OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
May 4, 2010
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:32 PM. Board members in attendance were John LaFlamme, Lewis Sumner, and Edee Edwards. Others in attendance were Earl and Pat Holtz, Carl Barmen, Merle Eggert, Greg Marguet, Wayne Courser, Andy Rice, Margo Avakian, and Board Secretary Phyllis Evanuk.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Sumner moved to accept the minutes of the April 20, 2010 meeting as written.
Ms. Edwards seconded the motion.
The motion carried 2-0-1 with Mr. LaFlamme abstaining as he was not present at that meeting.
Mr. Marguet complained that he had made several timely points at that meeting and they were not in the minutes. He asked if he could question the minutes. He advised that regarding the repair and/or purchase of equipment banks hire independent appraisers to evaluate the items being considered before financing the buyer. Independent appraisers do not sell or repair heavy equipment therefore they are in a position to give a fair assessment of the condition the equipment is in. He recommended that the Town hire an independent appraiser before the decision of repair or replacement is decided, and for all purchases of equipment in the future.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that getting an outside estimate of the equipments condition would be an additional cost. He asked Mr. Marguet if that was something he would be willing to pay? Every time we do that it is an additional cost.
Ms. Edwards advised that there was a clear statement at the top of the minutes that stated that the recorder stopped working after the first 4 minutes of the meeting so that it was not possible to capture all of the statements. She recommended that as they had already approved the minutes they should go ahead and add this to the discussion at this meeting.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that the loader had been put on the agenda for this meeting, but in speaking with Mr. Rafus he was informed that receipt of the bids is going to be delayed until the next meeting. Any meaningful discussion would be better to have at that meeting.
Mr. Marguet advised that it would be good to have Mr. Rafus here for that meeting.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that Mr. Rafus would be involved in that discussion, but he was most likely dealing with storm damage situations this evening.
Mr. Marguet suggested that they were skirting the issue of whether or not they even needed to get bids, or whether they can just buy a used loader.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that until they have all of the information no decision will be made and this discussion should be at that time.
Mr. Marguet continued to prolong the discussion and Mr. Rice interjected “Point of Order. This is the minutes we’re talking about we’re not discussing the loader yet.”
Mr. Marguet continued in an attempt to keep the discussion going.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that the loader was going to be skipped over until such time as they have all of the information needed.
Mr. Marguet then wanted to know what had happened to the recorder at the last meeting. The secretary advised that it had stopped recording and she was not aware that it had done so. Mr. Marguet continued questioning what the problem was and if it was fixed now. The secretary advised that to the best of her knowledge it was now working.
- Spokesperson on the Town of Halifax as a Clean Energy District – this item will be removed from the agenda until such time as they are sure the person will attend.
- Selectboard bookkeeper –
Ms. Edwards advised she had information on this item. She advised she had spoken with two people regarding the position and left message with a third.
a) Marguerite Serkin – a professional bookkeeper who lives in Guilford, VT ($30/hr.)
b) Riverbend Bookkeeping – no response
c) John McCluskey & Company- CPA located in West Dover ($100 month average)
A short discussion of what would be involved in this position. Basically it might involve more time to bring the records up to date and in transferring the data from the current program into the main program that the Treasurer and Highway Department both use. After that it will be very minimal. Mr. Holtz asked if these were the records that couldn’t be audited last year and suggested they should hire a CPA to be sure that things are done right.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that the problem last year was that the reports were delayed and that left less time for the auditors to review them, but they were audited.
Mr. Barmen asked how much the previous bookkeeper was paid. Mr. LaFlamme advised that he was paid $1500 a year. Mr. Barmen advised that if they hired a CPA at $100 per month they would be saving money.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that they might save money but that $100 per month was an average and depending on the number of hours it could be more money.
Mr. Eggert offered comments on why the system didn’t work and thoughts on how to make it better. Mr. Holtz suggested ways to on improving the system. Both agreed that they did not need to hire a CPA, only a competent bookkeeper.
