Town of Halifax, Vermont
July 21, 2015


Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 6:32 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Edee Edwards, and Doug Grob were present. Stephan Chait, Brad Rafus, Janet Taylor, and Robbin Gabriel were also in attendance.

Changes and/or Additions to Agenda


Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes

Edee Edwards made a motion to approve the 7/7/15 regular meeting minutes with one change. Lewis Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

Edwards made a motion to approve the 7/13/15 special meeting minutes as written. Doug Grob seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.

New Business

Open Bids—Town Garage Insulation Removal
The Board received one bid on insulation removal at the Town Garage, as follows:

Catamount Environmental, Wilmington, Vermont: Removal and disposal of waterlogged fiberglass roof insulation from interior of 6,000 square foot building. Will supply all equipment, staging, lifts and protection equipment to perform work. $14,750.00.

Edwards reviewed a budget spreadsheet and advised $10,000 was allotted for roof repairs in FY15. However, she said, I think we need to do this. Edwards made a motion to accept the bid from Catamount Environmental for insulation repair at $14,750. Sumner seconded the motion. The motion was denied, 0-3. (See following discussion.)

I think we’re going to be in trouble if we pull this insulation out now, said Grob. He has been attempting without success to find an available roofer for a project; roofing contractors are booked solid for this building season. Stephan Chait asked whether the concern was going through the winter with no insulation and a leaking roof. Grob said that situation would result in even more condensation than is presently occurring. There would be ice build-up inside the building. Grob recommended getting quotes and tackling the project in the spring. How long is the Catamount bid good for—could we ask them to hold that price, asked Chait. There’s no time limit mentioned, answered Sumner. We could ask the vendor later if his bid is still good, added Edwards. She quoted details from SEVCA’s audit energy report. The report recommends no work be done on the ceiling until the roof has been repaired, and states the fiberglass should be dried out thereafter. Chait had concerns about insulation in the walls, which might also be compromised by moisture. Various temporary repairs were suggested. Brad Rafus said he thought it would be better to wait and get bids early next season than to spend $15,000 for insulation removal, $10,000 for a temporary roof sealant, and then pay to replace the insulation. And then we would still need a new roof, said Edwards, who also reminded the meeting of concerns about mold issues. Sumner recommended soliciting bids in December; we can get the project scheduled and we might get a better price. If we get bids back before the end of January, we can budget for it, said Edwards. If you took that course, would you include examination and removal of insulation in the walls, asked Chait. We might need an engineer to help us understand the problem, Edwards suggested. Can we get someone in to determine if there is a mold problem? There is no air movement in the building, said Rafus. The ceiling was dripping during rain a few days ago. Sumner asked Rafus what it would cost to get the disconnected fans going; Rafus said opening the sealed vents would be simple but he didn’t know how involved reconnecting the fans would be. The fans could be run during the summer months to assist in drying out the building. The Board agreed to research tarping the roof for the winter to prevent further leaks, arrange for ventilation to dry insulation as much as possible over the remainder of the summer, and request bids in December for roof construction next building season. We need to know exactly what we want to do so we can be very specific in the bid requests, said Rafus. He also suggested talking to SVE, as the garage was originally built to their design. We should get out the old bid from the company that was going to put a double roof on, advised Edwards. Before we go out to bid we should put together a packet of information including past Board discussions about the garage roof, the double roof bid, the insulation bid, and any other pertinent details. Gabriel will call Catamount Environmental, and also send a letter explaining the Board’s decision on insulation removal. Rafus will talk to the town of Hawley, Massachusetts; they had similar problems with a roof built by the same contractor. He will also call SVE. Grob will talk to Earl Holtz and Pine Hill (also built by same contractor), in Colrain Massachusetts. Gabriel will research vendors for tarps. This topic will be addressed again under Old Business on the August 4th meeting agenda.

Discuss Hammarquist Drainage
Hans Hammarquist has communicated with Rafus and Edwards concerning broken curtain drain pipes and a pass-through from Jacksonville Stage Road onto his property. Rafus said that before Irene there was a spot where the ditch along the town highway had been filled in, which allowed vehicles to drive onto the Hammarquist property in a spot other than the regular driveway. This spot was never a permitted driveway; if it had been it would have required   culvert. Also, perimeter drain pipes from the house extend into the town ditch. The pipes still function, but the ends have been broken as the highway department cleans ditches, and Hammarquist would like assistance from the highway crew in repairing them. Rafus said the pipes should not protrude into the ditchline; if they were restored in their present position they would likely get broken again during future ditch maintenance. Sumner proposed sending Hammarquist a letter. Edwards said the letter should explain that the Board strongly advised the perimeter drain pipes be repositioned outside the town right of way. The town is not liable for damage done to private property placed in the right of way. Also, Hammarquist should apply for a driveway permit for the second entrance to his property. That will require a 15-inch culvert; policy is that the landowner purchases the culvert and the highway department will do the installation. Rafus will be replacing a culvert under Jacksonville Stage Road near the Hammarquist property and may be able to do the work at that time, if the driveway permit is approved before the town culvert work is scheduled. Otherwise the installation would be at the town’s earliest convenience. The highway crew will also clean out the plugged culvert under the existing driveway. Gabriel will prepare a letter for Board signature during their August 4th meeting.

