Town of Halifax, Vermont

August 19, 2014


Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. Selectboard members Edee Edwards and Lewis Sumner were present; Earl Holtz was absent. Also present were Robbin Gabriel, Blaise McGarvey, Margo Avakian, Janet Taylor, Ray Combs, Russ Denison, Nicholas Bartenhagen, Margaret Bartenhagen, Jesse Ferland, Marilyn Allen, Leonard Derby, Jerry Pratt (Ashfield Stone), Art Copeland, Lynda Copeland, Brad Rafus, and Peggy Rafus.

Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Edee Edwards recommended approval of the VTA cell tower lease agreement be removed from the agenda and added to the Monday, August 25th meeting agenda, as the Board has not yet received the final lease copy from VTA.

Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes

Lewis Sumner made a motion to approve the 8/5/14 regular meeting minutes after changing the words “Vermont Electric” to “Green Mountain Power” under the item headed New Poles on Reed Hill Road. Edwards seconded the motion, after amending it to delete “and Planning Commission” under the item headed Planning Commission. The motion passed, 2-0.

Sumner made a motion to accept the 8/6/14 special meeting minutes as written. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.

Edwards made a motion to accept the 8/11/14 regular meeting minutes as written. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.

Edwards noted that, as Sumner had been absent from the 8/12/14 joint Planning Commission/Selectboard meeting and Earl Holtz was absent from the meeting presently in session, the Board could not take a vote on approval of this set of minutes. Also, VLTC was not able to give a definitive answer to the Board’s question regarding proper approval procedure for joint meeting minutes; approval is not mandated under the law. Edwards suggested the 8/12/14 minutes be left for Planning Commission review and approval at their August 26th special meeting.

New Business

Fill Vacancy on the Planning Commission
Edwards told the meeting that while she would have preferred all Selectboard members be present for this discussion, filling the position before the September 9th Act 250 hearing is of primary importance. Both Edwards and Sumner have reviewed Stephan Chait’s letter of interest, no other applicants have come forward, and Edwards believes that Chait’s extensive experience working on capital projects with the University of Massachusetts Building Authority makes him a good candidate for the Planning Commission. Edwards made a motion to appoint Stephan Chait to fill the current Planning Commission vacancy through March 2015. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0. Reviewing the above-mentioned date after the vote, Edwards discovered the vacant term runs through March 2016. Edwards amended the motion approving Stephan Chait’s appointment to the Planning Commission to reflect the fact his term will end in March 2016. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.

Discuss Traffic Impact on Road Crew due to Denison Schist Quarry Project
Edwards opened the discussion with mention of data collected thus far in the form of a traffic study performed by Windham Regional Commission and an on-site examination by Selectboard members of culverts and road conditions. This information has not yet been fully analyzed. What other data are we missing, Edwards asked, that would aid the town’s understanding of traffic impact on roads to be traversed by vehicles traveling to and from the proposed quarry project? After driving the section of TH52 in her Honda CRV, scraping bottom several times and noting plugged culverts, she began considering that the town might have an obligation to upgrade and maintain that portion of road, making it passable for passenger cars and low-clearance vehicles and improving accessibility for emergency crews in the event of an accident at the quarry site. The expectation is that four people will be working at the site 32 weeks of the year. Sumner noted that the section of TH52 in question is a Class IV road, which the town is not obliged to maintain.

Many of those present contributed to the conversation that followed. Peggy Rafus asked whether Edwards felt the town should maintain logging roads when loggers were working. No, said Edwards, that is a temporary situation. Art Copeland had questions about the town’s ability to restrict travel in inclement weather should the quarry operate in winter months. Russ Denison and Jerry Pratt both indicated the quarry would not be active during winter; that restriction is stated in the Act 250 project application. Blaise McGarvey wondered if the town had a policy supporting tax-paying business enterprises within the town. We’re a small town, said Edwards, and no specific policies are in place. Brad Rafus spoke of one Class IV road in town with three dwelling places. This road is not plowed or maintained by the town, and Rafus said if the town chose to maintain one Class IV road then all should be similarly serviced. Margo Avakian brought up earlier open meeting conversations regarding the advisability of discontinuing some town roads. She asked whether Edwards’ concerns about TH52 meant she had changed her mind about discontinuing other roads. Citing the high cost of rebuilding Stowe Mountain Road after Hurricane Irene as an example, Edwards said no, there are some roads maintained by the town which may not have a lot of value. Marilyn Allen advised looking at fiscal concerns very carefully; tax rates are high and the highway department already has a full load of work. Rafus suggested that if a decision were made to maintain a Class IV road it would be wise to reclassify that road as Class III, thus making it eligible for state aid.

