for the road crew Mr. Rafus might give a rundown of where they may be working for the next week or so. This of course is dependent on weather conditions and no emergencies.
Mr. Rafus advised that the agenda for this week was Jacksonville Stage Road, Deer Park Road, and Stowe and Stark Mountain Roads, then time permitting would be Tucker and Old County Roads. Then from there it would be Pennell Hill and MacMillan Road, and then just side roads after that. Of course the rain this week has changed that schedule. He noted that they graded Jacksonville Stage up to the center last Friday.
3) Fiber Connect Grant support: Ms. Edwards gave an update regarding the proposed fiber optic connection at the school. She advised that the cost to the school over a three year period is $5000. She suggested that the town might support the school for this additional amount by using the interest from the Eames Fund, by increasing the amount the town pays the school for leasing the town office space or the money could be raised through private donations. Any of these methods would not affect the amount of money the school receives from the state.
It was noted that the Eames fund interest is already earmarked for other things that the town is liable for, and that using it for the school would mean that the town would then need to raise taxes to cover the shortfall. It was also noted that the interest amounts have been consistently decreasing, giving the town less money from the fund. Mr. LaFlamme and Mr. Sumner were concerned with the prospect of having to raise taxes, but Ms. Edwards advised that if needed, they could cut spending in other places. Representative Ann Manwaring was in attendance to encourage the town to support the Fiber Connect project. She advised that if Halifax does not get it, the money will be spent elsewhere and we may never have this opportunity again.
Comments in favor of the project and the proposed support from the town were made by several visitors. Questions regarding the service being provided to places and homes other than at the school were raised. The main question is how long people will have to wait before the lines are available to them.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that Paul Blais of the School Board had given him some figures regarding the actual costs to the school over the long term. He advised that the “e-rate” is based on the school population, and with the small enrollment, which may be declining even further the e-rate could substantially change. Current Sovernet charges cost the school $500 per month. The Sovernet proposal would cost the school $700 per month. Fairpoint has a T1 system available that would cost the school $233 per month. These costs are before any discounts, but these figures were used to compare the different options.
Both Ms. Edwards and Mr. Carroll were firm in their belief that the Fiber Connect proposal is essential for the future technological viability of Halifax. Ms. Becker advised that just because no company has made the town aware of an interest in continuing the fiber optic connections to individuals doesn’t mean there are none. She advised that if she were in the business, she would not want to commit or even entertain the prospect until she was sure that the main trunk was approved. She said that Halifax is at the end of the line, so if they don’t approve this, they will not have the option of tying in at a later date.
Ann Manwaring advised that her take on this is that this proposal is an investment in the infrastructure of Halifax. She “passionately hopes” that the town will approve this project.
After a few more comments, a motion was made.
Ms. Edwards moved to approve the Halifax Selectboard will support the Sovernet Fiber Connect Grant to the Halifax School Directors to the $5000 mark over 3 years preferably using the Eames Fund as the source of that funding.
Mr. Sumner seconded the motion.
More discussion followed and it was noted that no matter what the town decides it is ultimately the school board’s decision.
Mr. LaFlamme called for a vote and the motion carried 3-0.
Due to the time, Mr. LaFlamme advised they would hear visitors before continuing with the New Business items.
Hearing of Visitors
Leonard Derby advised the Selectboard that the Town has to perform a background check on him to be sent to the Police Academy before he can be accepted for credit courses.
Charlene Martynowski advised that she had asked for a report of the budget figures for the Listers so she would know how much was available to them for the remainder of the fiscal year. She advised that the report she received does not show anything useful.
Ms. Edwards advised that she had not been given the individual figures for the bookkeeper to plug in.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that most of the figures can be calculated by entering the set amounts and that leaves few items to be figured out. He suggested this be put on the next agenda to allow more research.
The Board returned to New Business items.
4) Proposal for financial changes for the coming year: Ms. Edwards advised that when she was at the VLCT training there was a comment that it was possible to do a modified accrual basis for accounting which takes away the cash aspect of accounting. She felt this might give them a better idea of where they stand at the end of the year. She just wanted to bring it up as an option.
5) Chart of accounts, separate overtime from regular time: Mr. LaFlamme advised he had spoken with Mrs. Dow who looked at the quick books system and advised it is easy and it has already been done, so this doesn’t need to be an agenda item.
6) Highway Order for Bill Payment, practice of signing: Ms. Edwards read from the VLCT Selectboard Handbook (page 153). This will be on the next agenda as it needs discussion.
Items 4 and 6 will be continued to the next agenda.
Mr. Sumner asked about the Cemetery Commissioner appointment. Mr. LaFlamme advised he had forgotten to put it on the agenda, so it will be on the next agenda.
Continued to a future meeting
- Mr. Paul Taylor submitted his resignation from the Windham Regional Commission.
Mr. LaFlamme moved to accept with regret the resignation of Paul Taylor.
Ms. Edwards seconded the motion which carried 3-0.
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.
Before adjourning Ms. Edwards advised that she was not the only member to interact with the bookkeeper but she feels she is being quizzed and questioned about why she doesn’t have the information. She stated that either of the other two members can just as easily tell her if there is something they want her to do differently. Mr. LaFlamme advised that Ms. Edwards made it clear that it was a conflict for him to perform the bookkeeping for the Board so he feels if he directs her to do things differently it will be seen as retaliation as he was interested in the position.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:06 PM.
Phyllis H. Evanuk