OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
October 1, 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, Tina Blais, Paul Blais, Patty Dow, Andrea Rand, Gary Rand, Jason Ashcroft, Tristan Roberts, Jessica Cooney, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Lewis Sumner advised the Windham County Sheriff’s Office contract has arrived for review.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Mitch Green made a motion to approve the 9/17/19 regular meeting minutes as written. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Lynda Copeland—Unrestrained Dogs
Lynda Copeland was not able to attend the meeting, so this item was passed over.
Tristan Roberts reported on an informational meeting he recently attended; the topic was the new grants available to encourage broadband expansion in Vermont. There are three funding rounds currently available; the first round has been spoken for, the second is earmarked for specific groups such as private companies, and the third round, scheduled for release in April 2020, would be of interest to Halifax. Municipalities are being encouraged to band together in communication union districts similar to the Windham Solid Waste Management District, so towns could work together to extend broadband access to underserved areas. Roberts said representatives from Marlboro, Guilford, Vernon, Readsboro, and Whitingham attended the informational meeting, and all have underserved areas. A multi-town district would require voter approval. The grant is specifically for business models and planning; participants would need to assess current infrastructure, and determine where the needs are and who would be a customer. Roberts noted that while the Halifax Broadband Committee had done some of this work in the past, that committee has been inactive for some time. Sumner asked if an article could be included on the 2020 Town Meeting Day warning. Yes, Roberts responded. Is this for Internet, cell service, or both?, asked Jessica Cooney. Roberts said the grant is for Internet, not cell service. Don’t we have fiber?, asked Ray Combs. The school has fiber, but no one else can use it because there are restrictions on the grant that made it available, answered Roberts. What is VTel?, Gary Rand asked. It’s broadband Internet, Roberts replied, but limited in that you have to be in the right physical location to use it. There was some general discussion of fiber and DSL. Paul Blais explained that fiber could not simply be extended from where it is now (the Town Office or Reed Hill), but would need to be extended from existing termination points, such as Route 112 by Hubbard Hill, Halifax Center, or Gates Pond. Andrea Rand wondered if we could get State assistance. Paul Blais said we have a problem with population density, while Rafus commented that we might have difficulty finding a company willing to take an expanded system over due to too few potential customers. Craftsbury has found a company to operate their town-wide service, said Roberts; there are several other successful models, but they are in the northern part of the State. He told Jessica Cooney the entire process would be years-long, with much work to be done. The grant is for a feasibility study, which would lead to creating a business model, and ultimately building the infrastructure. Was there any information about grant structure and would the town put in money?, asked Rafus. Roberts said there was no specific town funding match mentioned, but towns offering to contribute funding during the application process would be given preference. Private donations are also a possibility. I’m willing to stay on this and attend meetings, said Roberts. Sumner said he would like to have Roberts continue to monitor and report on progress, and the Broadband Committee could be re-activated down the road if and when it was needed. Both Roberts and Sumner said that while it was too early to re-establish the committee, volunteers with expertise would be welcome.
Paul Blais—Celebration Committee
Blais said that for the last couple of years, an informal group of people has planned and orchestrated the yearly Halifax Community Celebration. He asked the Selectboard to establish an official Town committee, with appointments, to create a more structured panel and clarify authority. Blais made the point that both Town funding and donated monies are involved. He envisions a committee of six, with the current regular volunteers having right of first refusal. Sumner mentioned that next year’s celebration is the big one, as it combines the ten-year Old Home Day anniversary with the community celebration. Green said seven members would be preferable to avoid tie votes; Blais said with six, the Chairman would only vote to make or break a tie. He has queried the Secretary of State to learn whether a person not a town resident can serve on the committee. We need more people, said Andrea Rand. She noted that this year’s volunteers were spread thin. What would be the benefit of an official committee compared to what we’re doing now?, asked Gary Rand. It would be structure, replied Blais. It will look better to auditors; you would have a Chair, a Vice Chair; everything would be documented. When you hold the event, do you have liability insurance?, asked Ray Combs. Patty Dow explained that the celebration is covered under Town insurance, either way—with a formal or informal committee. We contact VLCT each year before the event, she said. Rafus recommended everyone interested in volunteering submit a letter of interest to the Selectboard. Blais suggested the current members serve until regular appointments are made after Town Meeting next year; Green said if a committee is formally established the Board needs to appoint members. Is this a commission or a committee?, asked Stephan Chait. It would be a committee, Sumner said. Tristan Roberts praised the organizers’ work of the last few years. Sumner pointed out that next year’s event will be three days long, and there were several suggestions for researching how other towns handle the process. Time is of the essence, said Blais, we need to start planning right away. We’ll be going forward no matter what, said Dow; this is just a formality. She recommended a committee of seven. The Board agreed to make appointments at their October 15th meeting. Tina Blais said her suggestion would be six or seven members; she does not want anyone to feel offended or left out, but would like to see more structure in the planning process, and some protection for Patty Dow, who handles the funds. Everyone—not just those appointed to the committee—would be welcome to attend meetings, share ideas, and volunteer for the many tasks. The committee would fall under Open Meeting Law, with agenda notices posted and minutes taken. Ray Combs thanked everyone involved in putting on the celebration. How much more money will you need from the taxpayers this year, as it is a three-day event?, asked Rafus. We would like to start with about $10,000 replied Dow. We would not be asking for that; we have maintained about $5,000 in the account over the last three years, and we have several fund-raisers planned—the Hunter’s Supper, a bingo night, and a calendar—which will increase the kitty. Dow estimated they would be asking about $3,000 in additional funding. We had a huge response from local business sponsors this year, she added. Sumner made a motion to establish a Halifax Celebration Committee of seven members. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. People interested in volunteering should email firstname.lastname@example.org, and a notice will be posted on the Town web site. Blais and Dow were hopeful that the committee members who have been serving the last few years would have preference for appointments; Roberts suggested letters of interest should include mention of candidates’ past experience. We can discuss this at the next meeting, said Sumner.