Ms. Edwards advised that she strongly favored making a decision on a bookkeeper tonight to insure they do not fall farther behind.
Mr. Sumner moved to hire Marguerite Serkin as the Selectboard Bookkeeper.
Ms. Edwards seconded the motion, which carried 3-0.
Ms. Edwards will contact Ms. Serkin and advise that she has been hired and direct her to contact Patty Dow to complete the necessary paperwork.
- Cemetery Commissioner – no update
- Marlboro request to purchase rack from town truck – Halifax has a stand alone screen system to screen road sand and therefore has no use for the screen rack that came with the truck. Marlboro has requested that Halifax sell it to them.
- Loader bids, repair costs – will be discussed when all information has been received.
Ms. Edwards advised she has some information on cost analysis, amortization, etc. and feels they should discuss this in regard to the loader when the bids are reviewed at the next meeting.
Mr. Holtz advised he had looked on eBay and found over 200 loaders for sale from $179,000 down to $13,000 with over 150 were under $59,000. He also suggested they check with a person in Wilmington who had arranged purchase of a bulldozer at a very good price.
Mr. LaFlamme suggested that he should contact Brad Rafus and advise him of this information. Mr. Holtz was given the number to the Town Garage and advised that there was voice mail if Mr. Rafus was not available.
Mr. Marguet once again urged the Board to look for used equipment.
Ms. Edwards asked if they should ask Mr. Rafus to get estimates on used equipment to add to the mix for consideration.
Mr. Sumner advised that they have usually considered used as well as new when looking for new equipment. Sometimes the dealers will offer deals on equipment that may have been leased and returned.
Mr. Marguet stated that he was alarmed that the tape recorder stopped after 4 minutes but the Deerfield Valley News reported that meeting and it was pretty comprehensive and the secretary might want to refer to that article and complete the minutes from that.
Ms. Avakian stated that what she writes is not minutes. It’s an entirely different type of document.
Ms. Edwards advised that it is important that people are here and listening to each other and offering their comments and the board is hearing what they say. The minutes are what they were able to be for the last meeting.
- Listers and BCA work session – revaluations are being done so to avoid conflicts and to have the BCA (consisting of the Town Clerk, 3 Selectboard members, 5 Justices of the Peace) and Listers on the same page, they would like to have a joint work session to prepare for the upcoming property assessments that will be going out in June.
Hearing of Visitors
Mr. Marguet would like to have as an agenda item at the next meeting discussion of “having a committee established to discuss the Road Department’s pros and cons of all the different problems that come up, equipment, this that and the other thing. I don’t want to hear micro-managing we’re talking about a million dollars worth of equipment they’re managing right now.”
The committee to discuss the problems and challenges to the Road Department will be added to the next agenda..
Mr. Courser advised that the article he read in the Valley News a couple of weeks ago made it sound like the “Selectboard do not know how to purchase a piece of equipment. We vote at town meeting each year for Board of Selectmen, one each year.” He gave an example of a truck purchase made a number of years ago that was initiated by the Selectboard and saved the town thousands of dollars. He advised that while it’s fine for people to offer opinions and comments he thought some people just like to run their mouths, but having elected these people, we should trust that they will do their best for the town.
Mr. Barmen asked if they had figured out what happened to the FEMA money and if they have received all payments due the town and if it is all documented.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that there are stacks of documentation showing what they reimbursed the town for, and the amounts.
Mr. Marguet advised that according to Brad they received a check for $112,000 that went into the equipment fund, so the impression Mr. Marguet was left with was that a new loader could be purchased at no expense to the town.
Mr. LaFlamme advised the town was paid for town equipment usage and outside contractors, and only received money for town employees’ overtime for the first 72 hours. FEMA pays 75% of the covered expenses. The State and the town are supposed to pay the balance.
