Town of Halifax, Vermont

December 31, 2012

This emergency meeting was held the Town Office and Town Garage, and was for the primary purpose of discussing the recent fire that has destroyed a Town plow/dump truck.  The meeting started at 9:02 a.m.  Selectboard members in attendance were Earl Holtz and Edee Edwards.  Lewis Sumner was absent.  Also in attendance was Brad Rafus of the Halifax Highway Department, and during limited portions of the meeting: Joe Tamburrino; Justin Berry by phone; Travis Briggs, Michael Fournier, and Ben Barnett; and Wayne Courser.

Town Plow Truck Fire

At approximately 7 pm on 12/29/2012, the Tandem Dump Truck, which was being used on Jacksonville Stage Road, caught on fire, and was destroyed.  The vehicle has been towed back to the Town Garage.  This truck lease had paid off in March 2012.  VLCT (insurance holder) was notified, but they do not appear to be in the office today.

The weather forecast looks good for the next week (only slight flurries), but we need to begin the process of temporary coverage of equipment, and long-term replacement.

Rafus said he hadn’t had time yet to check into what might be available temporarily.  But, he reported that Danny Zubrowski, Road Foreman in Guilford says to stay in touch, and that maybe he could spare a truck in some situations to help us out, especially in that end of town.

Holtz asked if any rentals would be available, and Rafus said he hadn’t called yet.  He said some dealers would have trucks set up, but he’s not sure if rentals are possible.

Rafus reported that plowing isn’t going to be terrible; we can plow with the grader, but it will add roughly 4 hours to sanding, because the single-axle trucks can’t haul as much sand.  Edwards asked if we can stage sand part way out.  The answer was no, it would freeze, and you’d need a machine to load it there.

The sander is incorporated into the body, which is not in bad shape.  It can’t be put on any dump truck; it has to be plumb for that truck.  The dump body is likely salvageable.  The plow/wing is fine.  The cab and chassis (engine of course) is what is destroyed.  The insurance company will handle determining what is salvageable.

Rafus reported that we’d had no issues with this truck since we’ve owned it.  Edwards said the insurance company would likely attempt to determine the cause of the fire, and hoped it wasn’t a systemic problem, although she had heard good things from the road crew about the manufacturer.

Holtz then turned attention to a letter from a citizen which suggested a child was in the truck.  Rafus confirmed that.  The child was unhurt.  The employee had some medical assessment, but is now at home.  The employee is expressing concern that people know he tried doing what he could to try to save the truck.  It was also noted that the employee wasn’t able to contact anyone in that remote section of the town.  He had to run up the road ¼ mile to a house to call the fire department.  He tried 3 times to get someone on the radio. Rafus said that even if he’d been able to get someone immediately on the radio, the outcome wouldn’t likely have been any different, due to the response time required to get to that area of town.  It is a helpless feeling to not be able to reach anyone, however.  The new high-band radios have large gaps in coverage, a situation that may improve if we get a repeater as planned.

Edwards proposed discussing a policy, if we do not have one in place, saying that non-town employees should not be in town vehicles without special dispensation.  She noted that she had considered asking to ride in a vehicle at some point to better understand the road crew’s jobs, but as a general rule, this is a concern for the town.  Edwards said she didn’t think we had such a policy in the Handbook.  Rafus confirmed that it was not in the Handbook.  He did point out that this is something that is not a new practice.

Holtz said that as the son of a truck driver and mechanic, he certainly grew up riding shotgun during late night trips in his father’s truck, at age 8 or so.  It is good to have company late at night, as a driver.  However, he did think this was a little close.

Edwards made a motion that the town implement a policy immediately that non-employees not ride in town vehicles without approval of the Selectboard.  Further discussion ensued.

Rafus asked how this would work: could he give the Selectboard a list of people that we would approve?  Holtz noted that it might be better on an issue-by-issue basis.  Rafus gave the example of having to take heavy chains out to broken-down vehicle, and using a family member to help rather than having to get someone from the other end of town.   Holtz suggested trying to get some assistance from VLCT to find out if there is anything else we should consider for this policy. Holtz asked what we would do when we had temporary employees like during Irene.  Rafus noted that he’d already given VLCT the names of Craig Stone and Wayne Courser to be on the list of drivers VLCT knows about, for emergency situations.  Edwards assumed as employees, they should be covered at the point the Selectboard hires them.

