OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
March 31, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:28 p.m. Selectboard members Earl Holtz, Lewis Sumner, and Edee Edwards were present, as were Brad Rafus and Robbin Gabriel. Susan Kelly arrived about 7:00 p.m. and was briefly in attendance.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Edee Edwards proposed a reordering of new business items, as a portion of the open meeting law discussion should take place before the executive session opened. Brad Rafus requested a brief discussion about this year’s new truck purchase.
Open Meeting Law Discussion
Edwards summarized VLCT’s advice regarding valid reasons for calling an executive session during open meeting. An executive session may be held for the purpose of holding client/attorney discussions wherein the attorney is providing professional legal services to the Board. Earl Holtz suggested entering executive session for a conversation with Attorney Bob Fisher, then resuming open meeting to address the balance of the agenda. Holtz made a motion proposing an executive session, as the Board believed they would be discussing confidential client/attorney communications for the purpose of receiving legal advice. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed 3-0. Edwards made a motion to enter executive session for the purpose of discussing road reclassification and personnel issues with the Town Attorney.
The Board entered executive session at 6:40 p.m.
The Board recessed executive session at 7:05 p.m. No decisions were made.
Hearing of Visitors
As the expected call from Attorney Fisher had not come in, the Board moved to hearing of visitors. Sue Kelly asked whether Planning Commission appointments were to be discussed, but that topic is scheduled for a future meeting’s agenda.
New Business (continued)
New Truck Discussion
During the winter, Brad Rafus conducted a successful experiment involving the use of the new F550 on roads ordinarily plowed using a larger truck. As the new schedule worked well, he is proposing the next purchase be a similar truck with AWD, which could mean as much as $70,000 in savings to the town, and would provide a number of other benefits, including savings on warranty and maintenance costs. Rafus’ proposal would include getting rid of the Sterling, which has had three rear end replacements. After extensive discussion of alternatives and details, the Board authorized Rafus to proceed with preparations to distribute bid requests for an F550 AWD truck. He will have specifications ready to present at the April 7th regular Selectboard meeting.
Open Meeting Law (continued)
Edwards related further details of her conversation with VLCT’s Abby Friedmann. When Selectboard members are present during an event such as an EOC drill, she said, it is permissible to call an executive session if municipal or school security or emergency response measures, the disclosure of which could jeopardize public safety, are to be discussed. A question remains concerning how to comply with Open Meeting Law when a gathering including a quorum of the Board is not open to the public. The Selectboard has consistently warned all meetings in which they participate–EOC drills and VLCT training sessions among others—but one of the requirements of Open Meeting Law is that the public must be able to attend, and there are instances when meetings are not open to the public. How does the Board achieve compliance in such situations? Holtz was of the opinion that, in an emergency situation, when Board members are present in support of emergency management, they are not acting as a Selectboard. Edwards recalled, during Irene, warning special meetings whenever the Board needed to make a motion or a decision. There is also a portion of the statute, she noted, which permits officials to work together performing administrative duties without warning a meeting. Listers and auditors performing their normal functions are examples of this. Open Meeting Law is still a work in progress; changes are presently under consideration in the legislature. The Board concluded there are still imperfections in the law as it stands. Years ago, Sumner added, many of the legislators were town officers, but that has changed and today there are legislators who are not familiar with the way small towns are run.
The Board will set another time to talk to Attorney Fisher about road reclassification procedure. There is a 30-day notice requirement before a site visit and public meeting is held. Board members tentatively agreed the site visit could occur in mid-May. Edwards proposed expanding the project by investigating the possibility of adding reclassification consideration for other roads in town. Weir, Hall, Josh, Aldrich, Bell, TH52, Thurber, Whitneyville, Woodard, and some cemetery roads were listed as Class 3-4 roads to be researched.
Sign Highway Department Order for Payment to Treasurer
The highway department order was reviewed and signed, including the last invoice for the now-completed salt shed. Rafus and Holtz both noted the finished project was highly satisfactory.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:04 p.m.