Mr. Rice gave an update on receipt of the grant money for the EMS and Fire Department. He further advised that the issue of the town radio frequency has been fixed and now the radios just need to be programmed. Ms. Avakian asked that he please explain what he is talking about when he presents things at a public meeting. While some Board members might know what he’s talking about, most people do not. She asked if he was saying that for a time the radios could not be used. Mr. Rice replied no. He explained that they realized that the 3 town trucks got their new radios and a new town frequency, strictly for town use, when they tried to install it in the Constable’s truck and the EMS vehicles and fire trucks, it didn’t work right. This has been corrected so that the town frequency is now usable for communication between fire trucks, EMS vehicles, and the town trucks.
Mr. Eggert asked how the FEMA money is accounted for. He asked if they had matched the funds to the right account.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that they don’t need to match it as it is a reimbursement of money that the town paid.
Mr. Rice noted that at the “table top training” they learned that if you claim a charge for something in your FEMA application that you never charged for before, they will disallow it. You can only claim things that you have charged for in the past.
Mr. Holtz suggested that the Selectboard and other town officials should put their telephone numbers and email addresses on the town website. Board members advised that their phone numbers are in the Annual Town Report and that the Town Clerk also gives their home numbers to people if they call and ask. Noting that large areas of town only have dialup internet connections, and some residents have no internet, Mr. LaFlamme advised that he does not rely on email, however people call him all the time and he responds.
A discussion of the website and general computer use followed. Mr. Holtz suggested that he wants to get the town to use the internet and feel comfortable about it. Technology is moving very fast and if they move slowly into it they will be trampled.
Mrs. Holtz advised that she took exception to comment made earlier that some people just run their mouths. She advised that they may be new to the town, but they owned the property and paid taxes for ten years. She feels it is important that when new people come into town they be heard and that ideas and comments are listened to and considered. She advised that she got the impression they were being put down.
Mr. Courser advised that he was not referring to them.
- Windham County Humane Society –
Ms. Edwards advised that they had wanted to hear from Mr. Rice regarding the situation that had prompted the billing concerns. She had spoken with someone from the Humane Society about the contract and most of her concerns had been addressed. Mr. Rice advised that in the past things have been done in a certain way in the past, but the town needs to have some protocols and procedures developed regarding animal control. He further advised that before they enter a contract they have written procedures in place to protect the town. He noted that the contract does have some language to protect the town, but written regulations should be adopted.
He advised that another area to investigate is what is considered a proper holding structure in order for the town to take in an animal when necessary.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that he felt the town might need to first have policies and procedures in place before they enter a contract.
Ms. Edwards advised that the Humane Society will not accept animals until a contract has been signed. The town should see what is entailed in developing an ordinance and policies and move forward with implementing them.
Mr. Rice advised he wants to know what needs to be done to allow the kennel that is located at the town garage to be moved to his property so that when an animal is impounded he can care for it there rather than having to either travel to the town garage twice a day or impose on the road crew to attend to it.
Mr. LaFlamme advised he has no problem with the kennel being moved to Mr. Rice’s house, but suggested that he contact the Humane Society to see if the kennel they have is sufficient for use as a shelter, and if not what is required.
Mr. Rice will start work on developing a protocol for animal control.
- Broadband grant – has been submitted. The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for May 12, 2010. Ms. Edwards advised that there has been a big response and she has had requests from other towns to be included. She feels that they need to get organized and set goals before they think about inviting others and/or hosting a larger group.
- At 9:15 PM Mr. LaFlamme moved to enter Executive Session to discuss a legal matter. Ms. Edwards seconded the motion which carried 3-0.
- At 9:50 PM the Selectboard re-entered public session.
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 9:53 PM.
Phyllis H. Evanuk
Please Note: The Recorder stopped after the first 4.08 minutes of the meeting. As a result not all visitor and Board member statements are included. However these minutes do include the legally required elements.