Town of Halifax, Vermont

July 1, 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. Robbin Gabriel, Ray Combs, Brad Rafus, Margo Avakian, Art Copeland, Patty Dow, Cara Cheyette, and Sue Kelly were also present.

New Business

Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes

Sumner made a motion to accept the 6/17/14 regular meeting minutes as written. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Edwards made a motion to accept the 6/23/14 regular meeting minutes as written. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

NOTE: Later in the meeting an error was discovered in the 6/23/14 minutes—the time of the Wednesday, July 9, site visit to examine public roads leading to the proposed quarry project is actually 8:00 a.m., not 9:00 a.m. as entered in the minutes. Edwards made a motion to correct the 6/23/14 regular meeting minutes to read 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 9th. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Sign Bank Loan for Town Treasurer
Board members reviewed documents which open a $360,000 line of credit for the town with People’s United Bank. The funds, which will be used to pay for construction on Old County North Bridge #37, carry a 1.25% interest rate and are due for repayment on January 5, 2015. Sumner made a motion to sign the People’s United Bank line of credit for $360,000. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. During discussion, Patty Dow said that tax monies would come in next month, and Holtz mentioned the FEMA money which Sumner said has been paid, with all paperwork complete; we are now just waiting for the state. The bid on the bridge construction was $367,000; Sumner answered in the affirmative Edwards’ question as to whether the full bridge project cost would be covered. One interesting detail: There are no additional fees or costs associated with this loan. Banks like to do business with towns, Sumner said, because no tax is due on interest dollars earned.

Edwards pointed out that the town has officially ended the fiscal year with a $75,000 deficit, so will not be able to set up a reserve fund or use funding to reduce taxes, as was discussed during town meeting. Sumner and Dow confirmed for Holtz that the town should have approximately $260,000 coming from the state in FEMA dollars.

Sue Kelly—Health Issues
Kelly asked for the Board’s signatures on a health order addressing a landlord’s violation of the Vermont Rental Housing Code. Having tried and failed to obtain voluntary compliance, Kelly has notified the landlord she would be requesting a health order, and will hand deliver the signed document. Kelly remarked that rental housing code health orders were a rare occurrence in the town; she recalls only three in about ten years. Edwards made a motion to sign the health order as presented by Sue Kelly. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Cara Cheyette
Cheyette presented for the Board’s inspection two professionally-created reflective road signs, reading “Collins Road / Limited Access / 4WD Trail Only.” She requested permission to have these mounted on the Hall Road signpost at the Reed Hill junction, explaining that—despite the posted Dead End sign and Honora Winery’s attempts to guide travelers along the correct routes—people unfamiliar with the area were still relying exclusively on inaccurate GPS information and attempting to navigate Hall Road in passenger cars and two-wheel drive vehicles with unsatisfactory results. Various attempts to resolve the Hall Road dilemma and other local GPS errors have not been effective to date. After obtaining the Board’s consent Cheyette passed the signs to Brad Rafus, who will have them put up.

Additionally, Cheyette wanted to make the Board aware of information currently in circulation indicating possible bad blood between Halifax EMS and Rescue, Inc. She asked the Board to please let her know should anything of this nature come to their attention so she could address the situation. She also mentioned speaking with a number of residents in the Thomas Hill area, but as yet there are no new candidates for the Rescue board position.

Guardrails on Green River Road
Sumner suggested having Brad Rafus find out whether the guard rail installation company (Vermont Recreation) who will be putting up rails on the new bridge might do the small installation job on Green River Road at the same time, as this could result in a savings to the town. Edwards said the town had budgeted $28,000 for guard rails on two bridges plus temporary fixes over five years. She agreed the town should ask for an estimate on the Green River Road guard rails but has concerns about stepping outside the bounds of the town’s purchasing policy, which requires that projects over $3,000 be put out to bid. Holtz proposed getting an estimate, comparing it with the two bids received last year, and—if the estimate promised a significant savings—considering an executive decision on the issue. Rafus will get a dollar figure and the item will be reviewed during the Monday, July 7th meeting.

