OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
April 14, 2020
This meeting was held by telephone only. While every effort was made to accurately take attendance and document the proceedings, it was not always possible to identify speakers, or follow the audio when participants spoke simultaneously.
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:03 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were present. Prior to the opening, David Jones, who acted as phone system controller, was able to document the following callers. Town Attorney Robert Fisher, Peggy Rafus, Marilyn Allen, Jason Ashcroft, Mike Eldred (Deerfield Valley News), Scott Ashcraft, Kaylynn Ashcraft, Bob Teree, Rhonda Ashcraft, Allen Ashcraft, Mary Brewster, Marilou Parkhurst, Doug Parkhurst, Stephan Chait, Sue Kelly, Peter Silverberg, Cara Cheyette, Kathy McLean, Tristan Roberts, Lesley Pollitt, Linda Lyon, Everett Wilson, Patrick Eck, Marketa Psenickova, and Stephanie Pike. Robbin Gabriel was monitoring, and some additional callers identified themselves while the meeting was in process, including Paul Blais, Tina Blais, Norm Fajans, Randy Pike, and Mike Fournier. After the initial roll call, David Jones gave instruction on phone meeting protocol.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
CUD Resolution and Governing Board Appointments
Lewis Sumner made a motion to approve the Deerfield Valley Communications Union District (CUD) resolution, and to appoint David Jones as representative, with Stephan Chait and Tristan Roberts as alternates. Mitch Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Prior to the vote Tristan Roberts, who serves on the Halifax Broadband Committee, said the Committee was pleased that voters had approved joining the CUD, and thanked the town and Selectboard for their support. The CUD was officially formed last Thursday, and includes the five towns voting to join on Town Meeting day, along with two additional towns requesting membership after the fact. Roberts said the CUD will now organize internally for functionality, assess vendor availability, and research economic recovery infrastructure plans as well as following up on previously available grant funding. The CUD will be holding regular meetings which are open to the public, and Roberts invited anyone interested to contact Broadband Committee members for information.
Gravel Pit Discussion
Lewis Sumner said he would ask Town Attorney Bob Fisher to speak first, then he (Sumner) would have some comments. Brad Rafus stated he would recuse himself from the gravel pit discussion
Patrick Eck: Why would Rafus need to recuse himself?
Bob Fisher: From a legal standpoint recusal from any official action on the topic is proper as Brad and his wife, the sellers of the property, have a financial interest. Responding, as sellers, to questions from the public, would be appropriate.
I understand there are a lot of questions about the purchase of this property. I will give you background, and the Selectboard can address specifics as they know the land itself and the pit better than I do. The topic of towns securing their own gravel supply has been in the news lately. Last summer, Putney and Dummerston joined forces to purchase a gravel pit for the purpose of securing their own long-term supply of gravel. In July and August the Halifax Selectboard met in several executive sessions with the Rafuses to discuss the possibility of purchasing land for gravel. The Selectboard then contacted me as Town Attorney and requested that I draw up an agreement for the purpose of purchasing a gravel pit. A question has been asked about why the deposit in the contract is non-refundable. Originally, the deposit was refundable, but because the contingencies in paragraph nine would require the property to be off the market until July 2020, the Board decided it would be okay to have a non-refundable deposit as payment for keeping the property off the market and secured by the purchase and sale contract. Regarding the special conditions, I reviewed with the Board the option of acquiring a bond for this purchase. A bond requires that a specific process be followed, and a different type of warning at Town Meeting. The Board thought they could include enough money in the Highway budget to cover the cost of the property. The contingency in paragraph 9c makes the purchase contingent upon obtaining voter approval of the town fiscal year 2021 highway budget, which includes sufficient funds to make this purchase. That contingency has been met. Other contingencies still remain; the Phase I environmental inspection, the property survey, and the permitting. It is my understanding the Board will be proceeding with meeting these contingencies now that spring is here; prior to the July 15th closing date. That date could be changed by mutual agreement. The ability to discuss real estate purchases is one of the accepted exceptions to open meeting law for which you can go into executive session. The theory behind that is if you’re going to be negotiating it is easier to negotiate in executive session, as long as the decision to enter into the contract is actually done in open session. It is my understanding that was done mid-November, and further discussion in open meeting took place in early December.
