Broadband Committee

Town of Halifax, Vermont



July 15, 2014


A quorum of the Broadband Committee was present at the regular Selectboard meeting on July 15, 2014. Broadband members in attendance were Edee Edwards, Jessica Bruno, and Gretchen Becker. They attended in order to participate in the discussions on Business Broadband Improvement Districts and the VTel project. See the Selectboard meeting minutes below for more details.


Town of Halifax, Vermont

July 15, 2014

Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. Selectboard members in attendance were Lewis Sumner, Edee Edwards, and Earl Holtz. Also present were Ray Combs, Stephan Chait, Margo Avakian, Blaise McGarvey, Jessica Bruno, Gretchen Becker, Arthur (Jesse) Ferland, Patricia Dow, Marilyn Allen, and Janet Taylor.

Agenda Additions
Board members agreed to include two new items on the evening’s agenda. Holtz wished to discuss a communication he had received regarding paint removal from the school cupola, and Edwards said the latest packet relating to the Act 250 Denison quarry application should be examined and set out with the rest of the Act 250 materials for public review.

Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Holtz made a motion to accept the 7/1/14 regular meeting minutes with one typographical correction. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Edwards made a motion to accept the 7/7/14 regular meeting minutes with the addition of highway department employee names. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Sumner made a motion to accept the 7/9/14 special meeting minutes. Holtz seconded the motion with the inclusion of a request made by Keith Stone during that meeting. The motion passed, 3-0.

New Business

Set the Tax Rate for FY 2015
Town Clerk Patricia Dow told the meeting that, as expected, rates were a bit higher this year. The residential rate is $0.24 higher than last year and the school, or Non-residential, rate is $0.30 higher. Holtz quoted the Homestead tax rate as $2.2282, and the Non-residential tax rate as $2.3259. Broken down, Sumner said, the municipal tax is $0.8277, the Homestead school tax is $1.04005, and the Non-residental tax rate is $1.4982. Sumner made a motion to accept the FY 2015 Homestead tax rate at $2.2282, and Non-resident tax rate at $2.3259. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 3-0. Ray Combs asked what caused the increase. Edwards explained that the cost of the Old County North Bridge project–approved at town meeting–represents the bulk of the budget increase. Sumner added that the school tax, set by the state, had gone up about 8% or 9%. Dow said that for the first time in nine years the town has received the tax data three weeks early; this will allow her to get mailings out sooner than usual. Edwards reminded the meeting they had previously considered including some informational notices with the tax mailing and Dow said if that were done she would need the materials by Saturday.

Update on Broadband from Jessica Bruno
Bruno told the gathering that Chris Campbell, Executive Director of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority, had attended the Broadband Committee’s Wednesday, July 9 meeting to discuss the BBID (Business Broadband Improvement District) project. Earlier, the Broadband Committee had submitted proposals for several areas of Halifax currently lacking broadband service. To be considered, these locations had to contain a certain number of businesses. Halifax was approved for several districts. Bruno said a map of those districts had been placed in the Broadband Committee minutes binder, and could also be found on the town web site. Chris Campbell told the Broadband Committee there was a possibility Comcast could provide service to the northeast corner of town—the Thomas Hill area. For this to happen, a certain number of businesses would need to commit to subscribing to service. No cost details are available yet. In the southwest corner of town, where some, but not all, businesses have service through the Hubbard Hill broadband loop, it might be possible to partner with the Southern Vermont Broadband Cooperative in Stamford. The Cooperative suggested to Campbell that someone in that section of town could host an antenna to receive a signal. However, after studying the topography, the Cooperative is of the opinion that terrain elevation may be insufficient for a successful installation. In the event a partnership with the Cooperative proves workable, the Coop would need someone in town able to provide technical support, get word out to potential users, follow up on delinquent accounts, and participate on the Coop board. Bruno and her husband have volunteered for this list of responsibilities. Bruno will be attending a meeting on the second Wednesday in August and asked that any questions people might have for the Board be given to her before then.

Holtz mentioned that Fairpoint had installed service enhancement in the Thomas Hill area a while ago; he said he didn’t know how much that had improved the situation, but suggested Bruno check with them. Edwards said she will compile a list of Thomas Hill businesses and send it to VTA. Also, Holtz suggested Bruno talk to the Parkhursts, at the top of Fowler Hill, as they had an interest in improving local Internet service and have in the past volunteered to host a monopole. Further discussion centered around the difficulty in determining the number and location of businesses in town. One deterent to creating an accurate business district map is that some companies physically located in Halifax use Jacksonville and Brattleboro addresses when advertising. The Broadband Committee encourages townsfolk to spread the word and is requesting local business owners to contact them.