Hearing of Visitors

Act 250 Meeting Schedule
Ray Combs wondered about the proposed time change for the Act 250 hearing, which Cheyette explained not yet been held. Edwards has talked with April Hensel who said the District Commission Chairman has agreed to a 5:00 weekday time slot when the first meeting is scheduled. A pre-hearing meeting will probably not be held.

Wednesday, July 9, Site Visit
In response to a question from Kelly, Board members explained that during the July 9 site visit, which will start at the Town Garage at 8:00 a.m., participants will travel those portions of public road which will carry truck traffic from the proposed Denison quarry.

Tax Change on Quarry Property
Combs asked whether the quarry project would net any monetary compensation for the town, while Kelly questioned what amount of tax dollars the state might return to the town. Sumner said that the rented parcel would be taken out of land use, with a penalty paid by the land owner, which should result in a tax benefit. No one is sure just what percentage the state reimburses, but Edwards had on hand a figure of $92,656.00, the total reimbursed by the state for current land use during the last fiscal year. Holtz summarized this way: “There’ll be an effect—we don’t know what yet.”

ICS 100 Training
Rafus told the meeting ICS (Incident Command System) training classes will be held in Wardsboro in July; three sessions of three hours each, Thursday evenings, on the 17th, 24th, and 31st. Subsequent discussion about whether this would be a good opportunity for the four highway department members who have yet to take the course brought out two points: The three separate evening sessions plus travel might create a hardship for participants, and overtime costs or comp time would be involved. Edwards suggested that training here in town might be a better choice. While Christina Moore is qualified to teach the course, the state has a procedure in place whereby they assign a designated trainer, so a direct request isn’t possible. Rafus has learned there is a requirement of 8-10 students before a class is scheduled. With four people from the highway department, Patty Dow, and possibly four or more firefighters in line for the course, that stipulation could be met. Holtz suggested Jacksonville and/or Guilford might have people who would attend a session here in town. Edwards will email John LaFlamme asking him to follow up on this proposal.

Smith Road Driveway Permit
The board signed a driveway permit on Smith Road. Rafus had previously examined the site and found everything in order.

Old Business

Update on Old County North Bridge
Holtz has been visiting the construction site regularly. He reported that the walk bridge is up and operational, the lights are in place, the extra I-beams have been set off to the side, the riprap on the sides of the bank will be built next, the fire engine is on the far side, the Porta-potty is in place, and he has seen nothing go into the river. He has been taking pictures of the construction process as it progresses. A piece of correspondence from an attorney representing one of the abutters generated some discussion. The attorney has asked the town to pay his invoice, but the board declined, agreeing they knew of no precedent for this. The Board will ask the town attorney to relay their decision on the matter.

Another bridge-related subject brought up for discussion was Rafus’ belated realization that the small section of gravel road between Green River Road and the bridge should have been earmarked for paving as part of the construction project. During storms, gravel wash onto the new pavement is going to cause maintenance difficulties, but no monies were budgeted for an additional section of paving. Edwards wondered why the engineers hadn’t factored this consideration into their equations. Holtz asked Rafus, if he had a choice between this piece of paving and guardrails, which he thought was more important. Rafus said laying the blacktop would save the most in maintenance, especially during winter months. The board will consider this issue again after they find out what the extra paving would cost.

Update on FEMA Post Irene
Noting that the anticipated receipt of $260,000 in FEMA monies had been discussed somewhat earlier in the meeting, Sumner asked if there were further comments. Edwards remarked that the Selectboard can make a recommendation at next town meeting, but cannot designate use of the FEMA dollars without taking it back to the voters. The money will be held, given that it isn’t used for some unforeseen expenditure, and town will still see a higher tax rate this year as general costs rise.

Responding to a question from Rafus, Edwards explained that the #37 bridge project will be paid for with a combination of $119,500.00 appropriated from the taxpayers, the reserve amount, and the $175,000.00 reimbursement from the state grant.

