Town of Halifax, VT

Minutes – Special Meeting

February 3, 2012

Call to Order

A special meeting of the Halifax Selectboard was held at the Town Office, called to order at 9:04 am.  Present were Selectboard members John LaFlamme, Lewis Sumner and Edee Edwards.  Members of the public present during various portions of the meeting included Margo Avakian, Bill Moore, Joe Tamburrino, Christina Moore, and briefly, Stephanie Aldrich.

A portion of the meeting included FEMA representatives Ann Hughes, PAC; Jeff Kirkland, PA for Town of Halifax; and Jeff Frohn, no position given at the time.

New Business

John LaFlamme made a motion to sign the finalized warning for Town Meeting.  Lewis Sumner seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.

Lewis Sumner made a motion to update the highway closure resolution approved on 25 January 2012 to revise the posting of Hale Road to a weight limit of 14,000 lbs, per the signs that have been placed. Edee Edwards seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.

A discussion was held about issuing a press release or legal notice rather than attempting to contact fuel delivery or other companies.  Edee Edwards will follow up with drafting a press release.  In response to a question, it was determined that Hale Road will be monitored weekly by the Highway Department.

Deer Park Road – Green River intersection temporary bridge, to replace bridge 34, was discussed.  The town just received a contract and a cost estimate from the state.  The state bridge specialist is recommending a 100 ft bridge to make the crossing easier.  That is $170/month in rental fees.  The estimated cost to install the bridge is $61,648.75, although some of those costs might be reduced if town Highway Department resources are used to supplement the state resources.  John LaFlamme noted that doubling this cost would certainly cover the removal, as no material would be needed.  Green River Road will have 5 days of activity: 2 days to set up, followed by 3 days when Green River road must be closed to put the bridge in place.  A crane will be used on the Deer Park Road side.

Given an 18-month rental in case of delays, the total estimated cost was around $127,000.  If the town portion after FEMA reimbursement is 12.5%, then the direct cost to the town was noted as $15,882 by John LaFlamme.

Edee Edwards questioned whether we were confirmed that this was a FEMA- reimbursable expense.  Following the short notice for the meeting, she had emailed Alec Portelupi and John Alexander from the state, along with Jeff Kirkland and Michael Egan from FEMA, but had not received a reply, although Michael Egan had an automatic out-of-office reply that he was no longer working on this disaster. She noted that earlier conversations had indicated that FEMA was looking for a State Temporary Bridge policy that perhaps hadn’t been finalized.  John LaFlamme produced a temporary bridge policy that he had found online.  We also noted that verbal affirmations that this “should” be covered had been received in some cases, but that the bridge specialist from Michael Egan had earlier requested a justification, but no response was received on what we supplied.

John made a motion to contract with Vermont State to set up a temporary bridge at the end of Deer Park Road.  Lewis seconded it.

Discussion continued.  Joe Tamburrino asked if we would be able to leave the damaged bridge in place.  John LaFlamme confirmed that we could.

John LaFlamme noted that the state’s availability to put the bridge in place would be “ASAP” after receiving our contract.

He also noted that he had checked with the school board and that there would be no school transportation issues with the Green River Road temporary road closure.

Joe Tamburrino commented that he hoped we would be using state expertise during the installation.  John LaFlamme stated that our Highway Department members would be working under the direction of the State workers.  He reiterated a statement from an earlier meeting that the state workers would be ½ of the cost of a private contractor.  Edee Edwards noted that our purchasing policy does allow sole source justification, so if we can justify a single supplier, we do not need to go out to bid.

John noted that the temporary bridge designation of HS-25 exceeds the 24,000 lb weight limit on the gravel roads, and that a resident with military experience had said the Bailey bridges are very tough.

Edee Edwards asked for time to review the contract itself, noting the new rate sheet dated July 1, 2011, for $170 for the bridge.  She also noted that the contract stated that we were obliged as a town to make every effort to replace the bridge as quickly as possible.  This might conflict with John LaFlamme’s earlier statements that if the temporary bridge were in place, we could concentrate on the other damaged bridges in town first.

