Town of Halifax, Vermont 

August 2, 2011

Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 7:30 PM.  Board members in attendance were John LaFlamme, Lewis Sumner, and Edee Edwards.  Others in attendance were Margo Avakian, Charlene Martynowski, Patricia Dow, Bradley Rafus, Peggy Webber, Raymond Combs, Linda Lyon, Earl Holtz, Mitchell Green, Leonard Derby, and Board Secretary Phyllis Evanuk.

Approval of Minutes

Ms. Edwards moved to accept the minutes of the July 19, 2010 meeting with the addition of the following sentence for clarification regarding Hall Road.  “The road was subsequently determined to be improved from the southern access of Hall Road.”
            Mr. Sumner seconded the motion.
The motion carried 3-0, and the minutes were approved.

            Ms. Edwards moved to accept the minutes of the July 28, 2011special meeting with the addition of full names of employees and one spelling correction.
            Mr. LaFlamme seconded the motion.
The motion carried 3-0, and the minutes were approved.

New Business

  • Town Web site:

Ms. Edwards summarized the information she had received at the Selectboard training she had attended.  She advised that the website design program Gov. Office is used by a number of municipalities and they provide templates for simplifying the process.  She further advised that the program is available for between $1,225 and $1,825 for the first year and $400 for the second year.  She advised that the savings in time spent hearing complaints and answering questions would be much less and it would develop a better sense of community.  She ran through a list of suggestions for making a usable website (a copy is attached and incorporated by reference).

Mr. LaFlamme questioned the comment about it reducing the number of complaints, and advised that since the website has been started it has generated more complaints.

Ms. Edwards advised her feeling is that if we’re not going to maintain the website   we should take it down.

Mr. Holtz advised that he thinks that a lot of the complaints aren’t about the website but that the information isn’t available in a timely fashion.  What we need to do is maintain it better.

Ms. Lyon advised that she travels for her job and is out of town about half the time.  She wants to be able to keep up with what is going on in town and has not been able to do this because the information is not up to date.  She agreed that some people want to come down to the office or the post office to get the information but there are also many working people who are unable to do so.  For them the website is their place to keep up on information.  She advised they should have not only Selectboard minutes but School Board  minutes, fire department and EMS notices, and items of interest such as community functions.

Mr. LaFlamme advised that while her suggestions are good, if it is not specifically town business, there are concerns about expanding the site and making it too complex.  Technology has also been an issue.  He advised that the Town Clerk’s computer died yesterday and they were not able to put the agenda on the site.  Weather causes problems with connectibility.

Ms. Lyon suggested a committee to brainstorm how we can improve the site.

Mr. Green advised that the school has their own website if people want to know about school activities.

Mr. LaFlamme advised that he would not want to be responsible for the school information or for information for any other groups.

Ms. Webber asked if the town has money in the budget for website expenses, because that is something people need to understand.

Mr. Rafus advised that the town is heading toward dependency on the web for information.  It is just the way it is.  If this is the direction the town needs to go in we should start putting money in the budget so that when the town has the high speed internet available to all in the town we will be ready to fully accommodate them.  With dialup service it is almost useless to try accessing the site unless you have hours to sit and wait.

Ms. Edwards advised that whatever route we take the site must absolutely be available to dialup users.  She has looked at a couple of other webhosting services but has not asked specific questions regarding accessibility for dialup users.  One question to be asked is if dialup users would be able to view graphics.

Mr. LaFlamme advised the current website has very little graphics.

Mr. Holtz advised that every page on the website is a graphic, and that’s the problem.  He further suggested they form a committee to work on the site problems and see what should be done.

Mr. Green advised that he can connect to the site with dialup.  He doesn’t think that’s the problem, but it is getting the information posted to the site in a timely fashion.

More discussion of the pros and cons of the current site and changing to another followed.

Mrs. Dow advised that the committee idea is a good one.  She volunteered to be on it.  Ms. Evanuk also volunteered.  Mr. Sumner suggested no more than five people on the committee.  With too many people things don’t seem to get done.

The issue of liability was raised regarding something inappropriate being uploaded to the site.

Ms. Edwards offered to be on the committee as a temporary member until someone volunteers.  She advised this is important to her but she has many other things she is involved in and would be happy to have someone take her place on the committee.

Mrs. Martynowski suggested that the proposed committee should review items given to them for uploading and if it is determined not to be appropriate then it would not be put on the site.  She further suggested that the five members be the ones to upload the documents.

Mr. LaFlamme suggested that this be tabled until the next meeting to give people a chance to absorb the information.

Ms. Lyon advised they have been talking about it for over a year and nothing gets done. They should form the committee to start working on the objectives of improving the site and bring their proposal back to the Board for review and approval.

Ms. Edwards moved to set up an advisory committee to work on ways of improving the town website. 
Mr. Sumner seconded the motion.
The motion carried 3-0.

Mr. LaFlamme moved to appoint Patty Dow, Charlene Martynowski, Peggy Webber, Phyllis Evanuk, and Edee Edwards to the town website advisory committee.
Mr. Sumner seconded the motion.
The motion carried 3-0 on the first four appointees, and 2-0-1 on the fifth with Ms. Edwards abstaining.