Unidentified Speaker: Does that mean the deal is made in private and once it’s made it is disseminated in public?
Bob Fisher: Negotiations are in private session. If you’re the buyer you need to make an offer to the seller. That offer is done in Vermont by offering a purchase and sale contract to the seller. It doesn’t become a contract until the seller agrees to the terms. Once agreement is reached, the offer is contingent upon the terms of the contract, and the Board needs to make that motion in open session to execute and enter into the contract. It is essentially a ratification of the negotiations.
I know there are issues with the amount of gravel, the value of the property, factors that I think the Board can address regarding why purchasing property adjacent to the Town Garage is beneficial.
Lewis Sumner: Thank you, Bob. There is a formula for one acre of gravel at 10 feet deep. It comes to over 16,000 cubic yards. The Bartlett gravel bank borders this property on the west. Jesse Boyd owns it now; gravel has been drawn out of there since back in the ‘50s. Then there is the Town Garage property . . .
Bob Teree (interrupting): Why are we talking about a gravel pit that is not part of this discussion? That’s not a scientific study. Let’s talk about the land in question only, please.
Mitch Green: There is gravel in the area adjacent. That’s part of the consideration.
Bob Teree: We’re not buying the land adjacent to the Rafus property. Let’s talk solely about that 10-acre property.
Mitch Green: When you look at the property around it, you get an idea of the lay of the land; what the material is.
(Partially unintelligible back and forth between Green and Teree, about whether this matters. Others cutting in. Tristan Roberts requests speakers identify themselves and speak one person at a time.)
Stephanie Pike: Is there going to be a geological survey done to assess the amount and value of the gravel at the Rafus pit?
Lewis Sumner: We are going to have it surveyed, but the surveyor can’t work now because of the virus. It will be a property boundary survey and I believe he can tell how much gravel is there.
Bob Fisher (to Sumner):You were going to use Merrill Mundell of Wilmington? He is not only a licensed surveyor, but a registered engineer as well.
Stephanie Pike: And he can do that?
Bob Fisher: I’m not sure, but engineering firms do that; Stevens and Associates did both survey and assessment for the Dummerston/Putney gravel pit purchase.
Norm Fajans: A geological survey makes sense, so you have an idea of what you’re buying. Spending $100,000, and you have no idea .. .
Mitch Green: We have an idea. Let me put it in perspective; if we get a foot-and-a-half of gravel over the 10 acres at $4.00 a yard, we’ve paid for the land. Then if you add in transportation savings, it’s $14 a yard. We only have to get 7,000 yards out of that property to pay for the property.
Tristan Roberts: Two things; first, the appearance of conflict of interest. I want to thank everyone tonight who has come forward to address that. I think it’s important to say procuring a large amount of gravel for the future is beneficial to the town. If this transaction is fair, if what we think is there proves to be there with an assessment, I think we should do it.
Norm Fajans: I don’t have any problem with buying gravel, my problem is not knowing what we have. How many yards is in there?
Patrick Eck: I think that’s a really good point. As a businessman, I would get competitive bids or look for competitive resources and properties. Is it actually really cheaper to do extraction versus just buying? Has the Town done comparisons to prove this is a great valuation?
Bob Fisher: If you’re buying property adjacent to town-owned property you don’t always do competitive bids. The town does competitive bids when buying sand or gravel from an existing pit elsewhere and trucking it to the town. One of the benefits here is this is adjacent to the town garage and they’ve been using parts of the land. When there are other gravel pits on adjacent properties, the likelihood you’re sitting on gravel is good.
Patrick Eck made the point that whether the commodity was next door or miles away, he would still calculate price comparisons. Fisher said he believed the Board has done those calculations:
Mitch Green: We pay $5 a yard to have it crushed, and we have crushed there (at the town garage). I’ve owned gravel banks; I can assure you there is plenty of gravel on this land.
