Town of Halifax, Vermont

June 9, 2020

This 9:00 a.m. phone meeting was held to allow the Selectboard to confer with Stevens and Associates, the firm hired to conduct a geological survey of the property the Town is proposing to purchase for gravel. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were on the call, as were Cory Frehsee (Stevens and Associates), Chris Mays (Brattleboro Reformer), Marketa Psenickova, Patrick Eck, Bob Teree, Peggy Rafus, and Alice Aldrich. Robbin Gabriel monitored the call.

Cory Frehsee began by thanking the Town for choosing Stevens and Associates for this project. He has reviewed online GIS and State website data, which shows a single 17-acre parcel adjacent to the Town Garage. Brad Rafus told Frehsee access was either from Hubbard Hill Road or through the Town property. We have good topographic contours available, continued Frehsee; they should be adequate for calculating potential extraction. Our scope of work will include a site visit, reviewing project goals with the town, and confirming, through direct examination, that the State’s topographic contours are accurate and there have been no major changes. Frehsee said he would like to discuss the gravel pit’s history, the Town’s knowledge of the pit, and if there is a need for subsurface investigation to confirm the type and quality of the gravel. Test pits could be done subsequent to the quantity analysis, or in conjunction with it. As a large portion of the parcel has already been excavated samples could be taken from that area. Test pits 10 to 15 feet deep could also be excavated during the site visit. If the Town had a backhoe or excavator available that work could be done at almost no cost. A third option would be to hire an outside specialist to do soil borings up to 100 feet deep, an exercise that would cost several thousands of dollars.

Green said a 10-15 foot deep test pit should be sufficient; basically we need to know there are about 25,000 yards minimum available in the pit. We do have an excavator, he told Frehsee. Frehsee said that would be his choice—a combined site visit, discussion, and excavation to extract samples, which Stevens and Associates would then analyze. Brad Rafus, speaking as the landowner, said four or five test pits approximately seven to eight feet deep were already in place, but he thought digging additional pits was a good idea. Rafus would like to have one Selectboard member present with the Stevens representatives; he does not want the site visit to be public access, due to the virus and liability issues. Frehsee agreed, saying he hoped for an opportunity to examine the site for several hours with no other town officials. We tell our clients we’re happy to talk with them at the beginning of the visit, but then we need our own space to do our work. Frehsee asked for one designated Town official to serve as a contact member and all agreed Selectboard Chair Lewis Sumner should be that person. We’ll need an equipment operator, too, said Frehsee. Initially, it was agreed that Brad Rafus could be present along with the contractor for the purpose of digging test pits, and then Stevens representatives could have a discussion with Sumner. Bob Teree protested, however, saying he did not think the seller (Rafus) should be involved in the testing. The next plan was to have another highway crew member present to operate the excavator. Frehsee and the Board then discussed specifics of communication options during the survey process. Peggy Rafus said she would like to be present when the test pits were dug. She also said Mr. Teree is not welcome on her property. Teree then requested pictures or videos of the site visit activities. After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Frehsee explained that Stevens and Associates’ final report to the Town would include a site plan, a map of the property, a summary of findings in the test pits, and photos of the pits as documentation of work done. After another series of heated interruptions, Green and Sumner stated it was time to move forward, and Frehsee said in the interests of efficiency while working with a limited budget the final report, with any pictures, would be available within two to three weeks. We will do the site visit, return to our offices to do the quantity calculations and draft, with pictures, and I hope to have that material to you in advance of your June 30th meeting, he added.

Bob Teree asked who is dealing with the Act 250 aspect of the project. Green said he thought Stevens and Associates was looking into the need for a jurisdictional opinion, in tandem with the survey. Frehsee advised the Stevens’ proposal included a preliminary permit review; and that will be part of their final memo. He would also be happy to cooperate with Bob Fisher on obtaining the jurisdictional opinion. Alice Aldrich asked if gravel had been taken from the pit and if Brad Rafus had an Act 250 permit. It’s pre-existing, answered Green; there is no Act 250 permit. The Town has not purchased gravel from that pit but a contractor has. Aldrich said she could hear machinery in that pit. There is no machinery in the pit, said Peggy Rafus, you are hearing Jesse Boyd’s gravel bank next door. She also told Aldrich the State had issued a temporary permit in 2009 when the landfill was being repaired. Green added that before we go forward we need to know whether the pit is grandfathered, or an Act 250 permit will be required. Teree asked Frehsee if Stevens and Associates would be taking such things as setbacks into account when determining what part of the 10 acres can be excavated. Frehsee answered in the affirmative. And will all the final documents be shared with the town?, asked Teree. Green and Sumner said yes.

The meeting concluded at 9:32 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Selectboard Secretary