TOWN OF HALIFAX, VERMONT
SELECTBOARD MEETING MINUTES
AUGUST 3, 2021
CALL TO ORDER:
Sumner called the meeting to order at 7:01 P.M. Selectboard members present were Lewis Sumner, Peter Silverberg, Bradley Rafus, Tristan Roberts, and Cara Cheyette. Also present in person or remotely were Tina Blais, Pam & Bill Baker, Sarah Barnett, Kaitlin Stone, Michael Fournier, Peggy Rafus, Tom & Laure Raffensperger, Alison Crossley, Linda Lyons, Ray Combs, Patricia Dow, Edee Edwards, Robbin Gabriel, Ken, Rhonda Ashcraft, Marilyn Allen, Marketa Psenickova, Mary Brewster, Bob Teree, Eric McLellan, Fabio Garelli-Carasi, Stephan Chait, Earl Holtz, And David Jones.
CHANGES AND ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA:
Sumner added signing the loan paper work for the new town truck and discussing a road closure on August 28, 2021 for the Town Celebration. Cheyette added Rules of Procedure.
APPROVAL OF PREVIOUS MEETING MINUTES:
Silverberg made a motion to accept the minutes from July 6, 2021 as written. Rafus seconded the motion. Motion passed 5-0.
Silverberg made a motion to accept the minutes from July 20, 2021 as written. Sumner seconded the motion. Motion passed 5-0.
Tom Raffensperger was in attendance to ask the SB permission to close Green River Road from Moss Hollow Road to the town line for the NE Green River Marathon on August 29, 2021 from 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. for the safety of the runners. A short discussion ensued. Roberts made a motion to allow the NE Green River Marathon to close Green River Rd from Moss Hollow Rd to the town line on 8/29/21 from 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Silverberg seconded the motion. The motion passed 5-0. (Minute 1 on the recording.)
Dow explained that the loan paperwork from Peoples Bank for the new town truck needed to be approved and signed so the moneys could be released to the Town account. The loan is a five year loan with a 2.25% interest rate. The truck is complete and can be shipped 1-2 weeks after payment. A short discussion ensued. Lewis made a motion to accept and sign the loan documents to purchase the new truck. Roberts seconded the motion. Motion passed 4-0. Rafus abstained. (Minute 1.50 on the recording)
Eric McLellan was in attendance representing Green Mountain Power. They have a permit that they would like to have approved so that they can put in a length of underground wire on Hanson Rd to improve service. This would affect 3 land owners who are aware and approve of the project. Roberts asked if they were going to accommodate fiber in the future. Jones had questions pertaining to who would own the conduit. Jones also has concerns that DVFiber does not know about this, and how it is going to affect the project the Broadband Committee is working on to provide internet to the entire town. He asked that the Board consider waiting to sign the permit so he can gather more information and present it to the SB at the next meeting. Discussion ensued. Roberts made a motion to table the discussion until the next meeting so more information can be gathered. Cheyette seconded the motion. Motion passed 5-0. (Minute 10 on the recording.)
Rules of Procedure for Meetings/Health Protocols for in-person attendance – Cheyette would like to adopt the Rules of Municipal Boards from VLCT. She states that having a frame work to conduct meetings would simplify things and keep more order. VLCT recommends that small Boards do not use Roberts Rules because they are too technical. She explains that the hand out that was posted to the website and on hand at the meeting had examples and suggestions on rules to adopt for small town Municipal Boards. Discussion ensued. Cheyette made a motion to adopt rules of procedure from VLCT. Silverberg seconded the motion. Rafus makes a motion to table the discussion until the next meeting as he had not had time to review the document as well as he would like as he just received it. Discussion ensued. Cheyette seconded the motion. Motion passed 5-0. (Minute 24 on the recording.)
Cheyette also would like to stress that if people are feeling sick, have a cough, or fever to please stay home and not attend in person to meetings. A short discussion on whether or not there was a mask policy for the town office followed. Roberts was wondering if there was one and what it was. He will follow up with Patty Dow the Town Clerk and report back at the next meeting.
Conflict of Interest Policy – Cheyette wanted to bring this to the board for three reasons. 1.) She personally feels as though there was a conflict of interest land expressed her concerns last year. 2.) Two years ago VLCT mandated that towns have a policy “with more teeth in it.” Halifax last updated their Conflict of Interest Policy in 2011. 3.) The Town has an opportunity to be eligible for Federal Recovery Funds. One of the contingencies to getting approved for the grant is to have a Conflicts of Interest Policy. VLCT’s model policy has all of the things in it to be accepted for the grant and gave some examples. Cheyette explains that she did some comparisons between the two policies. A long discussion followed with questions, comparisons, and disagreements as to what the current Halifax Town Policy is missing. Peggy Rafus raises concerns over Cheyette’s reasons for a new policy being a personal attack on her husband Brad Rafus. More discussion and explanations followed. Roberts made a motion to adopt the Policy Regarding Conflicts of Interest and Ethical Conduct from VLCT. Silverberg seconded the motion. Motion passed 5-0. (Meeting Minute 30 on the recording.)
Guilford Gravel Grinder Bike Race – Miles Billings, a representative from the Guilford Gravel Grinder bike race notified the SB that they would like to donate $250.00 to the town as a thank you and would like to know how the funds would be used. The SB had a discussion as to where those funds might be helpful. They paused in making a decision until the end of this meeting after discussing OLD Business. (Minute 120 on the recording.)