Edwards came back to the original question: Is the Board going to have a discussion aimed at creating a list of concerns relating to this Act 250 project’s potential traffic issues? Does the town need to consider new culverts? Will more chloride be needed to lay dust in summer months? The Planning Commission has scheduled a special meeting August 26th for further discussion of the Act 250 criteria, and as liaison between the Selectboard and Planning Commission Edwards would like to be able to state any specific concerns the Selectboard might have at that time. This item will be on the Monday, August 25th, Selectboard agenda.

Jerry Pratt asked whether there were restrictions on log trucks in winter. After reading the law, Edwards said, she was not certain that log trucks were classified as agricultural. Brad Rafus mentioned that single axle trucks damage roadbeds to a greater extent than tandems, due to weight distribution. Marilyn Allen had spoken with Earl Holtz and learned from him that the town charges ten dollars a year for overweight vehicles; setting more accurate fees would require scales to weigh the trucks. Ray Combs requested a list of the roads quarry trucks would use to transport stone, and asked how many homes were along that route. Edwards said the travel path, according to the plan, was TH52 (the end of Old Stage Road) to Jacksonville Stage, to Amidon Road, and then down Stark Mountain Road. She did not know the number of residences, but will add that to the list of questions. Lynda Copeland suggested the fifty-year proposed duration of the project should be given some thought. Nicholas Bartenhagen asked Jerry Pratt for the make, model, and gross vehicle weight of the truck the quarry would be using. Pratt said that information was posted some time ago and should be somewhere in the permit application, but he could not give the specifics from memory. He added that the truck was a ten-wheeler, same as the town truck.

Discuss Act 250 Item #7—“Will not create an unreasonable burden . . .”
Edwards commented that this agenda item had already been covered in the preceding discourse.

Request to Clean Up Junk Properties—Blaise McGarvey
Blaise McGarvey introduced himself as a retired banker and Whitneyville Road property owner of thirty years’ standing who has recently chosen to make Halifax his full-time permanent residence. Now that Halifax is his primary home, McGarvey is ready to make a contribution to the town’s affairs. His particular topic on this evening was beautification; he began by complimenting the appearance of the town’s center, but said that on some side roads and back roads things get a little sketchy. Some stuff, he said, looks like it has been there for generations. McGarvey knows the town has a junk ordinance, but isn’t familiar with the details. He wondered whether the town could do anything about clean-up, and thought Edwards had mentioned someone who was coordinating that action. Edwards said that no, the town wasn’t taking action, but several other people had expressed interest in volunteering. McGarvey said he wouldn’t mind organizing an effort, and wanted to know who might approve a plan to schedule metal pickup. He mentioned the recycle bin area at the old town garage as a location in need of attention. Edwards said Lewis Sumner, as recycling coordinator, advises Windham Solid Waste when the bins are full, and the road crew has done periodic cleanups outside the bins. Sumner explained that WSWMD services 19 towns in the district; they run two trucks and make collections as quickly as possible given their heavy schedule. Ray Combs asked about the junk ordinance, and Edwards said it was very difficult to enforce. Not everyone defines junk the same way, and enforcing the ordinance would require visiting all properties in town, making a determination about what is and is not “junk,” and writing a 30-day notification letter to each property owner, after which fines could be levied. It would be more practical, Edwards believes, to offer a compilation of resources to assist people who would like to remove various items from their property. Leonard Derby said he had approached some residents on this matter, and finds that there are people who would be glad of assistance in removing junk vehicles as they don’t have the capability of doing it themselves. McGarvey is willing to get together with Edwards and the other volunteers to discuss details of a clean-up project.