Marilou Parkhurst: I have a question on the type of gravel. I would want only an expert to do the gravel study. Can the closing date be moved up if a study can’t be done because of the virus?
Cara Cheyette: If it turns out there is plenty of gravel everyone will be happy. But after-the-fact justification of a really large purchase of a Selectboard member’s property doesn’t feel like the most up front way for the town to be dealing with that. This wasn’t treated as a real estate transaction but as a materials purchase. I don’t know if that is kosher, but if it is, then shouldn’t there have been competitive bids per the purchasing policy?
Mitch Green: We’ve been looking for gravel for about 20 years now. We would look at anyone’s proposal if they had gravel for sale.
Bob Teree: (Mr. Teree provided a written version of his remarks to the Selectboard. To read the full text, see the link below these minutes.) The price will go up with all the fees, permits, licenses, and surveys associated with the purchase. This is a misuse of the executive session exception of open meeting law. (Various interruptions and broken audio here.) Conflict of interest. Down payment should have been held in escrow. Escrow clause manually crossed out and initialed. Why wasn’t it typed? Who authorized manual cross-out? There is no direct access to this property. (again, interruptions; someone injecting “point of order”) It’s unclear if there is access to the property from the town garage property. I’ve heard there is a right of way from the Rafuses to the landfill and would like to know if there is a written right of way in place now, and would it be used for the gravel pit. There is also no Selectboard meeting where Brad Rafus recuses himself from land purchase or highway discussions. As supervisor it is impossible for him to recuse himself. In 2016-17 he recused himself on the record when the town was surveying his property. That survey was done by Merrill Mundell; I have no idea why that survey was done and why the town paid for it. I would like to know why it was done. On November 19th there was no disclosure during or after signing of what land was purchased, no mention this was a Rafus property. (inaudible, multiple voices) I would like to see the Selectboard pass a motion to immediately retract the town’s offer to purchase. I would like to see a licensed engineer conduct an analysis. Not Merrill Mundell, who has had doings with the Rafus property. Should be an engineer who has not been involved with the town for the last ten years. Town should not pay for the assessment; the seller should pay for the analysis.
Mitch Green: There is access. There is a road that goes from the town garage property into this property. It would not interfere in any way with the landfill. The landfill is on town property. There has been gravel taken out of this property recently, so we know the gravel quality. There is a right of way but it won’t be used. It is not needed, and there will be a drop-off as we take gravel out anyway.
Peggy Rafus: (Suggests the Chair should intervene when conversation gets heated.) The right of way was only for town officials to use. It was moved over a period of time, and you can no longer get to the town garage using that right of way.
Bob Fisher: With regard to access, paragraph 14 of the agreement talks about title examination. When we do the title search, which is delayed due to COVID-19, we will be looking at access issues. If the property is unmarketable we have to give notice to the Rafuses, and then they have 30 days to cure any marketable title issues. The question of access will be addressed during the title search.
Paul Blais: I thought in Vermont there can be no landlocked parcels; every parcel has to have either deeded right of way or access.
Bob Fisher: In general Vermont law discourages landlocked parcels. Most times, if you have a landlocked parcel, the courts will find a right of way or easement by necessity or implication.
Unidentified speaker (maybe Paul Blais): Would there be a different type of Act 250 access requirement for the type of equipment that would be going in an out?
Bob Fisher: For zoning purposes, an existing right of way would not necessarily be the way you would take gravel out. It could be, if you had other access from the adjacent property, you would not use the right of way, and the property would conform.
Peggy Rafus: There is also road frontage on Branch Road. (several speakers commenting on whether that frontage could or could not be used)
Lewis Sumner: The land we’re trying to purchase is bordering town land anyway. So the subject of right of way is not even a question.
Cara Cheyette: From a legal and accounting perspective, is it proper to treat a real estate transaction as a materials purchase? If it is, why wasn’t it put out to bid?
