Town of Halifax, Vermont


August 7, 2012

Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 6:31 PM at the town office.  Board members in attendance were Lewis Sumner, Edee Edwards, and Earl Holtz. Others in attendance were Jessica Bruno, Joe Tamburrino, Len Derby, Marilou Parkhurst, Doug Parkhurst, Margo Avakian, Bill Moore, Ray Combs, Earl Bowen (Zoar Stone & Gravel), Wayne Corse (Corse Excavating), Orrin Isles (Colrain Sand & Gravel), Laura Sumner, Joan Courser, Patty Dow, Paul Favreau, Greg Marguet, Brad Rafus, Justin Berry, Christina Moore, Ben Barnett, and Peggy Webber.

Approval of Minutes

Sumner moved to accept the minutes of the July 17, 2012 regular meeting with a few corrections.  Holtz seconded the motion.
The motion carried 3-0-0, and the minutes were approved.

Holtz moved to accept the minutes of the July 24, 2012 special meeting as written. Sumner seconded the motion.
The motion carried 2-0-1 (Edwards abstained), and the minutes were approved.

Holtz moved to accept the minutes of the July 27, 2012 special meeting as written. Sumner seconded the motion.
The motion carried 3-0-0, and the minutes were approved.

New Business

Opening bids for fabric and gravel
Ribco Supply, North Adams, MA and Pittsfieldd, MA- 15’x360’ 4 oz fabric $4,464.00
Ferguson Waterworks, Rutland, VT- 15’x360’ $4,020.00

Edwards made a motion to purchase the fabric from Ferguson Waterworks for a cost of $4,020.00. Sumner seconded the motion which passed 3-0-0.

Mitchell Sand & Gravel, Shelburne, MA- 12,000 cy 1 ½” crushed gravel delivered to town garage- $16/cy delivered.
Zaluzny Excavating, Vernon, VT- 12,000 cy 1 ½” crushed gravel delivered to town garage- $17.74/cy delivered.
NE Investment Holding Corp/ Zoar Sand & Gravel, Charlemont, MA- 12,000 cy 1 ½” crushed gravel delivered to town garage- $16.75/cy delivered.
Cersosimo Industries, Brattleboro, VT- 12,000 cy 1 ½” crushed gravel delivered to town garage- $19.25/cy delivered.
Colrain Sand & Gravel, Colrain, MA- 12,000 cy 1 ½” crushed gravel delivered to town garage- $13.89/cy delivered.
Bartlett & Boyd, Jacksonville, VT- 12,000 cy 1 ½” crushed gravel delivered to town garage- $28.00/cy delivered

Edwards made a motion to accept the bid from Colrain Sand & Gravel to deliver 1 ½” crushed gravel per VT State specifications for $13.89/cy. Holtz seconded the motion which passed 3-0-0.

Commander of State Police Barracks, Paul Favreau

Commander Favreau has switched positions with Greg Laport. Favreau thanked the town for renewing their contract, and asked them if they had any issues or concerns. Sumner expressed that he is glad when he sees them around and that they move to different areas. Favreau noted that each trooper is assigned to a particular town and Travis Valcourt is assigned to Halifax. Valcourt will handle quality of life crimes, speeding problems, etc. With the contract, other troopers may come up to hit the back roads. If there are any issues, Favreau expressed that the Board should feel free to call him. Favreau noted that the barracks are currently down one position, but they are getting a new trooper from Dover in about two weeks. Then they will be fully staffed at 13 at the Brattleboro barracks.

Citizens expressed the following concerns to Commander Favreau:

Edwards noted that Colrain has a problem with people putting stickers on road signs and it obstructs the view of these signs, and this is starting to happen in Halifax.

Moore noted that there is a bike tour on 8/18/12 and history has shown that the bicycles are all over the road, they make wide corners, and travel at high speed. Is there a way to have an officer out on that Saturday, possibly at the intersection near Green River Rd? Edwards noted that there is also a Lions Club sponsored tour as well to look out for.

Favreau expressed that he could try to get someone out here. He noted that they work rotating weekend shifts and have very few weekends off, but he could possibly get one or two people up here.

Joan Courser expressed her deep concern about the speeding problem especially in the village and Collins Rd. Derby agreed that after hours (6pm) and early mornings, people disobey the speed limits.

Laura Sumner- Collector of Delinquent Taxes

Laura Sumner noted that a tax sale is planned for Friday, August 10, 2012 at 3:00pm at the town office. She has been in communication with one of the mortgage holders and they expressed that they will put a check in the mail before the sale. The other party has been making payments since they received a certified letter. Therefore, they may not be having the tax sale. However, she would like the Selectboard to appoint an agent to do a minimum bid on the property for what the taxes and penalties are. She expressed that Craig Stone is willing to act as agent.

Sumner made a motion to appoint Craig Stone as agent for the town at the delinquent tax sale on August 10, 2012. Holtz seconded the motion which passed 3-0-0.

On another note, Laura Sumner reported that a group is getting together to plan an appreciation for those who helped during Irene. The meeting day and time is to be determined. Edwards expressed that she would like to attend the meeting if she is free.

