OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
January 21, 2020
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 Ray Combs, Stephan Chait, Tristan Roberts, David Jones, Sarah Barnett, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Mitch Green made a motion to approve the 1/7/20 regular meeting minutes as written. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Discuss Truck Options
At their last meeting the Board discussed emission component failures that have taken one highway department truck out of service repeatedly this winter. Brad Rafus has now researched used trucks of an older vintage currently available for sale. He found three; a 2007 International, pre-emissions, in need of bed chains, rollers, and rear-wheel anti-lock brake sensors, for $27,500; a 2011 International, with emissions and a MaxxForce motor, in need of tires and a wing valve replacement, for $30,000; and a 2010 International with a Cummins pre-emissions motor, ready to go with plow, wing, and side dump, for $35,000. These trucks are single-wheelers, and Ray Combs asked whether they would be able to push the plow. Yes, said Rafus, they’re the same as what we usually run, and we already have a spare wing and plow. The 2010 is a trade-in that originally belonged to Wilmington. Rafus said there is $27,000 remaining in the gravel budget, $6,600 left in the chloride budget, and $5,800 left in the stone budget. He told Green there is also $11,500 in a separate equipment account, and Lewis Sumner advised another $11,000 was added to that account in FY20. Stephan Chait recalled from last meeting’s discussion that while there are funds left in the gravel budget, we have spent more than budgeted for sand. Rafus agreed that some of the monies in the other accounts would go to purchase more sand. How many miles on the 2010?, asked Chait. 70,000, said Rafus. Green asked what the cost of repairs would be on the truck that is presently out of service, and Rafus said there was no way to tell because they’ve not yet identified the problem. Sumner asked when the Town could take delivery on the new truck that has been on order for some months. Another month, said Rafus; the body is being installed now. We were supposed to have it by November 1st, but the dealer made an error in the specifications.
After further discussion, Green made a motion to purchase the used 2010 International for $35,000, using funds from other Highway accounts. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Rafus said Wilmington had no problems with this truck, and he has test-driven it.
WRC Broadband Project Resolution
Windham Regional Commission has requested the Town pass a resolution indicating intent to participate in WRC’s broadband feasibility study project. During their January 7th meeting, the Selectboard appointed David Jones as spokesperson for WRC’s kickoff meeting, with Stephan Chait as alternate, but WRC would like to have approval of a resolution on record. Jones clarified that the requested resolution is simply in support of WRC conducting the study, not the study results. Green said he had one reservation; he wanted to be sure the Board’s approval did not include spending money. Jones said WRC already has grant money for the study. There will be a later question of funding for mailings, but that is not part of the current request. Who is the grant awarded to?, asked Rafus. Windham Regional Commission and their two partners, ECFiber and the Center for World Innovation, answered Jones. Mitchell Green made a motion to approve a resolution that the Town of Halifax participate in the Windham Regional Commission’s broadband feasibility study project, and to appoint David Jones as Town spokesperson and Stephan Chait as alternate. Bradley Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Review and Sign State Mileage Certificate
Board members reviewed and signed the 2020 State mileage certificate. Sumner made a motion to have the Selectboard sign the 2020 State mileage certificate. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. One change was made this year, with the reclassification of a portion of Thurber Road. As the Town does not get State funds for Class 4 roads that change will not effect State assistance dollars. Ray Combs asked for Town mileage totals on Class 4 and Class 3 roads. Sumner read the list: Halifax has no Class 1 roads, Class 2 mileage is 16.80, Class 3 is 48.03 miles, State Highway (Route 112) is 5.846 miles, Class 4 is 5.9 miles, and Legal Trail is 9.21 miles. The Board-signed certificate will go to the Town Clerk for signature and then be submitted to the State.
Set Meeting Date to Finalize Proposed Budget and Sign 2020 Warning
Sumner made a motion to set the meeting date to finalize the proposed budget and sign the 2020 warning as January 27, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Chait asked whether the Board would work through the whole budget at that meeting. It will probably be quick, because we’ve already done most of it, answered Sumner. There may be a few minor changes or adjustments.
