Town of Halifax, Vermont

May 5, 2015


Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. Selectboard members Earl Holtz, Lewis Sumner, and Edee Edwards were present, as were Ray Combs, Laura Sumner, Stephan Chait, Blaise McGarvey, Janet Taylor, Paul Taylor, Nick Bartenhagen, Maggie Bartenhagen, Brad Rafus, Rick Gay, and Robbin Gabriel. Tim Putnam stopped in toward the end of the session.

Changes and/or Additions to Agenda

Edee Edwards proposed, under New Business, ratification of the April 22nd emergency meeting. She also suggested postponing any non-critical agenda items, as it had been a long day for some. Approval of the May 1st meeting minutes was removed as minutes were not yet complete.

Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes

Edwards made a motion to approve the 4/21/15 regular meeting minutes with one addition. Earl Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 3-0. Edwards noted the meeting mentioned in those minutes as planned for May 9th had actually been held on May 1st, due to scheduling conflicts.

Holtz made a motion to ratify the emergency meeting held on April 22nd, as it was not posted in advance. Lewis Sumner seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.

Holtz made a motion to approve the 4/22/15 emergency meeting minutes as written. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.

New Business

Open Truck Bids
Four bids were received on the new dump truck, as follows:

Gateway Motors, White River Junction, Vermont: 2016 Ford 4×4 F550, 121-inch wheel base, $47,352.40. Trade allowance for the 2006 Sterling, $4,500, minus GPC (government commerical purchase) discount of $3,200, for a net bid of $39,652.40. Net bid with no trade, $44,152.40. Premium care, $3,125.00, extended warranty, 3 years/75,000 miles or 3,000 hours, $2,705.00. Six steel rims, $1,100.00, six studded recap tires, $1,740.00. HP Fairfield body quote: $52,830.00. Total, $91,482.40.

DeLurey Sales & Service, Inc., Hoosic, New York: 2015 International TerraStar 4×4 truck with dump body, standard side dump, plow wing, and all necessary hydraulics and attachments, $115,895.00. Trade-in on 2006 Sterling, with plow and wing, $7,500.00. Replace standard fuel tank with 40-gallon aluminum tank custom installed for better weight distribution, $2,500.00. Four warranty options offered ranging from $350.00 to $3,000.00.

Clark Trucking Center, Jericho, Vermont: 2016 International TerraStar 4×4 truck with HP Fairfield plow equipment package, $120,345.00. Trade allowance on 2006 Sterling, $6,000.00. Net bid, $114,345.00.

HP Fairfield, Morrisville, Vermont: Three sets of equipment specifications–10-foot side dump body for an International TerraStar, $53,915.00. 8-foot side dump bed for a Ford F550, $51,830.00. 8-foot side dump bed, for a Dodge 550, $51,645.00.

Rafus will review bid specifications and report his findings and recommendations at the May 19th regular meeting. Responding to a question from Edwards, Rafus explained that the three truck bids were complete packages, while the HP Fairfield bid was a separate bid just for equipment. Ray Combs asked about the rims and tires quoted in the Gateway Motors offering; those are for winter use, explained Holtz.

Authorization to Hire Town Attorney for Upcoming Tax Sale (Laura Sumner)
Laura Sumner has scheduled a tax sale for June 23rd, 3:00 p.m., in the town office. It is always a good idea to have an attorney review the materials and be present at a tax sale, she said. The money for legal services comes out of the tax sales themselves. Edwards asked how many properties were on the list. Eleven certified notices will be mailed this week, but the expectation is that some property owners will find a way to pay overdue amounts before the sale date. How far in arrears do you have to be before a property goes up for sale? asked Holtz. I don’t like to see payments fall a year behind, said Laura, but I always try to work with people, especially if they will communicate with me about when and how they plan to pay. Holtz made a motion to authorize Laura Sumner to engage Robert Fisher’s services for the tax sale. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed 3-0. It’s a good idea, added Laura, to have a Selectboard member present at the tax sale, in case no one is there to bid.

ZBA Request to Authorize Legal Assistance
Edwards explained that the Zoning Board would like to hire Attorney Fisher to advise them on the Denison conditional use application and to help run the June 9th public hearing. Holtz made a motion to hire Attorney Fisher to advise the ZBA during review of the conditional use application and to provide support during the public hearing. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.