The motion was amended to say that both the Selectboard and Road Commissioner would jointly have to give approval for people to ride in or operate town equipment.  Holtz seconded the motion.  The motion carried 2-0.

Holtz agreed to go to explain the policy to the Town Highway Department on the next regular working day (January 2, 2013).

Back on the topic of temporary solutions to being down a truck, Edwards noted that we’d look for rental equipment, and asked for clarification on Guilford’s offer.  Rafus confirmed that the offer was with operator, but would be using our material (sand/salt).  Edwards also suggested that possibly smaller local operators with plowing and sanding equipment could be contracted out to cover some of the smaller roads in the interim

Holtz and Rafus discussed that even if a truck were located, transferring equipment would be at least 3-4 weeks, and if we had to have a new one built, it would be about 3-6 months.  Holtz asked if any of the people who we’d contracted with during Irene had equipment and do this as a side.  Rafus indicated that Jesse Boyd might have a single axle truck dump truck with plow, wing and sander with operator.

Rafus noted that getting a new body might be faster than normal since it is currently a slow time for the manufacturers.  He later noted that show trucks from some manufactures might be available.

Joe Tamburrino came in to the room looking for coffee, and instead got recruited to assist with getting quotes.

Holtz noted that at present, we don’t know the VLCT valuation and what can be retained if it is considered totaled.  Holtz also noted that we’re now in the position where we really need 2 trucks (one planned for replacement in FY2013 which was held back on the recommendation of the Highway Department that another Tandem truck might be more cost effective in the long run.)  There was some discussion about the possibility of getting a better price if we purchased 2 cabs, and hold off on setting up the second one after July.

Rafus stated that with the excavator damage, VLCT was pretty quick in getting an adjuster in within about 2 weeks, and had a check to us in 2 weeks or so.

VT Local Roads, VLCT and VTRANS might be resources for finding rentals.  Rafus also thought that there might be a possibility that Whitingham may have a spare single-axle truck available we could ask about renting.  The grader can get 14 feet plowed—the full width of some of the smaller roads in one pass.

Another potential service gap is in our usual practice of hauling our own sand from our supplier.  Edwards asked if it would be possible to change to a delivery mode in a pinch.  Rafus and Tamburrino concurred that should be no problem; but we have a lot on hand now and we’ll keep getting sand during fair weather for now.

Edwards suggested that drafting something as if we were going to buy 2 body and chassis, and asked Tamburrino to also work with Rafus to see about local contractors.

Edwards made a motion to appoint Joe Tamburrino as purchasing agent for the town for the purpose of truck replacements.  Holtz seconded, and the motion passed 2-0.

Rafus requested that a notice be put on the town website; the wording was finalized, and the request emailed off to the Selectboard Secretary and Town Clerk.  Rafus said his crew was going to be scattered around to cover the sanding.

Other business:

There is a Catastrophic Exercise for 2014 for Emergency Management training, with a deadline of today to respond with interest.  Edwards confirmed that it is not going to be a natural disaster, so the Highway Department may not need to be included except perhaps in a smaller role.

Edwards made a motion to send an email expressing interest by the Town of Halifax in participating in “CATEX 2014,” with the exact scope confirmed in conjunction with the trainers.  Holtz seconded the motion, which carried 2-0.  Shortly after that, Justin Berry called in, and he was updated with this information.

Agenda items for Thursday included: Town Garage Energy Audit, changing the budget finalization to a separate meeting since the truck purchase variation.

The meeting was temporarily adjourned at 9:58 am, but then Patty Dow presented the Highway order.  Holtz and Edwards reviewed and clarified one item on the Highway orders for a charge dating back to the 2008 ice storm (reseeding that failed), and signed those for payment.

Following a brief break, Holtz and Edwards went to the Town Garage to view the fire-damaged truck, resuming the meeting there.

At the garage, they also went in and spoke with the road crew staff in the break room.  Travis Briggs, Ben Barnett and Michael Fournier asked about the general discussions at the meeting, which Holtz and Edwards recapped briefly.  Wayne Courser stopped by and also discussed the fire for a moment.

The meeting adjourned at 10:30 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Edee Edwards, Selectboard Vice Chair