Hearing of Visitors

More on Quarry Traffic
Nicholas Bartenhagen asked whether either of the two Board members present knew the gross weight rating of the vehicle that will carry stone down Stark Mountain Road. Edwards said she had not seen that information. Jerry Pratt had earlier described the vehicle as a ten-wheeler identical to the town truck, and Bartenhagen thought he could compute a weight from that data. Loads from the quarry will travel through Massachusetts, and Brad Rafus said Massachusetts was much more strict on weight limits than Vermont. The town trucks, although registered for 68,000 lbs., can only haul 58,000 lbs. on Massachusetts roads. Rafus equated that figure to “about half as much weight as a log truck carries.” McGarvey theorized that an honor system could be developed for logging trucks to pay a fee based on the weight of their load, but Sumner said logs were sold by footage, not weight. Bartenhagen pointed out that log trucks make only occasional runs, whereas schist-carrying trucks would be making daily trips. Edwards would like to learn what other towns are doing regarding overweight vehicle fees. Avakian wanted to know what useful information had been gleaned from Windham Regional’s traffic study. Quoting from the Windham Regional report, which covered the weekday period of July 21-25, Edwards said that of vehicles traveling Jacksonville Stage Road, 60% were class 2 vehicles (standard vehicles), and 31% were class 3 vehicles (pickups, panel vans). Surprisingly, little traffic was noted between the afternoon hours of 1:00-4:00 p.m., but quite a few vehicles were tallied at 1:00-2:00 a.m. She also noted that the study had been conducted during the time when Green River Bridge was either closed or under increased weight restriction, which may have had an effect on the study results. The data needs further analysis before any conclusions can be drawn. Margaret Bartenhagen stressed the importance of the Selectboard having a clear and complete grasp on the traffic situation before the Act 250 hearing. Nicholas Bartenhagen confirmed for Ray Combs that the town would not receive any monies from the quarry project other than whatever the change in property tax status might generate. In answer to Lynda Copeland’s query about potential benefits to the town, Edwards mentioned job creation—the project expects to hire four people and will try to hire locally.

Repairs on Town Roads
Leonard Derby thanked the Road Commissioner for repairing an eroded section near his home on Collins Road, and mentioned spots on Hanson Road and Thomas Hill Road that need some attention. The gravel bid has been awarded, Sumner said, and the new supply should be arriving soon, which will allow the highway department to make these repairs. Rafus reminded the meeting that his department has 53 miles of gravel road to maintain and the full grading process takes five weeks, plus down time on rainy days. Edwards reminded residents they could always call and ask the road crew to set out cones if a washout were spotted.

Amidon Road Trees
Rafus said the removal of dead trees on Amidon Road has just been completed, with no difficulties.

Truck Options
Rafus had created a posterboard presentation outlining truck leasing options for the Selectboard’s consideration, but the item did not make it on this night’s agenda, so the Board will discuss the topic at the Monday, August 25th meeting. Brad cautioned against delay, saying any truck ordered would take three months, plus additional time to get it equipped.

Old Business

Update on Town Office Roof Replacement
The town office roof will be done by August 27th, Edwards announced, one day before the deadline.

Update on Old County North Bridge Project
Earl Holtz was not available for a detailed update, but Sumner reported the bridge is open to traffic. Some work remains to be done; the blacktopping and guard rail installation should be complete by the end of the week. No decision has been made yet on blacktopping the gravel section of Old County North between Green River Road and the new bridge.

Guilford Road Projects
Edwards asked for information on Guilford’s Hale Road bridge project start date. Sumner and Rafus both confirmed the revised start date as Monday, August 25th. Secondly, Edwards said she’d updated the web site with the changed Green River bridge reopening date of October 22nd, but had not yet altered the postings on the town’s bulletin boards. She will do that shortly.

Salt Shed Bid
Rafus advised that bids have been solicited for the salt shed and will be available to open on September 2nd.

Additions to August 25th Agenda
Board members agreed to add two items to the Monday, August 25th agenda: Make a decision about future Monday Selectboard meetings and discuss applications received for the Selectboard Administrative Assistant position.

Selectboard’s Order to Town Treasurer for Bill Payment

The order to the Town Treasurer was reviewed and signed.


Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed, signed, and/or filed as appropriate.


The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Selectboard Secretary