  • Tree Warden

Mr. LaFlamme advised there were two issues.  The first was the 18 foot question and the second was regarding trees on Stark Mountain Road.

Mr. Holtz advised he is still gathering information regarding the 18 foot – 36 foot limit.  He has received some response but is waiting for others.  He advised he could either start giving the raw data to be followed by a position paper sometime, either at the next meeting or the one after.

Mr. LaFlamme advised he was just asking him for his opinion.

Mr. Holtz replied he would start with the Stark Mountain issue.  He advised he had looked at the bridge that was put in without a permit.

Mr. Sumner advised that is a state issue.

Mr. Holtz then advised that there was still a driveway put in without a permit.                   Mr. LaFlamme advised that that issue has been taken care of and a permit has been applied for.  He further advised that there is really not much of a penalty for that.

Mr. Holtz stated that 24 VSA 2510 states that there is a penalty for willfully injuring or cutting down a public tree without the written permission of the Tree Warden or the legislative body and that they may be find not more than $500 per tree.

Mr. Sumner advised they live in a rural area and there are all kinds of trees around.  He advised he doesn’t think that people have to get permission to cut down a tree.

Mr. Holtz advised he was just informing them of the state law.  He wanted them to be aware that they could have the Constable serve papers on the property owner.  He advised that he was just informing them of their legal rights and it was up to them what they wanted to do with them.

Mr. LaFlamme advised he had spoken with Jim Barlow, a lawyer with VLCT, and he was told that any enforcement notice would start with the Tree Warden writing a letter to the property owner.  If that is not sufficient then the tree warden would bring it to the Selectboard and it would be up to them if they choose to proceed further.  Mr. Barlow advised that in his opinion shade and ornamental trees were those trees specifically planted and that did not include naturally growing trees.

Mr. Holtz took the name and phone number for Mr. Barlow as he said there is a Supreme Court decision that disagrees with his statements.

Ms. Edwards suggested that if they feel they want to start enforcing this or any ordinance that they have not previously enforced, they might want to consider issuing warnings as a first step in making the public aware of their intent.

Mr. Green advised that the town only owns the right of way they don’t actually own the trees, the town would have a hard time in court trying to enforce it if a property owner cut down his trees.

More back and forth discussion as to whose responsibility it is to initiate a notice of violation regarding trees followed.

Mr. Rafus asked for clarification of the ordinance.  If they are not going to enforce it, why keep it on the books?  He advised the 1983 ordinance actually covered three areas, trees, parking, and plowing.

Mr. LaFlamme advised they are waiting for the Tree Warden’s opinion on whether or not that the 18 foot rule is under his jurisdiction or not.

Mr. Rafus replied, so what you’re saying is with the parking ordinance we have if the Constable doesn’t feel it’s right then it’s his decision to not enforce it?  It is up to the Selectboard to enforce the ordinances.

  • Ethics Policy – Postponed until the next regular meeting.
  • Tax Rate – The figures have finally been received from the state.

Total Homestead Tax Rate     $1.8201

Total Non-Residential Rate    $1.9461

Mr. LaFlamme moved to approve the 2012 tax rate of 1.8201 Homestead and 1.9461 Non-Residential.
            Mr. Sumner seconded the motion, which carried 3-0.

Hearing of Visitors

Ms. Lyon advised she as a member of the EMS would like permission to have a blood pressure clinic for the town, maybe once a month.

Mr. LaFlamme advised he has no problem with that, and Mr. Sumner advised that she would need to speak with Patty Dow about it because the Town Clerk is responsible for the municipal office.

Old Business


Other Business

Ms. Edwards inquired about the Bridge Grant they had applied for.  Mr. Rafus advised it has been approved but they have not yet received the paperwork.


Ms. Edwards moved to renew the service contract for the town generator.
            Mr. Sumner seconded the motion which carried 3-0. 

            Ms. Edwards moved to sign the municipal refunding bond for the town garage.
            Mr. Sumner seconded the motion which carried 3-0. 

            Ms. Edwards moved to submit letter of intent to stay with VLCT and review the options for health insurance.
            Mr. Sumner seconded the motion which carried 3-0.

            Mr. LaFlamme moved to hire Town Attorney Robert Fisher to represent the town in an appeal before the Environmental Court.
            Mr. Sumner seconded the motion which carried 3-0.

The mail was reviewed and appropriately filed.

At 9:30 PM Mr. LaFlamme moved to enter Executive Session to discuss personnel matters.
            Ms. Edwards seconded the motion which carried 3-0.

The Board returned to open session at 10:15 PM.  Mr. LaFlamme announced that no decisions were made.

Mr. Sumner moved to give a 25¢ across the board raise for the Road Crew starting August 1, 2011.
            Mr. LaFlamme seconded the motion which carried 3-0.

Selectmen’s Order to Town Treasurer for bill payment

The order for payment of bills was completed and signed.


The meeting was adjourned at 10:37 PM.

Respectfully submitted,
Phyllis H. Evanuk