Scheduling for Bylaw Amendment from Planning Commission
At their July 14th 2015 meeting the Planning Commission concluded their modification of the proposed zoning regulation bylaw amendments and agreed to pass the amendments to the Selectboard. Per Vermont statute, the Board will hold a public hearing on the amendments within 120 days. After discussion, the Board chose three possible dates in September—the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th—and asked Gabriel to make arrangements with the school for evening use of the multi-purpose room once the school secretary is back in her office in August. Chait suggested it might be helpful for the Planning Commission to meet with the Selectboard and explain the details of the proposed amendments. Sumner said he needed to read the submitted materials first; he and Edwards concurred they would consider the offer once they were familiar with the document’s contents.

Zoning Board of Adjustment Vacancy
The Selectboard has received John Brimmer’s letter of resignation from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Linda Lyon is now serving as alternate member of the ZBA, but the Selectboard must appoint someone as full member to fill the vacant position. Edwards said Brimmer’s term expires in March 2016. We will post the vacancy, she said, and also ask Linda Lyon, who had previously volunteered for both the Planning Commission and the ZBA, whether she would be willing to serve. Edwards also suggested re-posting the Planning Commission/ZBA secretarial position, which Gabriel has been filling temporarily. We need more alternate members, too, she added.

Set FY16 Tax Rate
Sumner announced the FY16 tax rate as follows: Municipal tax rate, $0.8036. Homestead rate, school tax, $1.36; total Homestead rate, $2.1636. Non-resident rate, school tax, $1.4737; total Non-resident rate, $2.2773. Sumner explained, in response to a question from Chait, that the tax amount is calculated by multiplying the appropriate total rate—Homestead or Non-resident—by one percent of the grand list value of a property. This year, the Homestead rate has decreased by approximately six-and-a-half cents, and the Non-resident rate has decreased by $0.0486. Sumner made a motion to set the FY16 tax rates as Homestead, $2.1636 and Non-resident, $2.2773. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Edwards said the tax rate decreased because the Town had a surplus last year. That surplus allowed us to fully fund the $60,000 reserve fund voted at town meeting, and to apply monies over that $60,000 amount to offset taxes. We don’t yet have the detail on how we ended up with a $217,000 surplus, she stated. Sumner said he had reviewed the figures with Patty Dow and they looked correct. I don’t question Dow’s figures, replied Edwards, I just don’t understand how we overbudgeted that much. Or did we have monies coming in we did not anticipate? The state hold harmless payment was quite a bit higher than last year, said Sumner, that could be part of it. I still think we have really high tax rates, said Edwards. Where do we rank in relation to other towns? Sumner mentioned a number of other towns in the area are seeing a tax increase this year, and Halifax is one of the few with a Homestead rate lower than the Non-resident rate. I think we have to give our School Board credit for keeping the budget under control, he said. The Board signed the FY16 tax rate document, which was returned to the Town Clerk.

Review Bond Information
Gabriel told the Board the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank receives bond applications by May 15th each year. Prior to submitting a request, the town must consult certified bond counsel, conduct a successful bond vote, and provide an audit from an outside firm. In some cases, with permission, the Bond Bank will accept an accountant’s review or compilation, which are less expensive options. Edwards said the Board should assess need for a bond during budget preparation in December, which would allow time for an item on the March 2016 Town Meeting ballot. A bond could be used for a bridge or the garage, she told Grob. The bonding question had been raised previously during discussion of town garage roof replacement. The Town already has a bond on the garage and Rafus asked if a second bond could be obtained to pay off the first bond. Sumner said probably not, once a bond has been issued it cannot be added to, nor can the terms be changed. However, it is possible to get a second bond on an asset already under bond.

Hearing of Visitors

Rafus advised the Highway Department needed to rent an excavator. The Town excavator has been in the shop awaiting parts for two weeks, with no estimated time of arrival. The necessary part is coming from Russia. The excavator is essential to the Town Hill repaving project currently underway. Rafus said he could rent an excavator from Catepillar in Richmond, Vermont, at a half-rate discount of $1,000 a week. Sumner made a motion to approve excavator rental at $1,000 a week. Edwards seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. What size is the excavator, asked Chait. It’s a 316D, said Rafus.

Rafus asked about scheduling for town employee reviews, which haven’t been done for two years. Edwards said she does not yet have last year’s summary data; she does have data from the State’s salary and benefits report from last year, and will work on compiling information as soon as she receives last year’s numbers from Patty Dow. We still have questions about how to handle holiday pay, she said, and our CDL licensing policies are not up to date. The Board set an employee review date of Monday, August 10th, 3:00 p.m., at the Town Garage.

Old Business


Other Business

Edwards asked that a discussion on whether the Selectboard would submit Findings of Fact in the Act 250 Denison quarry proceeding be added to the next regular meeting agenda.

Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer for Bill Payment

The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.


Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed and appropriately filed. The Board received a sample contract from WSWMD which indicates that once the WSWMD solar project is operational, the Town, as a member of the district, will see a fifty percent discount on their electricity costs. The solar project is still in the permitting stage.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:23 p.m..

Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Selectboard Secretary