Joan Courser

Joan Courser had submitted a letter to the Halifax Selectboard regarding the Halifax Community Hall that she wanted to discuss. Courser expressed that the Community Hall is in serious financial trouble and she is seeking help to fix a leaking roof. Water is coming down onto the ceiling and down the walls. She believes that at this time they could get away with only doing 1/2 of the roof as the other 1/2 can’t probably wait another year. The cost for half of the roof is $4,100-$4,200. She noted that membership has gone down from 60 members in the 1980’s to 4 current working members. They have had to give up on the suppers, breakfasts, and the bazaar because they are not making money. Courser expressed that the building is a nice functioning historic building and she doesn’t want to lose it. She noted that they have asked for money at town meeting in the past, but she feels they can’t wait that long. Edwards inquired what their winter operating expenses are. Courser replied $1,600-$1,800 in the winter, and they rent it out monthly for a senior meal. Holtz inquired whether the hall was a historic site. Courser replied that she does not believe it is on the historic register, but it is an 1844 building so she assumes we qualify. She noted that there is a lot of paperwork involved in registering it. There was a discussion about the deductibility of donations, and Courser expressed that she did believe their organization was a 501(c)3. Edwards suggested writing a letter to the editor of the Deerfield Valley News asking people to help make the building a vital part of the community again. Courser noted that she has sent out letters to landowners in Halifax, and has sent letters to local lumber yards asking for help. Christina Moore noted that there is a grant opportunity through USDA to community organizations who are a 501(c)3 which is a 85% low interest loan and a 15% grant. She noted that you can still get the grant even if you do not accept the loan. The group discussed the types of metal roofing materials, other funding sources such as mortgages, and the urgency for funding and repair before winter.

Edwards noted that the Selectboard will put this issue on the agenda under Old Business for the next regular meeting. She noted that they did not budget for this, but they will take a look into it. Holt encouraged the townspeople to contact the Selectboard and comment on it.

Highway Crew Evaluation Report

Edwards reported that highway crew evaluations were completed at the start of the new fiscal year. One of the discussions they had was going to a 40 hour work week. One of the ongoing concerns they have with the 45 hour weeks is that is very difficult to predict overtime. This is putting a lot of risk on the town if we have a particularly bad season. She had tried contacting the VLCT to find resources on how to make the switch to a 40 hour week that is fair for all parties, but the VLCT suggested an employment attorney. Edwards inquired whether the Selectboard can look at giving raises at this point. Sumner believes that the two low earners should get a raise at this point. Holtz noted that he had prepared an analysis of the last 6 years of wages and overtime. He believes finding a fair way to get them to 40 hours is a good idea. They had set aside money for raises and hopes to get the crew in line with surrounding towns. Edwards suggesting having another meeting with the road crew to discuss the topic again. Everyone is working hard and the Selectboard wants to do the right thing. There was a discussion about why there is a variation in wages between the crew. Rafus noted that although they a similar in skill now, at the time of hire they were at different skill levels. The last two were hired at a lower rate because they did not have their CDL’s yet. Rafus asked if the Board had considered a split pay scale for summer and winter. Edwards noted that Sumner was in favor of this, but she feels it would add a level of complexity that she may not be comfortable with. She expressed that we can certainly discuss it again. Christina Moore noted that if we ever get another FEMA disaster, the calculations for FEMA rates would be a nightmare if we used multiple rates of pay.

On Monday, August 13, 2012 the Selectboard will have a special meeting to open the bids for the river debris clean-up and then to discuss road crew wage evaluations.

Tax Rate

The current year total homestead rate is $1.9624. The non-resident rate is $1.9944. Last year the rates were $1.82 homestead, and $1.946 non-resident. Sumner noted that the state school tax was the biggest jump and about 1/5 of the school budget goes to the State. Edwards noted that the municipal tax rate increase is for equipment, interest on a loan, and to bring wages in line with what we are spending, and the bulk of it is not due to Irene. The school tax increase of .11 is the bulk of the change. Dow noted that the change is due to everything that was voted for at town meeting. Combs inquired how the school tax is computed. The Selectboard expressed that they did not know the formula, but that the State determines the rate and sends us the rate at the end of June.

Edwards made a motion to approve the town of Halifax tax rates for FY2013 with a homestead rate of $1.9624 and a non-resident rate of $1.9944. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed 3-0-0.

Bridges and River Debris

Moore reported that she and Sumner attended a meeting with FEMA, the State of VT, and 14 towns in Windham County. They discussed the transition period as FEMA is moving out of the State. She noted that Halifax is ahead of the cure as all project worksheets are complete.

One of the issues that has come up is that Deer Park and Hale Rd bridges are required to be longer per ANR standards. FEMA will only fund a replacement bridge that matches what was existing according to codes and standards. These codes and standards were created by VT AOT, but they ignored the VT ANR standards.  The State and FEMA will decide this legally. It could turn out that the town will have to shoulder the cost to meet the higher ANR standard. The Deer Park bridge is currently 49 ft long with a wooden deck. ANR says the bridge needs to be 56 ft long with a concrete deck.
C Moore noted that when the bridges go out to bid, we should put the scope of work from the engineering firm through as a scope change.
C Moore noted that the Weir Road bridge issue was found in our favor, and the State and FEMA will be paying for that bridge.
C Moore reported that project close outs are far more involved than anticipated. FEMA will pay for that work, but there is a lot of paperwork.

