OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
May 19, 2020
This meeting was held by telephone only.
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:01 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner and Mitchell Green were present; Bradley Rafus was out of town. Other documented attendees were Rhonda Ashcraft, Scott Ashcraft, Stephan Chait, Douglas Parkhurst, Marilou Parkhurst, Sue Kelly, Bob Teree, Cara Cheyette, Mike Fournier, Keith Stone, David Jones, and Kathy McLean.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Lewis Sumner advised the Selectboard has received the primary engineering proposal from Stevens and Associates and would discuss it later in the meeting.
Cemetery Commissioner Appointment
Sumner announced an error had been made on the ballot at Town Meeting. Jeff DeForest should have been on the ballot for a Cemetery Commissioner position, but he was not. Sumner made a motion to appoint Jeff DeForest to the Cemetery Commission until 2021 Town Meeting. Mitch Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
2020 Town Official Appointments
The Planning Commission has recommended Bill Moore for the position of Zoning Administrator. Sumner made a motion to appoint Bill Moore as Zoning Administrator, for a four year term ending in 2023. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to appoint Robbin Gabriel as secretary and administrative assistant. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Tom Fox was appointed to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustment last year to fill a vacancy; that term expired in March. Green made a motion to appoint Tom Fox to the Planning Commission and ZBA for a three-year term. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner said Linda Huebner does not wish to serve another term on the Conservation Commission, but is willing to continue until a replacement is found. Green made a motion to appoint Linda Huebner to the Conservation Commission for a three-year term. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Patty Dow, Tina Blais, Paul Blais, Joan Courser, Gary Rand, and Andrea Rand serve on the Celebration Committee, with one position remaining open. Sumner made a motion to appoint Patty Dow, Tina Blais, Paul Blais, Joan Courser, Gary Rand, and Andrea Rand to the Celebration Committee. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0. Sumner asked if there was a candidate for the open position. Anyone interested in serving on the Committee is invited to volunteer.
Green made a motion to appoint Brad Rafus as Road Commissioner for a one year term. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to appoint Ross Barnett as Tree Warden for a one year term. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to appoint Andy Rice as Pound Keeper for a one year term. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
The Town has had no volunteers to fill the Representative to Council on Aging position, although we have been advertising for a year. That position remains open.
The Selectboard has received a letter from Stephan Chait stating he is interested in continuing to serve as the Town’s representative to the Windham Regional Commission. Sumner made a motion to appoint Stephan Chait and Everett Wilson as representatives to the Windham Regional Commission for one year terms. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Green made a motion to appoint Lewis Sumner and Cara Cheyette as Windham Solid Waste Management representatives for one year terms. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to appoint Robert Leete as ADA Coordinator for a one year term. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to appoint Allan Dacey and Andrew Rice to the Loan Review Committee for one year terms. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Green made a motion to appoint Wayne Courser as E-911 Coordinator for a one year term. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Green made a motion to appoint Lewis Sumner as Recycling Coordinator for one year. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to appoint Hope Phelan and Jessica Cooney as Green Up Coordinators for one year terms. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0. Sumner said Green Up Day would be held on May 30th this year.
Green made a motion to appoint Peggy Rafus as Emergency Management Director for a one year term. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Green made a motion to appoint Andrew Rice for Citation Ticket Responsibility for one year. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to appoint Robert Leete as Energy Conservation Officer for a one year term. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Green made a motion to appoint Andrew Rice as First Constable for one year. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Green made a motion to appoint Roy Richardson as Second Constable for one year. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to approve the Brattleboro Reformer, Deerfield Valley News, and The Commons as the Town’s newspapers of record for one year. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Sumner made a motion to hold regular Selectboard meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of every month. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
WCSO FY21 Contract
The Town’s current contract with the Windham County Sheriff’s Office expires on June 30th, and a new contract has been offered beginning July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. Sumner made a motion to approve the new WCSO contract for fiscal year 2021. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0. Sumner said there no major changes, just a small increase in the hourly rate.
Set Cael Scholarship Award Date
Green suggested a meeting between School Board and Selectboard members the evening of June 1st to award this year’s Cael Scholarships. Sumner will speak with the School Board to learn if they are available on that date.
Stevens and Associates Geological Survey Proposal
Sumner advised he had received the Stevens’ estimate today; the price is $2,800. Green made a motion to accept the Stevens and Associates survey proposal for $2,800. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0. In discussion, Sue Kelly asked Sumner to read some of the details of the Stevens’ proposal. It’s about three pages, said Sumner; I’ll read the scope of services. (As follows.)
“Assemble available information pertaining to the site. Meet on-site with representatives of the Town to review the project, discuss goals, and walk the site. Provide opinion of probable excavation quantities and a concept level sketch to identify proposed extraction areas. Quantities will be based on the available 1-foot contour data available through the State of Vermont GIS database, and reviewed during the walk-thru. Utilizing available information, review the site to identify environmental permitting constraints and opportunities. Assess local, state, and federal permits that will be required for this project. Attend a Selectboard Meeting to review findings and recommend next steps. Provide memo summarizing our findings and recommended next steps. If desired by the Town we can coordinate with the Town, a local contractor, or a geotechnical sub-consultant to perform a subsurface investigation with a back-hoe or drill-rig to access the quality of the gravel material. However, this would be an additional cost and we recommend that this cost is not incurred until after the scope of work in this proposal is completed. This is a preliminary feasibility study, additional feasibility work and impact studies are likely to be recommended following this scope of work. Coordinating these impact studies is anticipated to be included as part of the next steps and would be included in a supplemental proposal. Design and permitting services are beyond the scope of this proposal.”
