OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
December 6, 2016
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were present, as were Homer (Chum) Sumner, Craig Stone, John Gannon, Edee Edwards, Mark Halverson, Alice Aldrich, Emily Blake (Deerfield Valley News), and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of December 3, 2016 special meeting minutes added.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Lewis Sumner made a motion to approve the 11/15/16 regular meeting minutes as written. Mitch Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Green made a motion to approve the 12/3/16 special meeting minutes as written. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
John Gannon, State Representative
After Sumner introduced John Gannon as our new State Representative, Gannon thanked the Board for the invitation to speak, and said one of his goals this evening was to discuss best methods of communication with the town. Many of the legislature’s actions impact towns, and he would like to establish open lines of communication on those issues. Once the session starts January 4th, I will be in Montpelier Tuesday through Friday, he said; I could call in to a Selectboard meeting during those times, or, at other times, come here personally. Sumner recommended communicating with secretary Gabriel, who would then pass on information. If you have ideas about legislation that would benefit this area, Gannon continued, I would be glad to see about getting it drafted. He learned at a recent briefing that the January adjustment to the State budget passed in May would be about 40 million dollars. The bad news, he said, is that the new Clean Water Act is going to cost 120 million dollars a year for the next twenty years. There are 52 million dollars in annual revenue currently available for that purpose, leaving a 68 million dollar gap.
Green had one suggestion for potential legislation. He would like to see automobile insurance changed so that licensed drivers carried liability insurance, rather than vehicles. That way, an insured person could drive any vehicle, rather than insuring multiple vehicles. Chum Sumner pointed out that in situations where a number of family members shared one vehicle, having every driver carry separate liability could get expensive. In Massachusetts, said Craig Stone, insurance is tied to registration. If insurance lapses, the registry is notified and that registration is no longer valid.
Edee Edwards asked about the possibility of fees charged to towns as a source of revenue for the Clean Water Act. There are fees for road projects, responded Gannon, and the proceeds from the Property Transfer Title Tax will also help pay for water cleanup. But those funds are insufficient; other sources must be found. Brad Rafus said at one meeting he attended there was discussion of a $4,000 yearly blanket culvert permit for towns. For our town, that’s almost 50% of our whole culvert budget each year, he added. We do apply for Better Back Roads grants, he told Gannon, and we just got a capital budget plan grant. Halifax has 746 culverts; we try to replace 20-30 per year. If we had to get a permit for each one, both cost and time would be burdensome.
Lewis Sumner described the town’s current situation regarding PFC (polyfluorinated compounds). In 1995, when the Branch Road landfill was capped, the town hired a contractor who trucked sludge in from Shaftsbury. Once PFC contamination was found in the Bennington area, the state notified Halifax of the need to test the closed landfill. That test, in October, showed higher-than-permissible PFC levels, so several nearby private wells will now be tested, and those results will determine the next steps. Sumner said there is no funding presently available to assist in paying for these tests. We’re not the only town, he said, and I know they’ll be testing elsewhere. Rafus asked whether the town’s sludge ordinance was in effect at the time the landfill was capped.
Edwards said her property is fairly close to the landfill, and after reading about the PFC testing in the Boston Globe, she has some concerns. What were the specific test results, she asked. Vermont’s allowable level is 20 ppt (parts per trillion), and the landfill wells tested at 28.2. The EPA has set a 70 ppt limit. The state designated two private wells for testing. One property owner has refused, and Edwards wondered whether another location would be chosen, to give a better picture of possible PFC movement. Rafus expects that depending on results from the next tests, the state will expand the testing radius. Edwards would like to know whether private individuals can get this testing, and where to get details about artesian wells in the state. This information should be available from the Environmental Division. She also suggested an informational meeting would be worthwhile, and the town should budget for additional procedures. Sumner agreed, but said at this point we don’t know what further costs will be. I’ve been open about this, he remarked, but we don’t have all the answers yet, and I don’t think the state does, either. It’s been less than a year since the presence of PFCs first surfaced in Hoosick Falls, NY. Mark Halverson, who is a chemical engineer, said the American Cancer Society recommends carbon filtration for water supplies showing contamination. Gannon said he would be willing to look into the issue, noting that Bennington is farther along than Halifax.
Craig Stone suggested the town’s sludge ordinance should be researched; he pointed out that the contractors who imported the sludge were responsible for knowing and following state and local law, even if they did not know the content of the material they were transporting. The state wanted us to cap that landfill in a prudent manner, he continued; I think they–or the engineering firm–may have some responsibility. He said he was aware of two other locations in town where sludge was used, and while Edwards urged him to be more specific he declined to identify them. Halverson suggested Stone give that information to the state. Sumner speculated that PFCs may have ended up in landfills through other sources, such as discarded Teflon cookware. Now that testing is available, said Halverson, the American Cancer Society says everyone has the chemical in their blood; the question is, at what level? As he prepared to depart, Gannon said he would investigate funding assistance for PFC testing.
Old Town Garage
We only budgeted $1,000 to tear down and clean up the old town garage building (on Brook Road), Rafus told the Board. I got a quote from Triple-T, and we will need at least four dumpsters, at $800 per loaded dumpster. So demolition removal will be $3-$4,000 in addition to labor costs, and we don’t have the money in our budget right now. Green asked whether all the material would need to go to the landfill. The beams are coated—possibly with lead paint—said Rafus, and there is a layer of insulation material in the siding. We had considered peeling off the metal for salvage, but there’s not much weight, and the price of steel is too low presently to offset the labor and trucking costs. Hiring a contractor to do the entire cleanup would cost about $9,000. If the highway crew does the work the total cost would be about $5,000. The Board agreed to postpone the project; funds might be available in the spring, depending on the severity of the winter.
Town Garage (Branch Road) Roof
Melanson has estimated the cost of sealing all town garage roof seams at $3,800. Recently they sealed the one stretch which had a detectable leak, and the building has stayed dry through heavy rain thus far. Further sealing would not be done until the weather warms up again, but Rafus said there are enough dollars in the building reserve to consider the project come spring.
KAS Well Testing
The Board agreed this subject had been covered during the earlier conversation with John Gannon.
The Town expected to see a final contract on the WSWMD solar net metering project by November 30th, but it appears the contract is still being worked on, and no final version has been received yet. Gabriel has learned that while some other towns have received contracts which are under review by town attorneys, no town has signed an agreement yet.
VY/DEMHS Grant Funding
The town’s grant application for the $15,000 VY grant was submitted to the state by the November 18th deadline. DEMHS has confirmed receipt and found it acceptable on initial review. Four estimates for town garage generator upgrade were included with the application. DEMHS will now do a detailed review as part of the approval process.
Hearing of Visitors
Alice Aldrich said she had come tonight to hear about the PFC situation. What will it cost the town, will we have to drill new wells, did they know of the pollution when they brought it here, she asked. No, Sumner resonded to the last question; that was 21 years ago, and we just learned about the problem this year. Gabriel located a copy of a Halifax town ordinance to regulate the disposal of waste, dated in 1989 and amended in 1995, and will research town records for additional information about the landfill capping project.
Sign Orders to the Treasurer
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed. This order included reimbursement of 2016 town tax overpayments, and dispersement of special funds voted at March 2016 Town Meeting.
Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed and filed. The yearly contract with Resue, Inc., was signed. The Board received notification from DMV to update highway and bridge weight restrictions.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:40 p.m.