Alternate Member Use Policy for ZBA
It is sometimes challenging for the ZBA to have a quorum, said Edwards, and the upcoming hearing may go into recess and hold several sessions over a period of time. Vermont statutes allow appointment of alternate members; to do so the town needs to have a policy in place. Edwards thinks this would be a good idea, and has a template for such a policy from VLCT. An appointed alternate should be familiar with the application under review and attend meetings, she added. Lewis Sumner asked about the effective date of a new policy—would that be sixty days after adoption? A recent new policy adopted by WSWMD had such a waiting period, he said. Edwards thought ordinances were sixty days but a policy could be effective immediately. Gabriel will query VLCT on that point. Holtz made a motion to adopt an alternate member policy for the Zoning Board of Adjustment, using the VLCT model and modifying the references to DRB (Development Review Board) to read ZBA. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed 3-0. (Note to Readers: Please see link below these meeting minutes to view full text of the Alternate Member Use Policy.)

Standards and Procedures for Town to Require Applicants to Pay for ZBA/PC Technical Support
Halifax zoning regulations (230[4]) and Vermont statutes (24 V.S.A. 4440[d]) permit a zoning board to contract for independent review of an application and require applicants to pay for that service. The Selectboard must adopt standards and procedures to govern this process, and Edwards has solicited VLCT advice on the proper content of such a document. VLCT’s recommendations included requiring an applicant to establish an escrow account from which funds would be drawn to pay for outside services, with the balance returned to the applicant at the conclusion of the proceeding. In Edwards’ opinion, required technical review by specialists could fairly be charged to applicants but legal assistance in a permitting process should be the responsibility of the town. Blaise McGarvey asked whether the town had charged applicants for technical reviews in the past; Lewis Sumner replied that no former permit application had been sufficiently complex to warrant expert opinion. Who will decide if assistance is needed? asked Maggie Bartenhagen. Either the Planning Commission or the ZBA, answered Holtz. Edwards cautioned against writing standards with too-specific constraints, as there is no way of knowing what types of applications might be received in the future. The town’s purchasing policy would apply to Planning Commission or ZBA hiring of consultants, Edwards said in response to Stephan Chait’s query. Edwards made a motion to define standards for hiring expert review as subject to the discretion of the AMP (appropriate municipal panel), with the AMP adhering to the town’s purchasing policy; procedure will be for the Selectboard to work in conjunction with the Town Treasurer to establish escrow accounts in the event technical assistance as requested. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.

Dog Pen Disposition
Holtz has conversed with Carl Barmen, who said that as Andy Rice could use at least one dog pen, he (Barmen) will withdraw his offer to take the pens. Rice was unable to attend this night’s meeting; Sumner proposed postponing the discussion until next meeting.

Discuss Plans for Highway Department Truck Fleet
Rafus said this conversation should also be postponed until the May 19th meeting, to give him opportunity to review the newly arrived truck bids.

Town Road Map Corrections (Janet Taylor)
Janet Taylor, who lives on Josh Road, told the meeting she had noticed the 2014 AOT map designated Josh Road as Class 4, impassable. Taylor related the history of a 2005 legal action wherein the Selectboard had signed orders for both Josh and Bell Roads, among others, reclassifying them from legal trails to Class 4 roads. In 2007, on appeal, Windham Superior Court Judge John Wesley issued a reversal which returned Josh and Bell Roads to their earlier legal trail status. Taylor would like to see the map corrected. As she studied the maps, Edwards questioned the status of Evans Road, which Sumner said was impassable, with a bridge out. I like seeing where it is on the maps, she said, but if it is not actually a road maybe it shouldn’t be shown. Edwards went on to explain that once a year the town submits mileage updates to the state. The state uses that information to revise their official maps. Data has already been submitted this year, she went on, but we will notify the state of the corrections in time for the next map revision in February 2016. Maggie Bartenhagen explained that after VTrans receives information from the towns, Windham Regional Commission’s map specialist Jeff Nugent uses that data to create the maps which are included in the Town Plan. AOT’s primary interest is defining roads which qualify for state maintenance funds, said Holtz; they will make corrections, but only if the town initiates the procedure. Edwards also remarked that the positioning of Bell and Carey Roads as shown on the state map may be in error. Sumner thought Bell Road might be shown correctly, as it forms a loop intersecting Jacksonville Stage Road to the north and Amidon Road to the south. We will research Josh, Bell, Carey, and Evans Roads, Edwards said, and get accurate details to the state before new maps are published. We should make Hall Road impassable in the middle, added Holtz.

