OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
August 20, 2019
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 Stephan Chait, Ray Combs, Peggy Rafus, Nancy McCrea, Diana Conway, and Robbin Gabriel. Norman Fajans arrived shortly after the meeting began.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Lewis Sumner made a motion to approve the 8/6/19 regular meeting minutes as written. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Mitch Green made a motion to approve the 8/12/19 special meeting minutes as written. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Thurber Road Reclassification Decision
Sumner announced that the Thurber Road Findings and Decision document, prepared by Town Attorney Robert Fisher, has been completed. The decision states the section of Thurber between the McCrea (formerly Ray) driveway and the McCrea/Roberts property line will remain Class 4, while the section from the McCrea/Roberts boundary to the eastern junction with Green River Road will be reclassified from legal trail to Class 4. Rafus said that he would sign the document to support the Board, but wanted it on record that he was opposed to the decision. Stephan Chait asked if Rafus would explain his opposition. I would rather have seen the whole thing classified as legal trail, responded Rafus; the function would have been the same, and I’m concerned about the potential financial impact on the Town at a later date. Board members summarized the decision for Norm Fajans, who had just arrived, and Chait asked whether reclassifying from trail to Class 4 through the Roberts property would change anything. Green said no, the road was still a right-of-way. Ray Combs asked if Roberts’ access was illegal, and Green answered no; the property has frontage on Green River Road and there’s nothing in the zoning regulations that says a landowner has to use frontage for access. What about the electricity (underground lines) going across the road?, asked Combs. That’s approved, responded Green; we had him (Roberts) dig it up so we could inspect it. Rafus told Fajans that the Town would eventually need to take care of culverts.
Nancy McCrea said Malcolm Sumner had told her Luther Ray used to gate off Thurber Road to accommodate his animals. I understand the Selectboard can make a road a pent road, she continued; would we be allowed to do this? Several opinions were offered regarding where a pent road was allowed, and Green said he would like to refresh his memory of statutes before addressing the issue. Rafus advised that the State’s Orange Book (a handbook on roads for local officials) was vague on the topic of pent roads. The Board asked Gabriel to research State statutes on the subject. Sumner said he didn’t know of any pent roads in Halifax. Will the reclassification decision be posted on the Town web site?, asked Chait. Yes, replied Gabriel, and it will be sent by certified mail to the list of interested parties. The Town Clerk will also record the decision in the land records, said Sumner. Green told McCrea that the decision does not mean Roberts will be allowed to cut trees or do other work on the McCrea property without permission. And will you give him permission?, asked McCrea. Sumner advised it would depend on the specific request; Green added that, in his opinion, the Board would not allow Roberts to do work on the upper end of the road. We would probably permit him (Roberts) to make improvements on the lower end, Green said. Rafus said he believed the Board would require Roberts to obtain appropriate insurance before any work was done. It would be the same as though we hired a contractor, he said; insurance is required before any work is done in the Town right of way.
Sumner advised he had requested this discussion because he’d received numerous complaints about speeding in the village, including Andy Rice. Rafus got a laugh when he asked if Rice had been speeding or was he one of the complainers. We don’t have any enforcement here in town right now, said Sumner, and our Constable doesn’t have authority to issue tickets. Rafus has researched acquiring digital speed signs, but the cost is prohibitive; the signs are about $4,300 each. Sumner said Windham County has a new Sheriff (Mark Anderson), and the Selectboard has received a letter from him offering to discuss services available to the town. Originally we contracted with Vermont State Police, said Green, because people felt they were more effective. VSP is no longer offering contracts to the towns. Norm Fajans commented there was less VSP presence in the area since the barracks moved to Westminster. Sumner told Chait the Windham County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) has not made a specific offer but is willing to meet with the town for discussion. The Town has $6,000 in the FY20 budget earmarked for policing services; the Board checked spreadsheets to verify. Rafus told Diana Conway he didn’t believe digital radar signs were available for rent; WCSO has one they set up in the towns, but Rafus did not know if there was a fee. Chait asked about other towns’ satisfaction with WCSO services. The new Sheriff has just been appointed by the Governor, replied Sumner; I haven’t spoken with anyone who uses them since he took over. There was some general conversation about Bennington Sheriff’s Department serving Whitingham in the past. Ray Combs mentioned a lack of response (from VSP) to ATVs on local roads. Sumner made a motion to have Gabriel contact WCSO and request a meeting. Green seconded the motion, which passed 3-0. Combs asked what the State Police had charged. $6,000 yearly, said Sumner, roughly $50 an hour. Some months might be less, others more; it averaged out. He told Chait that WSCO was based in Newfane, and deputies take their vehicles home at night. They have jurisdiction anywhere in the County, said Green.
Employee Wage Discussion
Sumner told the meeting an employee evaluation meeting was held one morning last week, and this year’s budget includes funds for a 3% wage increase. He said the Town’s new employee—Stacey Ames—will complete his 60-day probationary period next week. When Ames was hired the Board offered a one-dollar an hour wage increase following a satisfactory probationary period. He’s doing well, said Sumner; all his co-workers are happy with him. Sumner made a motion to give Stacey Ames a $1-an-hour wage increase, plus an additional $0.50 per hour increase, to begin at the close of Ames’ 60-day probation. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In discussion before the vote, Sumner said Ames was interested in learning to operate the excavator, and the Board is encouraging that. Ames worked for 11 years driving truck for a town in Massachusetts. He is selling his house in Massachuetts and has purchased a home in Wilmington, Sumner told Chait. As the Board prepared to vote on increases for the rest of the Highway crew, Rafus recused himself. Sumner made a motion to approve Highway Department hourly wage increases as follows: Brad Rafus, $0.72/hr.; Keith Stone, $0.69/hr.; Mike Fournier, $0.60/hr.; Ben Barnett, $0.60/hr. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Rafus abstaining. Rafus suggested, for bookkeeping purposes, that all raises begin the week of August 26th.
Gabriel requested Board verification of KAS Environmental’s plan to test landfill monitoring wells MW-3 and MW-4, and the Rafus private well, in the fall of 2019, and report all test results to the State, while noting that the MW-4 and Rafus tests were voluntary; requested by the Town but not mandated by the State. Board members confirmed. If the (MW-4) well comes back with higher levels, we will probably have to continue testing, said Peggy Rafus. The Board agreed.
Hearing of Visitors
Ray Combs asked how the equipment was holding up. No major problems, answered Rafus; we had a truck blow an air bag today, but that’s common.
Stephan Chait, referring to ditch damage caused by Green Mountain Power (GMP) contractors performing tree-trimming along utility lines, asked if proposals had been solicited for ditch repair. Rafus said GMP would be doing the contracting; he does not know the specifics of GMP purchasing policy but has supplied the power company with names of local contractors. Rafus has had discussions with GMP supervisors and will be supervising the work once it commences to assure Town requirements are met.
Selectboard’s Order to Treasurer for Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Correspondence was reviewed and filed.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:46 p.m.