OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
September 3, 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 Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson, Stephan Chait, Ray Combs, Tristan Roberts, Paula Schwartz, Janet Taylor, Nancy McCrea, Diana Conway, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Brad Rafus added two items for discussion; current status of junk ordinance violation warnings issued earlier this summer, and the lack of Green Mountain Power corrective action on ditch damage which occurred during tree trimming to clear utility lines.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Mitch Green made a motion to approve the 8/20/19 regular meeting minutes with several corrections. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson–Guest
Sumner welcomed Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson, who told those assembled that while he was here primarily to introduce himself as the new Sheriff, he would be happy to answer questions anyone might have about coverage the Windham County Sheriff’s Office (WSCO) is able to provide for towns. Anderson said he was aware that WSCO has not had a relationship with Halifax for some time; the Town had a contract with Vermont State Police until VSP stopped offering that service. WSCO recognizes that towns have individual needs, and the organization provides gap coverage to approximately 14 towns and villages through contracts that vary from simple traffic enforcement to full police coverage. Do you patrol randomly, or have a set pattern?, asked Sumner. It depends, answered Anderson. Vernon, for instance, wants us there during school hours, so while our contract doesn’t include a specific schedule, we are there during those hours. In Dummerston, it varies; patrols can be nighttime, or morning, evening, day hours. Anderson estimated that a total of 10-11 town contracts equates to about 1-1/2 full time deputy positions, with working hours distributed among the towns according to their needs. He made it clear that if Halifax were to ask for full-time coverage WSCO does not presently have the staff to make that possible. While he is open to hiring, the training process takes time, so he would need to plan ahead. We can’t afford to have you here full-time, said Green, but we would like to have random patrols, as we did with VSP. Anderson explained that while VSP officers were on overtime hours to fulfill town contracts, WSCO deputies are on straight time, which provides more flexibility and more hours for the money. He told Sumner the FY20 hourly rate is $51. He has one contract at $2,000 a year, which he considers too small to be effective. A number of towns have $5-$7,000 contracts while Dummerston, on the high end, is at $15,000. Rafus asked whether WSCO charged for travel time. No, replied Anderson, our deputies have take-home cars, and we attempt to assign them in the most efficient way possible according to their location. Travel time is charged only if we receive an emergency call from a town and have to respond immediately. WSCO has two digital speed signs which they make available at no additional charge. Anderson said he had two rules; the signs are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, and they are not in use during the winter months. There is a charge for set-up, which takes about fifteen minutes, and the signs collect data which is not used for enforcement but can be used for traffic survey purposes. Ray Combs asked whether anyone could call WSCO, or if it had to be a Selectboard member. Anderson said that under all but one of his contracts, any citizen could call. Combs mentioned past problems with ATVs, and there was some general conversation about enforcement and what the law did and did not allow.
Anderson told Rafus he does primarily one-year contracts, on a fiscal year schedule. However, he is open to the possibility of multiple-year contracts, and is willing to consider a mid-year contract as long as he has the personnel to fulfill it. Answering a question from Stephan Chait, he said deputies might patrol anywhere in town and become familiar with properties and problem areas, or they might simply provide traffic enforcement, depending on the scope of service spelled out in the contract. What is your recommendation for this town, is it 20 hours?, asked Combs. Anderson suggested two to five hours a week, but prefers to leave that decision to the Selectboard. Sumner thanked Anderson for coming, and said the Board would hold further discussion about a contract and might invite him back.
After Anderson’s departure, Chait asked how many hours the Vermont State Police patrolled in Halifax when the Town had a contract with them. Sumner explained the Town had a $6,000-a-year contract, and hours varied month to month. Rafus said he believed the hourly cost depended on what officer was here. VSP hours were overtime, and a higher-ranking officer would be paid at a different rate.