Joe Tamburrino asked if there were new contacts in place of Michael Egan for bridges, to give to SVE.  Edee Edwards noted that the email had some phone numbers and names, but that she did not attempt to phone them in the single day after sending the email.  She will provide the contact information to Joe.

Edee Edwards asked if the residents in the audience felt it was a good idea to move ahead.  All present assented.

Christina Moore arrived at about 9:45 am, and Bill Moore left.  She noted that no further information had been received on the reimbursement issue, but that she felt we were getting clear answers from our new FEMA public assistance representative, Jeff Kirkland, who was scheduled to arrive shortly.

Christina noted that Vermont was the only state where the Agency of Transportation is the interface between FEMA and the towns as applicants, which is possibly causing some stress as workloads are very high.  She also began to note an issue whereby the $541,541 payment received from FEMA for Green River Road is only 67% of what had been submitted, instead of the 75% we anticipated.

At this point, about 10:00 am, the FEMA representatives arrived, as did Stephanie Aldrich, School Principal, to do a brief meet and greet.

After a brief recess, the Selectboard reviewed with FEMA the present conversation in trying to understand what the process was to get reimbursement confirmation for a temporary bridge.

Jeff Frohm stated that temporary structures were in Category A & B of FEMA’s breakdown of emergency needs.  (Additional copies of the FEMA handbook, previously limited to one per town, were given to the Selectboard members.)  As such, the focus of the temporary structures is only on what is necessary for Life, Safety, and Health.  He produced the brief justification forwarded by Edee Edwards and originally submitted to FEMA in mid-December, and stated that only paragraphs 3 & 4, related to VT Yankee EPZ and ambulance service, would be considered.  Tim Burnett, PA officer, would be the one who would decide on the request.  Temporary work must be done within 6 months, and then approved thereafter every 6 months.  It was Jeff Frohm’s perspective that our case was not very strong as stated, but that we could improve or add to our original statement.

Some of the additional points that could now be included in the justification that weren’t available when it was originally created include:

•          the brand new cost estimate for the temporary bridge

•          how long it will take to get a permanent bridge in place

•          clearer perspectives on times on ambulance / hospital trips vis a vis other remote areas of the town, and other emergency response times

•          Documenting the history of our ongoing attempts to get a temporary bridge, including earlier cost estimates and discussions

•          Documenting possible alternate costs to maintain the road to a higher standard during the duration that the bridge is anticipated to be out.

It was noted that the Project Worksheet for this bridge was written with an estimated cost of about $400,000.  We inquired about 406 grants to potentially lengthen bridges if our newly received hydrology studies recommend that.  Jeff Frohm stated that replacing things to the current codes and standards was generally all that was needed.  Halifax participants also questioned the 50% rule, which determines when replacement is recommended over repair. FEMA participants said this was done, although no one in Halifax had received a copy of that work.

This project worksheet is presently in review at their level.  Within a day, they felt they could submit this.  They make a recommendation at their level, but the Joint Field Office makes final determinations.  They stated that we will get a copy of the Project Worksheet, which was not something Halifax had received in the past.

Joe Tamburrino noted that the design process for the bridges is not due to be finalized until the end of March. He estimated that we would not be able to go out to bid until May.

Jeff Frohm stated that if something had been put into place already, FEMA would not second guess that, but reiterated that any temporary structure would have to be in place within six months, and then would only be approved by FEMA in 6 month increments.  He suggested that the town expedite the permanent bridge.  He suggest a good consideration is “What would we do if FEMA weren’t in town,” and in regard to response times, if we are striving to make the response better than people in the furthest reaches of town, “What makes these people special?”

Edee Edwards made a motion to table further consideration of signing a contract for a temporary bridge until we could get a further assessment of a revised application.  Lewis seconded the motion, which carried 3-0.

Follow up on the ambulance response times was requested.  Christina Moore noted her work schedule would not permit her to do that work, but she agreed to delegate this.  Joe Tamburrino offered to drive the roads, but online tools make this unnecessary.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:07 am and Edee Edwards left; however, John LaFlamme and Lewis Sumner were drawn into further conversation and reconvened the public meeting.  Additional meeting minutes will be provided separately.

Respectfully submitted,
Edee Edwards, Selectboard member