Bob Fisher: Answering the bid part, the real estate in question is adjacent to town property. You can’t move real property, it’s there. So you wouldn’t necessarily put it out to bid. The Selectboard put it in the highway budget because it was for the purpose of obtaining gravel. The Selectboard could have put it in the budget as land acquisition, or as a separate entry for gravel just to put a price on it. The Selectboard can tell us why they did it that way. But a contingency in the contract is that it be approved in the highway budget for fiscal year 2021.
Marilou Parkhurst: Why did you put it in the budget as gravel? We weren’t given the ability to ask questions about this purchase because it wasn’t indicated as property. It was slipped in there where we didn’t see it. I don’t think the town would have voted for the budget, knowing it was property and not gravel. I think we should have a special town meeting to vote on this property purchase. (Multiple speakers stated “agreed.” List of those identified: Kathy McLean, Mary Brewster, Jason Ashcroft, Tina Blais, Randy Pike, Stephanie Pike, Rhonda Ashcraft, Marketa Psenickova, Norm Fajans, Patrick Eck, Allen Ashcroft.
Bob Teree: (Addressing Lewis Sumner) Why wasn’t a conflict of interest raised and why is there no record of a recusal?
Cara Cheyette: The Ethics Policy the Selectboard adopted in 2011 provides that employees and appointed officials in the town can’t negotiate on their own or a family member’s behalf. So there is the question of recusal, and the question of whether Peggy and Brad Rafus were negotiating the price of this on their own behalf, and whether that didn’t violate the conflict of interest policy.
Patrick Eck: It has really bad optics. It looks like a deal done under the table. That may not be the case, and I’m willing to believe those engaged were operating in the best interests of the town, but my point is that it’s up to them to prove it’s a good deal. I think we need to extend these deadlines; these deals need to be done in public.
Mitch Green: About recusal—Brad did recuse himself when he could from the process. When you’re negotiating the sale of a property, you have to have the property owner there. He had to be in meetings when we were negotiating. When we decided to sign the agreement, Brad recused himself from that decision, and has also recused himself from several different decisions having to do with road issues.
Bob Teree: . . . never recused himself as a Selectboard member. I’ve read everything under the sun; there’s no recusal whatsoever. He actually voted to go into executive session to discuss his own land deal. (Audio garbled; Bob Teree talking over Mitch Green’s attempted response.)
Tristan Roberts: During executive session was there discussion of how this would be presented to the public?
Mitch Green: No, that wasn’t discussed. The way this started, I heard Brad might want to sell his property, and asked him for a proposal. He presented us with a proposal which we discussed in executive session.
Bob Fisher: I would add, in regard to executive session, it was told to the Board that when they had a deal in principle, that deal would need to be ratified in open session. My understanding is that was done either on November 19th, or at the December 3rd meeting. Based on the minutes, I believe Brad recused himself from the entire FY21 budget. There may be part truths here in what people are saying, but let’s keep it to what’s on the record.
Mary Brewster: What process was used to decide what category of the budget this would come out of? What was your thinking in putting it in the gravel (budget) as opposed to a property purchase?
Lewis Sumner: We figured we’d be spending about that much money if we had to buy the gravel from outside and truck it in, and we’d be saving money.
Bob Teree: Land is not gravel . . . (speakers talking simultaneously)
Tristan Roberts: (question to Bob Fisher) In reference to the ethics policy that was mentioned, what would you advise . . . It was stated Brad had to be in the room because he was negotiating his property, but could he not appoint someone power of attorney to negotiate on his behalf, thus creating more arms length?
Bob Fisher: As far as power of attorney, that’s up to him (Brad). The contract was signed by Lewis and Mitch, so Brad didn’t sign as the buyer, he was acting as the seller. As far as the optics not being good I would entirely agree with you, as we have a property adjacent to the town property that is owned by a town Selectboard member. There is always going to be the optics problem. The issue—and I was not at all of these executive sessions—the motions to go into executive session, from the record, appear to be a 3-0 approval. From my perspective they should have been a two-nothing decision to go in, and some of them were. Those would indicate that perhaps Brad recused himself. He should have recused himself from the 3-0 votes.