Tristan Roberts said he had learned about a new Department of Public Safety grant program. The first of three rounds of grants is offering $60,000 to fund feasibility studies leading to business plans related to the deployment of broadband in rural unserved and underserved parts of Vermont. Interested towns should submit an intent-to-respond email by September 5th, and proposals from applicants are due October 25th. Sumner advised an informational meeting would be held in Wilmington next week and Roberts said he would be willing to attend. Green recommended sending a letter of intent expressing the Town’s interest. Does the grant require a town match?, asked Rafus. Roberts found a reference in the literature stating towns with matching funds would be given preference, but no percentage was listed. Gabriel will send an email indicating interest, and Roberts will bring information from next week’s meeting back to the Selectboard. That meeting will be held at the Memorial Hall in Wilmington, September 11th, 6-7 p.m.
Discuss Pent Roads
Sumner said Vermont State statutes do not say much about pent roads, and he is not aware of any in Vermont. He recommended to Nancy McCrea and Diana Conway that they follow Malcolm Sumner’s practice of simply stringing an electric fence wire across the road termporarily when moving livestock. Malcolm does this on Reed Hill and Sprague Roads, supervising the movement of his cows from one field to another. No permit is required for the process, Sumner told Roberts. Green said a pent road utilized a gate, which had to remain unlocked, and if the Board decided on that there should be a public hearing. Nancy McCrea said their request was for a pent road, per statute. If we consider that, we should have a public hearing and get public input on a decision that important, said Green. Sumner made a motion to keep the road as it is for now, and let McCrea and Conway use a removable wire to move livestock. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Prior to the vote, McCrea said they had spoken with Butch Corey, who said Luther Ray had a fence across the road in the past. Green said that was not legal, unless it was designated as a pent road.
Junk Ordinance Violations
Earlier in the summer, the Selectboard sent letters to several property owners advising of Halifax Junk Ordinance violations. It has been well over 30 days, said Rafus, and there has been no improvement. Rafus told Chait one property is on Brook Road, another at the intersection of Jacksonville Stage and Branch Roads, and a third on Branch Road. After the letters went out, Bill Adams told Sumner he would be doing some clean-up, but that has not happened. Green suggested instructing the Constable to issue tickets. Gabriel will check deadline dates in the letters that were sent. Tristan Roberts asked about junk vehicles on the Green River Road property with the washed-out bridge. There are two cars, the Board told him; they are not violating the junk ordinance, as the statute says “less than four.”
Green Mountain Power
Green Mountain Power (GMP) has contracted with a tree company to trim trees and brush around ulitity lines this summer. Rafus recommended the Selectboard send GMP a letter; as the contractor damaged ditches on Vaughn and Jacksonville Stage Roads and has not followed through on promises to repair the damage. It’s been about six weeks, said Rafus, and nothing has happened. I think we should tell GMP if they don’t fix it we are going to restrict their access in our right of way. Green suggested the Town Attorney should draft a letter so it is properly worded. Green made a motion to have Town Attorney Robert Fisher draft a letter to Green Mountain Power stating GMP’s contractor has not lived up to their agreement to repair road damage, and the Town will take action to restrict ROW access if the damage is not corrected. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Rafus said utilities must obtain permission from the Town to install poles in the right of way, and if permission is withheld the utilities would have to pursue easements to build lines.
Hearing of Visitors
Stephan Chait announced that at its next meeting, Wednesday, September 25th, the Conservation Commission will have a guest speaker from Windham Solid Waste Management District (WSWMD). Athena Lee Bradley is WSWMD’s Program Manager; she will be sharing information about the October 19, 2019 hazardous waste material collection event, as well as specifics about proper recycling procedures and WSWMD’s food waste management program, which will involve the school. Chait told Diana Conway the Conservation Commission meeting is open to the public and will be held at the Town Offices at 7:00 p.m. on September 25, 2019.
Ray Combs asked the Board whether the Town retains Bob Fisher on contract as town attorney; he wondered about the cost of having Fisher prepare a letter. Sumner said Fisher’s services to the Town are on an as-needed basis at an hourly rate.
Selectboard’s Order to Treasurer for Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Correspondence was reviewed and filed.
Sumner made a motion to enter executive session, including Gabriel, to discuss a real estate proposal. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. The Board entered executive session at 8:07 p.m., and exited at 8:27 p.m., with no decisions made.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:27 p.m.