Discussion of Culvert Replacement on Reed Hill Road near Post Office
Road Commissioner Brad Rafus told the meeting the highway department discovered damage to the culvert near the Post Office after the July 2nd storm. As the culvert is over four feet in diameter, it won’t be possible to simply replace it; probably a corrugated arch will be required. Rafus said a hydrologic study was done after Hurricane Irene; he has talked to District #2’s Megan Thompson in an effort to obtain the results of that study. He is also conversing with Todd Menees about the feasibility of installing a temporary culvert to gain a few years’ reprieve. In response to a question from Holtz, Rafus said the damage might qualify as an emergency. A four or five foot bottom section on the lower half of the culvert is completely gone, and water is traveling underneath instead of all the way through. The town might be eligible for AOT emergency funding if any monies are available. Edwards pointed out that the town had budgeted $9,000 for culvert repairs this year and asked what the Reed Hill culvert rebuild might cost. Rafus’ rough estimate was $80,000. Engineers should not be necessary on this project; past experience indicates the hydrologic study results should provide several design/build options from which to choose and the construction could be put out to bid on that basis. Rafus will continue gathering information and will report his findings.

Planning Commission Membership
Edwards addressed concerns about Planning Commission member availability during this period when the town is paying the Windham Regional Commission representative to attend meetings and advise the Zoning revision process. She said one member had missed three consecutive meetings and several meetings had been delayed while waiting for a quorum. Also, the Planning Commission has been without a Chair for some time. She went on to acknowledge that during any member’s busy season earning a livelihood needed to take precedence. Marilyn Allen suggested introducing a rule stating that Planning Commission volunteers who missed a certain number of meetings would be asked to resign. Ray Combs asked whether web-based meetings could be held. That option is not available currently, Edwards explained, although town officials were able to join meetings by speaker phone if necessary. After some further discussion it was agreed the Board would ask the absent member to join them for an executive session conference.

Update on VTel Tower
Edwards had partially reviewed the VTel tower petition which was submitted June 30th. Given that the tower location has been adjusted to avoid the archaeological site of the old school foundation and is now situated closer to the road, Edwards asked the Board to approve a letter to the Public Service Board suggesting they consider the use of a breakaway pole design. She noted that a specification reference within the petition—EIA/TIA 222-G—might designate a breakaway structure model, but if so that definition is not spelled out in the text. Windham Regional, after comparing the VTel petition details with their own regional plan, submitted a letter including a comment about placing the tower far enough back to prevent a collapse into the road. Marilyn Allen questioned the wisdom of the adjusted tower location, mentioning that the structure would now be more visible to everyone. She suggested a more practical course would be to utilize the original site and install a plaque memorializing the archaeological find. Edwards made a motion to sign the letter to the Public Service Board. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Further discussion centered around fears that the request might delay or prevent the project, but the letter does stress the town’s eagerness to see the tower completed. Companies of this type, Stephen Chait remarked, provide a public service, and can be expected to have technicians available to answer interested citizens’ questions.

Meeting to Write Job Description for Administrative Assistant
This meeting, originally set for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 21st, has been rescheduled due to conflicts and will now be held Tuesday, July 22nd, at 6:30 p.m.

Put Out Bids on One Ton Truck for Highway Department
Rafus expects to have a specifications draft completed and ready to present to the Board on Monday, July 23rd. Sumner said he would add it to the 7/23 agenda. Edwards wondered whether the town could use the present one-ton truck in place of the older, 1984, truck once the new one-ton was purchased. Rafus agreed that might be reasonable; he estimates the old one-ton’s trade-in value at $6,000-7,000. One consideration: The current one-ton has a lot of rust, which will elevate maintenance costs.

Lead Paint Discussion
When the cupola on the school was repainted recently, some debris dropped to the ground and was cleaned up. Thereafter, Holtz was approached by someone who asked whether lead testing had been done previous to removal of the old paint. As the public visits the town offices for many purposes on a regular basis Holtz wants to research this matter and find a definitive answer: Was a lead paint test done? And if the paint was leaded, was debris handled according to existing regulations? Because the painting contractor was hired by the school, Health Officer Sue Kelly is communicating with the School Board to find the answers to these questions. Chait pointed out the many variables in the lead paint issue; for instance, lead affects children and adults differently. Holtz asked about alternative meeting locations should investigation reveal a problem, and Edwards replied that town meetings could be held anywhere—the community hall, the town garage, or a private residence. Blaize McGarvey wondered whether the situation might be covered under a disaster recovery plan. Holtz said he doubted the town’s plan addressed this particular issue.