Mary Brewster: Does anyone have any idea of the cost of extracting gravel from the land?
Mitch Green: The only real cost would be crushing it. There is no transportation cost because we could stockpile on the property and use it from there. The $5 per yard includes digging the material out and running through the crusher.
Bob Teree: No it’s not. Extraction is separate from crushing.
Mitch Green: No it’s not. We hire a crusher and people to crush for $5 a yard. They load their crusher and give us a finished product.
Bob Teree: There is no mathematical analysis walking us through this. Why is the Selectboard so hesitant on hiring an expert—not Merrill Mundell because he is conflicted—(garbled)
Mitch Green: I also want to say we may not have done every meeting properly, me and Lewis are not lawyers, we don’t necessarily know all the laws and how exactly we should have done everything . . . (Teree interrupting) . . . we try to do the best job we can in the situation (garbled; Teree repeating his question several times)
At this point, Tristan Roberts ask if the Rafuses were profiting from the sale, there were several simultaneous comments, and Green repeated his earlier remarks about asking Brad for a proposal, and said we have taken gravel out of there before and know the gravel is there. Teree arguing it’s not a commercial pit or people would be making money hand over fist, why no analysis, it’s a lemon, and other commentary.
Peter Silverberg: Clearly this could probably have been done better. At the end of the day we just need to know is there enough gravel there to make it worthwhile. You don’t need a huge survey for that. Like Mitch said, a foot and a half deep, you’ve got enough gravel. All the recriminations are getting us nowhere; if it’s a good deal for the town, let’s do it, if it’s not let’s not do it.
Bob Teree: The way to remove the cloud is pause the deal, cancel the contract, and put this through a public process. (More of same.)
Bob Fisher: You don’t need to cancel the contract in order to have a geological survey.
More commentary from Bob Teree. Paul Blais called point of order, and stated Robert’s Rules say you cannot slander a public official like that.
Patrick Eck: Town has a responsibility to make the optics clear, and that’s quite simple. My clients do not hire me unless I give a detailed accounting of what I’m providing and what it costs. That’s all we need to do, we could leave the histrionics. Prove to the residents this is a smart and efficient deal for the town.
Cara Cheyette: Over the past several years the Rafuses have participated in meetings and have been concerned about possible (PFOA) water contamination on their property, and possible migration to adjacent properties. Has investigation been done to determine if removing gravel might have an effect on any potential contamination? Also, are there Act 250 implications and will this have to go before the ZBA for sound issues?
Bob Fisher: There is a contingency clause with regard to Phase I environmental inspection, which would address any contaminants, not just PFOAs.
Paul Blais: Has there been testing on the property we’re going to be taking gravel from to be sure the gravel we spread on our roadways isn’t contaminated?
Bob Fisher: The Phase I environmental inspection hasn’t been done yet. In that type of inspection, the engineers will look at the history of the land, and if the history indicates further investigation, that’s when a Phase II investigation takes place. It is during Phase II that test pits or drill borings are often done.
Mitch Green: Tests were done on most of the surrounding wells for PFOAs. Test results for all of the surrounding wells and the town garage well came back negative; no trace of PFOAs. The only place positive for PFOAs was one of the (monitoring) wells at the landfill.
Lewis Sumner: That was the one (monitoring well) below the landfill.
Cara Cheyette: Had this had been done in more public space, one question might have been whether a seller who has a property with possible PFOA concerns—whether that might have been an impediment to selling for non-commercial uses. Was that factored into the price? That might have been a benefit to Brad and Peggy to not have to worry about a buyer saying they don’t want to buy for health reasons.
Mary Brewster: As a result of this discussion is the Selectboard going to have the land inspected to see if there is gravel there, and how much, and make sure any contaminants are dealt with?