Rafus clarified loan status on several pieces of highway equipment—the last payment on the loader was made in June and the final payment on the excavator will be made in FY16.

Roadside Mowing
Rafus estimated rental plus labor costs for 80 hours of mowing would be $6,876.00, plus fuel costs. Per Orchitt’s bid (received last week), the 80 hours would cost $6,160.00, including fuel. Sumner made a motion to offer Bruce Orchitt the contract for 80 hours of mowing at $77.50 per hour. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Edwards said that although the cost would exceed the budgeted amount for mowing, the surplus in the chloride budget would cover all but a few hundred dollars of the overage. Rafus will also ask Orchitt to mow the landfill, a once-a-year requirement.

Wage Increase for Highway Employees
After much discussion of the budget and some number-crunching, the Board made a decision to raise wages for the two lowest-paid members of the highway department, while also bringing their hourly earnings into closer alignment. This plan had been proposed by the other members of the highway crew at an earlier meeting. Edwards made a motion to increase the hourly rate of the lowest-waged employee by twenty cents, to $16.15, and to increase the hourly rate of the second lowest-waged employee by four cents, to $16.40. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. The Board has been researching VLCT median wage figures and making comparisons with wages paid in neighboring towns, in an effort to bring Halifax town highway department wages closer to a middle range. Edwards said the Board also intends to do some research on the Road Commissioner’s wages.

Other Business

Town Clerk Wage Increase
The town passed a budget increase for the town clerk’s position for FY15, and Edwards said the Board should formalize that. Edwards made a motion to adjust the town clerk’s monthly stipend to $2,000.00, which aligns with the budget. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. The increase breaks down to $19.23 per hour, based on the number of hours the town clerk’s office is open, but Edwards remarked this was not a perfect figure as the town clerk does work outside of open office hours.

School Tax
The Board has received the school tax rates from the state. Sumner said the non-resident rate is $1.4982 and the homestead rate is $1.4005. Both figures represent an increase from last year.

Act 250 / Traffic Study Request Form
John Bennett has supplied the Board with a traffic study request form from the Windham Regional Commission. Data can be collected on volume of traffic, number of vehicles, direction of traffic, time of day, classes of vehicles, and speed of vehicles. Edwards suggested asking for volume of traffic and class of vehicles in particular. Sumner wondered whether there was a charge for the service—no mention of a fee was found in the paperwork. Edwards made a motion to request a traffic study from the Windham Regional Commission. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In filling out the paperwork, Edwards specified location as the transport route to be used by the proposed quarry operation, included a map of the route, and requested focus on weekdays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Open Meeting Law Changes
To comply fully with the current meeting law the Board secretary will be transferring the audio recordings of meetings to CDs which will be stored in the town office and will be available to the public for review.

Salt Shed
Holtz and Rafus examined Holtz’ most recent revision of the salt shed design. Edwards noted that the next step is to put the project out to bid; to that end the item will go on the Tuesday, July 15, meeting agenda.

Administrative Assistant Job Description
After discussing upcoming schedules, the Board agreed to set a special meeting date on Monday, July 21st, at 6:30 p.m. to write the job description for the administrative assistant position.

June 23, 2014 Meeting Minutes
Edwards said she would like to ratify a vote with an amendment. Edwards made a motion to have regular Monday, 8:00 a.m.,  Selectboard meetings on July 7th, July 21st, July 28th, August 11th, and August 25th. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. This motion corrected the June 23rd meeting record in which the original motion was not seconded before the vote, and the July 28th date was not included.

Edwards announced that the VTel tower application has been submitted to the Public Service Board and the Selectboard and the Planning Commission have received copies. A brief perusal confirmed that VTel has relocated the site to a position approximately 45 feet south of the originally proposed position after remnants of the old schoolhouse foundation were discovered at the spot initially chosen. The Board will notify abutters and Broadband committee members that the application has been received.

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 10:08 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Selectboard Secretary