Act 250 / Denison Quarry Application—New Material
The Board is in receipt of a copy of the applicant’s response to the Act 250 administrator’s request for five pieces of additional information. The new material includes data on a change in leased parcel size, a change in the noise study, details on sight distances and speed limits, a written reclamation narrative, and an explanation of how the project conforms to local and regional plans. The new information packet will be available for public viewing alongside the main application binder and map collection on the back table in the town office. Janet Taylor told the meeting that Exhibit 12 is still missing from the application, and Sumner said the person responsible for issuing a permit related to that Exhibit has a very heavy workload and is probably behind schedule.

Hearing of Visitors

Highway Department Positive Feedback
Blaize McGarvey took a moment to thank Brad Rafus for the great job done on his road.

Brad Rafus
Amidon Road Trees–Rafus has been requesting cost estimates for hiring a bucket truck to assist in taking down the five large dead maple trees near Mr. Blackett’s house on Amidon Road. He has received one figure thus far–$130 an hour for bucket truck with an operator—and he expects two more price quotes by Monday. Rafus estimates the work will take eight to ten hours. Sumner said the Board would review all the numbers when they were available on the 21st. He also noted that if power lines were in close proximity to the trees the power company would assist, but no lines are involved at this particular site.

Green River Road Culvert–On Green River Road, on the hill just above the Deer Park Bridge, a sinking culvert is in need of replacement. Rafus said the road would be closed for about two days while the highway department cut the pavement and replaced the culvert. Edwards asked about the timing of the warranty repaving on Green River Road, as it would be efficient to schedule the culvert before the repaving is done. Rafus replied that he and Lane Construction were having a little difference of opinion; Lane wants to do patchwork on Green River Road rather than full repaving on the sections where last year’s poor quality mix is failing. Rafus is holding out for the full replacement, arguing that the town paid for a guaranteed product which is showing serious signs of wear in its first year of service. He is now awaiting a reply from Lane’s plant manager. Three towns, Halifax and Guilford in Vermont, and Hancock in New Hampshire, were similarly affected.

Crushed Gravel Bid—As the town has a fair quantity of crushed gravel left from last year’s supply, Rafus plans to ask for bids on half the amount needed now and then revisit the budget next March. Sumner made a motion to have the Road Commissioner solicit bids on 5,000 cubic yards of crushed gravel, delivered. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Stark Mountain Road
Edwards has investigated methods of determining the grade on Stark Mountain Road. Windham Regional Commission’s topographical maps are not sensitive enough for that purpose, but there exists a meter designed to take grade measurements. Edwards has asked Rafus to research the instrument’s availability. Referring to the culvert and road review Board members conducted on July 9th, Edwards thought it advisable to add specific road width data to some of the photographs taken. Holtz volunteered to take measurements at the designated spots.

Old North County Bridge #37 Update
Holtz reported that the I-beams were mounted, with baffle plate insertions, on July 11th. Rebar placement in the south side is about 50% complete. There is a possible small scheduling delay due to a deck curing issue, but the effect on the overall schedule will probably be negligible. Water in the stream continues clear, with no signs of silt or sediment, even with the downpours of recent days. Holtz had high praise for the disciplined teamwork and exemplary skill levels displayed by the LaTulippe crew constructing the bridge.

Hale Road Bridge
A ditch built during the SVE/Renaud Brothers construction of the Hale Road bridge has failed, Rafus told the Board, and is bleeding into the river. As we are approaching the one-year mark on the bridge inspection, Edwards stressed the importance of a quick followup with SVE.

Windham Regional Survey
WRC has published a survey on the web requesting input from towns regarding the kinds of shared municipal services they might like to see established. Edwards suggested the Board respond to the survey. There is also a July 22nd invitation-only meeting to discuss this subject which Edwards plans to attend.

Deerfield Valley Rescue
Edwards made a motion to renew the town’s letter of agreement with Deerfield Valley Rescue. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Open Meeting Law
The Board spoke of anticipated effects of the changed law on town officials—especially committees and groups not in the habit of meeting as often or as formally as the Selectboard. They agreed that fostering awareness and taking advantage of training opportunities would facilitate a smooth transition to compliance with the new requirements. Readsboro’s Town Administrator Mark Shea emailed Holtz a notice of an upcoming open meeting workshop his town is hosting, and Edwards suggested one member of each Halifax town committee should attend.

Selectboard’s Order to Town Treasurer for Bill Payment

The order for bill payment was reviewed and signed.


Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed and filed.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:07 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Selectboard Secretary