Edwards made a motion to re-appoint Christina Moore to complete the Irene/FEMA paperwork for an extended 6 months. Holtz seconded the motion which passed 3-0-0.

The Selectboard thanked Christina for all of her great work.

C Moore presented e-mails regarding the following issues (copies here):
1-      Project closeouts will require more time, cost and materials.
2-      Actions required for improved projects- We need to get a very accurate price for a baseline project. We need to get a statement of probable costs based on FEMA replacement from the engineering firm.

Edwards made a motion to instruct Joe Tamburrino as purchasing agent, to ask SVE to produce a statement of probable costs based on FEMA replacement for Deer Park and Hale Rd bridges. Holtz seconded the motion, which passed 3-0-0.

3-      Codes and Standards- the town approves a document annually for road construction codes and standards. Moore noted that towns can adopt codes and standards more strict than the State codes. In order to avoid conflict issues like those happening with ANR and AOT mentioned above, we can add a phrase to our document such as:
“meeting the permit standards for all applicable state and federal agencies” or
“meeting Q.50 or minimum of ANR guidelines, whichever is greater”

Edwards noted that if we adopt codes and standards, we are bound to that. We will have to follow the higher standards for Old Ctty North, and any other bridge going forward. This means more cost. Rafus mentioned that this would also apply to culverts- an 18” culvert would then have to be 24” and a 24” culvert would go to a 36” culvert.

Edwards expressed that it is a great idea to evaluate our codes and standards but we would like more time to evaluate the change.

Moore reported that extensions are done and approved for all projects through 12/2013.

Tamburrino reported that bid packages went out on Deer Park bridge. Bids are due Tuesday 9/4 at 6pm. There is a pre-bid site meeting on Monday 8/20 at 10am.
Tamburrino reported that Hale Rd bridge engineering should be done by the end of the month and ready to go out to bid.
Tamburrino reported that Reed Hill bridgework has started. They are starting at 6am, and hopes people will be patient and understanding. Sumner expressed that he has not heard the machines start until 7am.
Tamburrino reported that Holden Engineering would like to schedule a meeting to review the Old Cty North bridge. The meeting was scheduled for 11am on 8/13.

A special meeting will be held Monday 8/13 to start at 11am with Holden, bid opening for river debris at 12, and road crew hours/pay discussion following at 12:30.

Tamburrino reported that debris bid packages were picked up by Bartlett & Boyd, Lafogg, RJM, and Colrain Sand & Gravel. Drew Adam will meet with the bidders at 10am on 8/8/12. Holtz reported that a 100’ pile can’t be burned in place, so they will need to move that debris. Tamburrino noted that the bid states removal is included. Edwards noted that she would like it disposed of in an environmentally responsible way. We need to understand what they are going to do with it. Tamburrino stated that the bid does not say how to dispose of it. It’s up to them to figure out what to do with it or the State/USDA directs them.

Edwards made a motion to give signatory authority for emergency Watershed Protection projects to Lewis Sumner, Chairman of the Selectboard. Holtz seconded the motion which passed 2-0-1 (Sumner abstained).

Holtz reported that he only has one of four permission forms signed from the landowners involved in the river debris clean-up projects. He has been in contact with the other landowners.

VT Emergency Management Budget

Edwards suggested that we use this as a way to get more reliable internet service for the purpose of management during emergencies. We are looking at a point in time 7/2013 where in theory we will be closer to having another internet service provider here. Can we reuse the existing DSL line to create a Wi-Fi network starting at the town office and transmitting to the fire dept and the town garage? This is important in our emergency plan, but to create a budget now for something that far off is difficult. Sumner mentioned that at this point, you only need a general cost estimate. Edwards suggested putting $5k in the budget for a Wi-Fi communications network.

Berry expressed that he would like to see budget for moving the EOC here and communicating via radio as well as two additional laptops for disasters. Berry and Holtz will meet to complete the paperwork for these additional budget items. The paperwork needs to be completed by 8/15.

Hearing of Visitors

M Parkhurst inquired when the brush around the roads will be cleared. Edwards suggested she call Rafus at the highway dept and ask him. Someone has been hired to do the mowing.

Holtz reported that a resident contacted him asking who to get I contact with regarding boundary line problems with neighbors. As the town did not appoint a fence viewer, who handles this arbitration? Edwards suggested calling the VLCT to find out whether this reverts to the Selectboard if there is no fence viewer. She noted this would most likely involve the legal system.

Old Business

Other Business

The mail was reviewed and appropriately filed.

Selectmen’s Order to Town Treasurer for bill payment
The order for payment of bills was completed and signed.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:04 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Jessica Bruno
Selectboard Secretary