OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
November 2, 2020
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus, Moderator Paul Blais, and Robbin Gabriel were in the Town Office conference room. Linda Lyon, Everett Wilson, Douglas Parkhurst, Marilou Parkhurst, Marketa Psenickova, Patrick Eck, Stephan Chait, Cara Cheyette, Chris Parkins, and Janice Bliss were present through the remote teleconference option, with Tristan Roberts calling in toward the conclusion of the meeting.
Sumner opened the meeting, and Moderator Paul Blais gave instruction for meeting conduct and participation.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Lewis Sumner made a motion to approve the 10/6/20 regular meeting minutes as written. Mitch Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Broadband Committee Update
This item was temporarily tabled, as Broadband Committee Chairman Tristan Roberts had not yet joined the meeting.
Set Date for Employee Reviews
Sumner noted that two employees had not yet received their yearly employee reviews. After discussion, Sumner made a motion to schedule a meeting for Tuesday, November 10, 2020, at 6:00 p.m. at the Town Garage, for the purpose of holding an executive session to conduct employee reviews. Green seconded the motion, which passed 2-0-1, with Brad Rafus abstaining.
Set Dates for FY22 Budget Meetings
Green made a motion to set Tuesday, December 15th, and Tuesday, December 29th, at 7:00 p.m. for budget meetings, with Saturday, January 2nd, 2021, 8:00 a.m., as an alternate date if needed. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In discussion prior to the vote, Stephan Chait asked if there would be a way for teleconference participants to view the proposed budget drafts. The Board agreed that the drafts could be uploaded to the website prior to the meetings, and Gabriel will email copies to anyone who makes the request. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive pdfs of the drafts.
Sumner said he had seen evidence that the DVFiber pole survey is in progress; stakes were being set in places on Collins Road this week. Stephan Chait, who is also on the Broadband Committee, said that he did not have the report Tristan Roberts had intended to present tonight, but he mentioned the pole survey, and another survey, published by the State, inquiring about internet use during the pandemic. DVFiber is hard at work on the project intended to bring fiber to the area. Cara Cheyette, another member of the Broadband Committee, added that there is a small pot of subsidy money for people who have extraordinary expenses related to broadband. Notices have been posted on the website and on Front Porch Forum. Cheyette said people could get maybe $20 a month as a supplement to assist with broadband expenses. The communication district is expanding, Dummerston has joined, and Cheyette added that David Jones is working especially hard on the project. Chait said 18 towns have now joined the district, and others are considering becoming members.
Hearing of Visitors
Linda Lyon has been reading medical articles about COVID and progress in developing vaccines. As this is still in the future, she asked if the State has offered any guidelines on safely conducting town meetings in March. We have no concrete information yet, said Sumner. Paul Blais added that the Secretary of State’s Office is currently busy with the election, but would be addressing other issues once that was over.
Cara Cheyette said Wilmington has already chosen to hold a virtual town meeting. She asked whether towns needed to wait for State guidance; perhaps they could make their own choices? Cheyette also wanted to know how tonight’s executive session would be handled given the remote nature of the meeting. Blais explained that the Selectboard members are currently in the conference room and will move to another room to hold their executive session, while the teleconference phone line remains open. The Selectboard will return and resume the regular meeting after the executive session.
Stephan Chait noted the agenda identifies the executive session as discussion of a legal matter and asked what legal matter. The Town Attorney is going to update us (the Selectboard) on the lawsuit, replied Sumner. Which lawsuit?, asked Chait. Sumner said the Town is being sued over the issue of Brad Rafus’ resignation.
Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer for Payment
The orders to the Treasurer were reviewed and signed.
Green made a motion to enter executive session to discuss a legal matter, with Gabriel present by invitation and the Town Attorney joining by phone. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. The Board entered executive session at 7:28 p.m., and exited at 8:03 p.m. Sumner advised that the Town Attorney had given an update on the progress of the lawsuit, and no decisions were made.
As open meeting resumed, Paul Blais said a number of people had dropped out of the teleconference, while Tristan Roberts had called in. Roberts encouraged anyone with broadband who utilized the service during COVID for remote work or schooling to apply for the subsidy being offered. Information can be found on the Town website, Front Porch Forum, and Facebook. Roberts also confirmed that the DVFiber pole survey was ongoing, and some citizens had reported surveyors were not properly identified as promised. Roberts has spoken to Matrix, who is conducting the survey, and elicited a promise that the problem would be corrected. If there are further problems, let me know, said Roberts.
Sumner made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:08. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
As the above motion was in progress, Stephan Chait came back on the line to thank Paul Blais. Chait said he really appreciated the way Blais ran the meetings.