Hearing of Visitors
Sarah Barnett told the meeting she did not dislike anyone, and didn’t want anyone’s job; but she’d written a letter regarding the Town Clerk’s office hours. Barnett read the letter for the record; it spelled out her concerns regarding the number of times the office has been closed in the past year, and the qualifications of people covering for the Town Clerk when she is not present. (For the full text of the letter, see link at the bottom of this page.) Barnett said she had come to the office on a Saturday to get materials and Tina Blais, who was in attendance, could not open the vault. Because Barnett works during the week, Saturday access is important to her. I’m not saying she (Town Clerk) does a bad job, I just feel it’s a disservice to our town, said Barnett. Green said we need to have more warning (of closings) or a substitute who can do the job. She is an elected official, continued Green; we can’t tell her how to do her job. Rafus disagreed. He had heard, when he attended the Selectboard Academy, that an elected official who receives any of the same benefits as full-time employees must follow the employee handbook, and must answer to the Selectboard. Sumner made the point that appointed officials come under the Selectboard, but not elected officials. Green suggested writing a letter addressing the issue. Board members said that the Town Clerk had open office hours 24 hours a week, but there was no requirement for specific daily hours. Chait commented that since daily hours were posted, people had an expectation of access during those times. Bill (Moore, Assistant Town Clerk) can do everything, added Green, but Tina might be missing some stuff? Barnett said on the day she came in, Tina could not open the vault or do dog licenses; she was just greeting people. Gabriel said she was confused about that, as Blais has been acting as Assistant Town Clerk for some period of time, and she (Gabriel) was sure Blais could access the vault and is able to issue dog and other licenses. Chait thought a letter (to the Town Clerk) might be too formal; he suggested a discussion instead. Rafus recommended an executive session, with all three Selectboard members. The Board agreed to invite the Town Clerk to their January 27th special meeting. Combs asked if assistants were paid and Board members said yes, there is a budget for that.
David Jones announced the newly formed Broadband Committee had its first meeting yesterday (January 20th); he will be submitting meeting minutes and a schedule for future meetings. Tristan Roberts was elected Chair, Bob Teree as Vice Chair, and David Jones as Clerk. Jones said the next Windham Regional Commission (broadband-related) meeting will be February 6th, with a focus on the demand survey; determining how many households in participating towns are going to want high-speed broadband. The survey is being developed and on February 6th discussion will center on ways and means of distributing the survey to citizens and getting the highest possible number of responses. The survey will be available in paper form, on a web site, and notices may go out on postcards. Jones emphasized the importance of getting the most thorough and accurate response possible, to accurately ascertain demand; a minimum 30% response rate is necessary. Research indicates second homeowners are the most likely purchasers of high speed broadband, and purchase the higher levels of service, so a mailing will be an important aspect of the survey project. Jones said the WRC grant funding does not cover the cost of postage or mailing materials; he anticipates the cost could be as much as $500, and asked the Selectboard to consider allocating monies for that purpose. Chait said other methods of reaching homeowners might include flyers at the Post Office, informing people through the school, and an informational table at Town Meeting. Sarah Barnett suggested adding survey wording to the yearly postcard notices she sends out when the annual report is available. Jones said the there will be too much information to fit on a postcard and the survey will probably require a letter. And, added Chait, there is a deadline; WRC is looking for a return of survey responses by the 18th of March. Barnett said she would be willing to include the survey in the annual report, if she had it before the February 6th printer deadline, and Jones thought the broadband group would take her up on the offer. If we approve postage funding, I think we should limit it to about $300, said Green. Rafus, recalling his experience with past town mailings, said response results are often poor. He recommended considering social media, such as the Town or Highway Department Facebook pages, or utilizing the Town web site.
Stephan Chait advised the Conservation Commission would be meeting next Tuesday, and one item of business will be planning for signage and recycling information at the recycling bin location on Brook Road. The Commission would like input from Rafus on best placement, to facilitate plowing. The Conservation Commission will also be discussing the possibility of adding a collection bin for returnable cans and bottles.
Ray Combs had a question about property taxation: Are there exempt parcels? Just what the Town owns, answered Sumner. Green and Rafus added that there were some non-profits, listed in the Town Report, and property owners enrolled in the Current Use program get a reduction of taxes, which varies according to State specifications. Barnett said Current Use enrollees were required to perform maintenance and/or log in accordance with State requirements. They have to have a State-approved forestry plan, said Sumner. Chait asked about the State reimbursement method for Current Use tax deductions, which Sumner said were called hold-harmless payments.
Selectboard’s Order to Treasurer for Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Correspondence was reviewed and filed. The Board signed one overweight permit. The yearly VLCT Property & Casualty documents were received, as were the State’s yearly notice of the need to update bridge and highway weight restrictions on the AOT web site.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:08 p.m.