We’ve got to, answered Sumner; he also said yes to Brewster’s query about whether it would be a licensed engineer. Teree asked if it would be an independent engineer that had not worked for the town for at least ten years. (Various people cut in here.) I think you’re implying somebody is up to no good, said Brewster. We need a state-licensed engineer to do this research. It needs to be done, but to imply a licensed engineer is biased—that’s stretching it.
Unidentified speaker: If the town needed gravel or land for gravel, why didn’t it go out to bid in a public manner.
Mitch Green: We are open to any proposals for gravel sales, we’ve been looking for ten, twenty years.
Marilou Parkhurst: If this is a gravel purchase, as on the highway budget, why weren’t there any bids for the processing of this gravel?
At this point, Green, Parkhurst, and Teree began speaking over each other on this subject, with Teree saying there is no record of what was signed. Fisher stated the purchase agreement was a public record as of its signing on November 19th. Teree’s comments became accusatory, and Paul Blais again called point of order; advising the Selectboard should not be referred to as having bad motives or intentions, and should certainly not be referred to as sleazy. David Jones said he would like to give the Selectboard opportunity to respond to questions—it does not make sense to overtalk them time and time again
Mitch Green: I’d like to make the point that Lewis and I were trying to do the best job we could for the town. We were trying to make what we thought was a very good deal for the town. The reason for the executive sessions was you do not want someone to buy it out from under you. We have to have protection so we don’t lose the property to another person interested in buying it. After more interruptions, Green told Patrick Eck there would have to be further discussion at a future meeting.
Paul Blais: Blais outlined the statutory requirements for executive session. What the Selectboard did makes sense to me, he said.
Randy Pike: We’re the ones who wrote the initial letter to the town. I feel there has been way too much stepping on people’s toes tonight; let’s just stop that. I think there are three main points the people want. One, some sort of geological survey to show there is good gravel. Two, proof that the State is okay with gravel being extracted, including the environmental portion. The seller should probably have to pay for that. If those things are granted, why not bring this to the town for a vote. I’m pretty sure everyone wants to save money, and if this would save us money I know the town would vote this through. A number of people agreed with this statement, including Patrick Eck, Bob Teree, Marilou Parkhurst, Mary Brewster, Marketa Psenickova, Jason Ashcroft, and Sue Kelly.
Audio interference here; David Jones asked participants to mute their phones and turn off any other devices. Several people asked for and received confirmation that a geological survey and environmental questions would be addressed. Paul Blais recommended a town vote on the project, perhaps at a special town meeting, to forestall potential problems with voter approval of future budgets. Someone (possibly Marilou Parkhurst; audio is breaking up here) referenced the PFOA monitoring history at the landfill. The landfill was capped years ago with sludge from Bennington. Would environmental consultants be made aware of the PFOA monitoring history at the landfill? Sumner said he expected the environmental inspection would address that. Bob Fisher added that the purpose of the environmental inspection was to look into things like that, and a contingency in the contract requires that inspection before closing occurs. Fisher again described the Phase I/Phase II environmental inspection process. Responding to a question from David Jones, Fisher advised the environmentalists tasked with carrying out the Phase I inspection should be informed of citizens’ PFOA concerns.
Bob Teree: Has spoken with an unnamed individual who has been in town many years, has been on the property in question and tried to get gravel out of it, and says it is scoured clean. Teree also asked multiple times who physically held the pen when crossing out the line requiring the contract deposit to be held in escrow. He asked if Fisher had ever seen instances of the deposit going directly to the seller and Fisher said that happens quite often. There was considerable back and forth on this issue. Teree also questioned the town’s option to purchase the balance of the Rafus property at some future date.
Green and Lewis agreed it was time to move on to the other business of the meeting; the gravel pit project will be discussed again at a future meeting. At this point Bob Fisher left the meeting, as did some other participants.