Bob Teree’s Letter of Concern – Teree states that he has sent several letters to the board over the past couple of weeks. He would like to focus on two of his main concerns this evening involving gravel and sand. He states that these concerns are because his tax bill went up 20%. His first issue is aggregate testing of gravel. He was wondering if the town has tested the Halifax pit and the Rafus pit as a proxy for our own pit. Can we make testing of the gravel a standard routine moving forward? His second concern is that he feels the sealed bids for sand and gravel were kind of thrown side. Teree goes on to express more of his concerns in the way the bidding happens. Rafus explained that the bids were all sealed until the June first SB meeting and opened at the meeting with the five SB members present. Discussion ensued with the SB answering and explaining the bidding and contract procedures and policies. Barnett asked if she could read a letter in response to one of Teree’s postings from Social Media. Sumner allowed it. (Minute marker 125 on the recording.)
Harassment Concerns – Peggy Rafus did not wish to address this as it was getting late. (Minutes 157 on the recording.)
Remote Meetings – Cheyette explained her process with the meeting tonight using Go To Meeting. She asks that the SB consider entering into a contract. A month to month contract is $24.00 a month. If you commit to a year contract then the price is $21.00 a month. Cheyette also states that some hardware would also need to be purchased. Discussion ensued. Roberts made a motion to subscribe to Go to Meeting for two months and see how it goes. Pete seconded the motion. Motion passed 5-0. Roberts made a motion to hold the September 7, 2021 meeting at the town garage. Silverberg seconded the motion. Motion passed 5-0. (Minute 157 on the recording.)
Roberts makes a motion to accept the $250 donation from the Guilford Gravel Grinder bike race and have it donated to the Halifax Fire CO. Rafus seconded the motion. Motion Passed 5-0. (Minute 207 on the recording.)
HEARING OF VISITORS:
Fournier asks that if the Road Crew is getting reviews this year could they please be held during the summer rather than December /January as it is easier to get out and meet at night during the summer. Rafus states that reviews can go on the next agenda to start making appointments for them. (Minute 200 on the recording.)
Edwards asks if she needs to send new contact info in to get the SB agenda. Blais states that something went wrong with the distribution list but it will be resolved by next meeting. (Minute 208 on the recording.)
Lyons announces that on August 13, 2021 Rescue Inc. will have their COVID mobile clinic parked at the Community Hall for anyone wanting either their first or second COVID vaccine. There will also be free ice cream for all provided by the Community Hall. (Minute 214 on the recording.)
Bob Teree Submitted a letter: I would like the below read into the record at the next board meeting in the “correspondence” agenda item or in the “hearing from visitors” item.
Below is Teree’s letter as submitted:
Our municipal tax rate has gone up over 27% year over year. To get this back to “normal” we need to cut around $200K. As we move forward to creating next year’s budget, I would be happy to help find ways to get this back to where we were a year ago. A small town like Halifax, with very few services, should not have taxes go up 27% in a year. Our goal should be to go up in the ballpark of inflation.
Below are my ideas for reducing the budget this year and next. We can always come in under budget. We need to find $200K to reduce spending during this year’s budget and next year’s.
- Mandate that all gravel and sand bids be submitted with trucking fees included to the Town Garage in a cost per delivered yard or a cost per delivered ton (with a conversion between tonnage to yards). Breaking out trucking is non-standard and impossible to oversee. All vendor invoices should only be for “delivered yards or truckloads of gravel (with a conversion for yards/truckload).” NO invoices submitted to the town for Trucking without aggregate should be accepted.
- Freeze all capital purchases > $1,000 (e.g. new truck).
- Reducing the town’s portion of insurance premiums (e.g. 20% paid by employee, 80% by the town).
- Revisit the town’s capital expenditures plan.
- Eliminate the role of Road Supervisor as a non-laboring role. Every person on the road crew must also work and labor. Our town is simply too small to have a road employee not be a very active member of the road crew.
- Eliminate one full time equivalent from the road crew.
- Overhaul how we set aside funds to purchase new equipment. Currently the reserve fund makes no sense and seems very underfunded.
- Put a moratorium on all pavement projects for 18 months (only patch).
- If Road Supervisor is the same as Road Commissioner, the person should forfeit the Road Commissioner stipend.
- Incomes from various sources should NOT be included in the expense budgets. These should be in a totally separate revenue section. How we pay for highway expenses (funds, state aid, taxpayers) should NOT reduce the size of the budget we ask taxpayers to approve. Right now, we net out these sources, and have people approve the “net” budget, not the actual budget, which might be illegal (not sure).
- Eliminate recycling program: This is a money loser and prone to severe abuse. All residents should be encouraged to hire their own private trash/recycling service or be encouraged to use the Windham County recycling center. Our small town can’t afford this service.
- Institute a three year freeze on ALL salaries, stipends and other forms of compensation to ALL town employees.
- Do not fund Halifax Days with taxpayer funds.
- Eliminate the paying of Tax Collector commissions for any outstanding tax balance due less than one year overdue. We will still charge penalties, but no commissions should be paid to Tax Collector until payments are overdue by one year.
- Reduce the Selectboard Account (6000): Find small ways to reduce this account which is growing.
Again, a 27% increase is absurd and dangerous. Many in this town simply can’t afford the surprise bill they just received in their mailbox. The board must make best efforts to reduce spending in the current fiscal year and especially plan a much smaller budget for next year.
The meeting adjourned at 9:37 p.m.
Secretary to the Selectboard