Sumner said that Stevens and Associates could start the project about a week after the signed agreement is received. Cara Cheyette noted that this proposal does not include an assessment of gravel quality, and asked if the Board would approve that further step. That would be my recommendation, replied Green. Sumner added that Stevens and Associates is also working on the Act 250 opinion. Mike Fournier thought the Selectboard had said, at their first teleconference meeting (April 14th) the price for the gravel pit had been determined based on the price of the Dummerston pit which was recently purchased by the towns of Dummerston and Putney. Green and Sumner said Fournier had misunderstood; while the price of the Dummerston pit may have been stated, it was not the basis for setting a price on the Halifax pit, as there is no comparison between the two. Cheyette mentioned the citizen’s petition which has been submitted to the Selectboard. One of the articles on that petition asks for an assessment of the quantity and quality of the gravel in the pit, and Cheyette wanted to know if the Board were going to warn a special town meeting. We are going ahead with the assessment, because the taxpayers wanted that, said Sumner. Green said the Board has 60 days in which to warn a meeting, and they will be doing that, although it will be difficult with the current public gathering restrictions.
Marilou Parkhurst asked for a cost estimate on further assessment surveys or work, once the feasibility study has been done. We don’t know, answered Sumner; the decision about further investigation won’t be made until we have results on the first phase. Parkhurst said she would like to know, and could Stevens and Associates provide a ballpark figure. We can ask, said Sumner. If we provide the backhoe, added Green, it probably won’t be much. Responding to a question from David Jones, Sumner said an environmental inspection for PFOAs is a separate study that would take place once the feasibility study is complete and an Act 250 jurisdictional opinion has been obtained.
Hearing of Visitors
Marilou Parkhurst asked where the $99,500 to pay for the gravel pit is coming from. From funds budgeted for gravel and sand, answered Sumner. Parkhurst said the gravel pit contract is a real estate purchase, and monies from the Highway budget for gravel and sand could not be used for that purpose, ask the voters had not authorized it. She listed, specifically, three line items from the FY21 budget—sand was increased by $30,000 over the FY20 budget, gravel increased $35,000, and garage expenses increased $37,200. Can you explain the huge increase?, she asked. Yes, replied Green; if we do have to truck in gravel, it will be more expensive. Prices have increased, we’ve lost our source for sand, and our materials will have to be trucked in as we have used up most of our on-site supply. Gravel is almost $25 a yard now, and we use 5,000 yards a year. (Secretary’s note: The increase in the FY21 garage expense line item is due to a $40,000 deficit incurred during last year’s winter and mud season, when the Town went considerably over budget purchasing required sand, gravel, and stone.) Parkhurst returned to the topic of using sand and gravel funds for the purchase of land, in what became a contentious and somewhat confusing conversation with Green. Her main point was that the Town could not use gravel monies to buy land. We’re going to spend the money one way or the other, said Green. Our plan was to save the Town money in the long run, by acquiring a local source. Green said he had created a spreadsheet showing the land purchase would create an $837,000 savings to the Town over a ten year period. Parkhurst agreed with that and thanked the Board for looking after the Town’s interests, but reiterated that the voters had not authorized the purchase. Doug Parkhurst said to make the process clear and right the voters should have the opportunity to vote on a real estate purchase. Actually I think it’s a good idea to buy this property if the quantity and quality of gravel, and the environmental aspects, are right. Marilou Parkhurst added that with the COVID-19 situation, people are in financial distress, and we need to look at the town and highway budgets for the coming year also.
Bob Teree asked if the spreadsheet Green had mentioned could be made public, and Green said he has the data and just needs to get it to the secretary for posting. Cara Cheyette asked if petitions, the Stevens contract, and letters related to the gravel pit purchase could be posted on the web site as the public cannot currently go into the town office.
Mike Fournier said that the town highway crew and equipment have, in past years, assisted with the gravel excavating and crushing process, contrary to a statement Green made at a previous meeting. This led to an argumentative discussion between Green and Teree about the cost and time involved in excavating and loading material into trucks. Keith Stone suggested reviewing last year’s cost of hiring Pete LaFogg and using LaRock’s rock truck to load the crusher; he asked if Green had added those figures to his spreadsheet. That’s a different operation, said Green; you’re working with ledge. I’m talking about taking bank-run gravel out of the ground.
Kathy McLean asked who created the spreadsheet. Did the road foreman or crew help? I did it myself, said Green; I had my own excavating company, so I know cost and how much time it takes. Regarding trucking, McLean said the cost was much greater than just fuel cost; it should include the lease, and wear and tear on the trucks; she thought it would be cheaper to hire gravel trucked in. Green said the per yard figure for doing our trucking takes those things into account, plus the cost of a crew member. That figure is approximately $23 a yard. Hiring a contractor to transport the gravel is about $25 a yard. McLean’s opinion is that hiring would be cheaper as it would save wear on our equipment, and reduce vehicle depreciation. Green told McLean that the $2,800 Stevens estimate was for the preliminary feasibility study; test holes would be an additional process and we could use our equipment for digging test holes.
An unidentified speaker asked for an estimate of the amount of gravel the town uses every year. About 5,000 yards, replied Green. We crushed about 10,000 yards last year and year before, said Fournier. Sumner said the crushing contractor’s invoice showed 5,000 yards last year.
Rhonda Ashcraft asked about the status of junk violations. Green said we had sent out letters requiring compliance by July 1st, to be followed by $50-a-day fines. Green also told Ashcraft we would try to have information about recycling bin surveillance, and possible relocation, in time for the next meeting.
Executive Session (if needed)
The meeting was adjourned at 8:19 p.m.