Highway Department Work Schedule Discussion
Brad Rafus said the town had received State guidelines today related to the Governor’s stay at home order. The State is advising municipal highway crews only perform work that is absolutely necessary. Rafus said he could follow that directive by keeping two employees on duty at a time; he suggested either alternating two-man crews between one week and the next, or splitting the four-day work week between two employees. Rafus told Green the spring grading would be the main work performed. Stephan Chait asked whether everyone on the crew was okay, and Rafus said yes. Paul Blais asked if a rotating schedule would affect employee benefit status. Sumner said Vermont has FEMA eligibility for cost reimbursement related to the coronavirus situation, but EMD Peggy Rafus said that does not include reimbursement for town employee pay. Green said the Board would have to research effect on employee benefits; he told Roberts no one has been furloughed but employees might be working part-time. Rafus pointed out that if highway employees applied for unemployment, then got called out for a weather event, they would then have to start the unemployment process over again. Some local towns are paying highway employees for forty hours but having them only work part time. Mike Fournier, a highway crew member, said if he only had part time hours and pay he would probably searching for work elsewhere, unless he was paid for 40 hours. Sumner made a motion to pay highway employees for full time hours while they work half-time, and discuss the subject again at the next Selectboard meeting in three weeks. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Rafus abstaining. In discussion before the vote, Marilou Parkhurst said there would be a State decision regarding reopening the State on May 15th and employees should be covered for full-time pay until that decision was announced. Paul Blais remarked that the town already has those wages budgeted. Green advised he would like to leave the motion as it stands.
VTrans FY21 Financials Approval
Board members have received and reviewed the VTrans annual financial plan figures. Sumner made a motion to sign the FY21 VTrans financial plan document. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
The Local Emergency Management Plan must be updated and approved once a year prior to May 1st. This year we are renewing the LEMP with no changes. Sumner made a motion to approve the Local Emergency Management Plan. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Bob Teree asked the Board to circulate a copy of the document; could it be posted on the web site. Peggy Rafus advised we were signing the plan with no changes to keep it current, but we have the option of revising or updating at any future time. Board members agreed they would ask Gabriel to post the plan on the web site. (Note to the Reader: Vermont Emergency Management guidance is that the LEMP falls under the public records law exemption for emergency plans and should not be posted publicly. It contains private contact information specifically for VEM use.)
Honora Winery Liquor License
Green made a motion to approve the Honora Winery liquor license. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Sumner said the license would be available in the town office for signature.
Hearing of Visitors
David Jones gave an update on the Windham Regional Commission broadband study. Although WRC is affected, as is everyone, by the COVID shut-down, they are trying to keep their original schedule on track. Rather than interacting in person, they will be utilizing calls and video conferences, and will also continue with the second phase of the study—creating a model business plan—in the same manner. WRC anticipates that some federal stimulus funding may be available and wants to be prepared to apply when that happens. They are asking if participating towns are comfortable proceeding with the study without in-person contact. The Selectboard was in agreement with WRC’s plan to proceed, and Jones said he would advise the Commission of that approval.
Scott Ashcraft asked whether the recycle bins on the town-owned Brook Road property, next to the Ashcraft property, could be fenced in. Ashcraft said debris from the site blows onto his property and he has to clean it up. People also dump materials at two or three o’clock in the morning and wake up his children. Sumner remarked it’s a difficult situation as no one is there to supervise the site. Green advised this should be on next meeting’s agenda. Peggy Rafus said we also need to revisit the trash ordinance, specifically regarding the two properties discussed at previous Selectboard meetings. Recycling is important, said Cara Cheyette; she hopes the town can find a solution which works for the town, the environment, and the neighbors. Paul Blais asked whether a vehicle and camper parked near the southern side of the recycling lot were on town property. They are on the Boyd property, said Sumner. Another speaker said the Boyd parcel was infested with mice. Green advised the town had sent letters previously and the Board would need to revisit the situation, as results are not satisfactory. Wincek’s property was also mentioned; Sumner advised that property is in foreclosure.
Correspondence was not reviewed because of the remote nature of the meeting.
Executive Session (if needed)
The meeting was adjourned at 9:18 p.m.