Vaughn Road Ditch Damage
Rafus advised that the damage done by Green Mountain Power’s tree-trimming contractors was scheduled for repairs tomorrow. Sumner said GMP had called after receiving the Selectboard’s letter, and said a contractor would do the work on October 2nd. Chait asked if Rafus would be supervising; Rafus said yes. Paul Blais said ditches have been damaged on Pennel Hill, where Canadian flatbeds are hauling logs from a State forest logging operation. Rafus told him the Town cannot make restrictions for specific types of vehicles, only for weight.
Windham County Sheriff’s Office Contract
Board members reviewed the proposed WCSO contract and found it satisfactory. What do they identify as their responsibilities?, asked Chait. Sumner quoted from the contract: “The Office shall provide general law enforcement services on behalf of the Town to the extent and in the manner set forth in this Agreement. Such services shall include those duties and functions of the type coming within the jurisdiction and customarily rendered by the Office, including but not limited to: furnishing patrols, investigating, apprehending, preparing for prosecution, and the final disposition of any motor vehicle violation, vehicle identification number (VIN) verification, and local ordinance violations.” They will do VIN verifications during their regular patrols, but will not make special trips, added Sumner. Is this a renewed contract?, asked Jessica Cooney. Sumner said this is a new contract, not a renewal; Rafus added that the term will be from the time of signature until the end of the fiscal year; June 30, 2020. We have $6,000 budgeted, said Rafus; when we prepare next year’s budgets we can decide to stick with that or maybe add a little more. Green said WCSO will patrol at random times and focus primarily on traffic enforcement. Will they help when you post roads closed?, asked Combs. That is not their jurisdiction, answered Rafus; the DOT is supposed to enforce that. Sumner made a motion to approve the Windham County Sheriff’s Office contract from now until June 30, 2020. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Green made a motion to appoint Lewis Sumner as liaison to the Sheriff’s Office. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Hearing of Visitors
Stephan Chait reported that Athena Lee Bradley, from WSWMD, had given an informative and useful presentation at the September 25th Conservation Commission meeting. Bradley discussed the upcoming hazardous household waste collection event. Last year 72 Halifax households made use of the service. This year’s collection date is Saturday, October 19th, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Informational flyers explaining what is and is not accepted are available at the Town Office, or can be viewed at halifaxvt.com (see the link on the Home page or the flyer on the Conservation Commission page). Bradley also spoke about recycling; she can provide additional signs to post near our recycling bins. The signs would explain proper recycling procedures and hopefully reduce the quantity of non-recyclable materials and/or plastic bags that are placed in the bins and cost the Town extra fees for contamination. Jessica Cooney also mentioned a recurring problem with discarded items being left on the ground near the recycling bins. Bradley’s third topic was food waste recycling, which will become mandatory in Vermont in 2020. She discussed methods of backyard composting that will not attract bears and the Conservation Commission is planning a meeting in Halifax to educate citizens on this subject. Cooney said there were eleven businesses in Halifax, plus the school, which could all benefit from food scrap composting, and Bradley is available to assist in the process. Cooney pointed out that composting cuts down on the cost of trash removal for householders and businesses. Rafus said he wished we could make people in general understand how much contamination in the recycling bins costs the taxpayers. Cooney noted the importance of educating townspeople about the importance of proper recycling; not only does contamination cost the Town money, it might be necessary to discontinue the collection bins altogether. Chait closed by saying the hazardous waste collection points on October 19th are 327 Old Ferry Road in Brattleboro (WSWMD) and 9 West Jamaica Road in Stratton (the Stratton Town Garage).
Selectboard’s Order to Treasurer for Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Correspondence was reviewed and filed. Two driveway permits were signed. Sumner made a motion to accept the 2019-20 Cargill salt contract, an estimated 450 tons at $76.99 per ton. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. The Cargill contract was signed. The Board reviewed and instructed Gabriel to respond to a letter from a Phillips Hill Road resident regarding roadside mowing.
Sumner made a motion to enter executive session, including Gabriel, to discuss land acquisition. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. The Board entered executive session at 8:27 p.m., and exited at 8:40 p.m., with no decisions made.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:40 p.m.