Blaise McGarvey, having received notification of the upcoming road reclassification, asked for details on plans for Whitneyville Road. Sumner told McGarvey the upper end of Whitneyville Road was under consideration—that’s way beyond you, he added. We’re trying to nail down what it should be, said Holtz. Presently there are questions as to whether that upper section is legally Class 3 or Class 4, and the designation affects both state funding eligibility and town responsibility for maintenance. There is a legal procedure that must be followed in road reclassification, said Edwards. The Selectboard will hold a site visit and public hearing on May 27th to address the issue. McGarvey said he wanted to research Whitneyville Road’s reclassification history. Will the whole road be reclassified? asked Bettye Roberts. No, answered Holtz, we are looking at the portion which starts up by John LaFlamme’s property. Edwards said the Board needed to map out an efficient travel plan for the site visit, as there are four roads to examine. Where will people meet to begin the site visits? asked Ray Combs. The public notice instructs interested parties that the departure point for the site visits is the school’s upper parking lot.

Hearing of Visitors

Bettye Roberts, who lives at the base of Whitneyville Road, opened with compliments to the highway department for the work they do, but had concerns about water run-off and the shrinking median triangle in the area where Whitneyville and Brook Road intersect. Linda Huebner, Roberts’ across-the-road neighbor, has mud in her basement because water has nowhere to go, and the median where the Town of Halifax sign resides decreases in size each year as traffic cuts a wider swathe across the intersection leg. I try to maintain the grass, and plant flowers, Roberts said, because it is in front of my house. Roberts put up stakes and tape this spring in an attempt to preserve the grass in the triangle. I can’t open my front windows because dust comes into the house. Can anything be done about the situation? Holtz deferred to Rafus on this question, saying he had driven up and saw no problem with the stakes. McGarvey asked about designated widths for town roads; Rafus said a Class 3 road has to have twenty feet of road surface and two feet of shoulder on each side. Can we mark that?, asked McGarvey. Perhaps with a street sign? Roberts pointed out a sign might get in the way during winter plowing. Years ago, said Rafus, the short leg of that “Y” was just a path. But the state now mandates ninety-degree intersections, so the Y-leg is the preferred travel route; visibility is best when entering Brook Road from that leg. As to ditching, Rafus added, there is simply not much room to excavate. Roberts’ driveway has a culvert, but the Huebner driveway does not, so water chooses its own course.

Old Business


Other Business


Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer for Bill Payment

The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed. This order included the semi-annual state education tax payment in the amount of $166,295.00.


For the record, Edwards noted she had forgotten earlier to mention the Planning Commission would not be writing Findings of Fact for the Act 250 Denison/Ashfield quarry proceeding; this option will be available to interested parties when the Environmental Commission so advises.

Edwards had forwarded to Board members a May 2nd email she received from Steven Andrews describing a problem he had on Deer Park Road near Candace Reynolds’ residence. The email detailed Andrews driving through a mudhole, which resulted in a flat tire on his vehicle. Andrews stated that as the mudhole had been there for over a month and was known to the town, he felt it was the towns’ responsibility to pay for two new tires. He would like the town to post or repair the road so other drivers could avoid a similar experience. In a subsequent email Andrews cited an occasion about five years previous when the town had paid for vehicle damage resulting from a hole in a bridge. Edwards notified Brad Rafus of the situation, and advised Andrews of the Selectboard,s next meeting on May 5th. On learning that Andrews would not be able to attend this meeting she advised him that it would be very unusual for the Board to pay for vehicular damage in such circumstances; she would take his complaint to the Board but wanted him to understand she was not acting in his behalf in the matter. Rafus had visited the site of the incident and taken pictures, which showed some mud, but a passable lane on one side of the road. He also took pictures of the ditch alongside the road; the ditch was muddy, showed signs of a car being stuck there, and contained a scarred rock which a vehicle might have hit. While Rafus was on the site, a Prius drove through, and had no difficulty navigating the travel lane. The grader has been down there three or four times this spring, he said. We cannot grade properly until the mud dries, but we have winrowed the mud to the sides of the road to create a travel lane. After discussion, the Board made a decision to take no action, and will send a letter to Andrews advising him of same and inviting him to read the minutes of this night’s meeting for details. Holtz and Rafus also advised that citizens wishing to convey information about the roads should first communicate with the Road Commissioner, who will take issues to the Selectboard as appropriate.

Rafus asked the Selectboard to authorize some overtime for road grading. Edwards said the Board needed to review the quarterly financials first, to get an idea of where the budget stands. The highway department has changed to their summer schedule of four ten-hour days; Edwards wondered whether that schedule was less efficient than a five-day week. Sumner and Rafus both said the ten-hour days were more effective, while Holtz suggested treating Fridays as an alternate day if the crew lost a day to rain during the week. That may be difficult, he admitted, as employees make plans based on their given schedule.


The meeting was adjourned at 8:40 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Selectboard Secretary

ZBA Alternate Member Use Policy