OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
September 8, 2011
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:03 PM. Board members in attendance were John LaFlamme, Lewis Sumner, and Edee Edwards. Others in attendance were Robert Martynowski, Charlene Martynowski, Carleton Barnett, Bernice Barnett, Rose Lea Alboum, Howard Alboum, Patricia Dow, Joe Tamburrino, Peggy Webber, Brad Rafus, Earl B. Holtz, Wayne and Joan Courser, Michele Barnett, Ross Barnett, John Kuhn, and Board Secretary Phyllis Evanuk.
Mr. LaFlamme gave an update on the storm recovery progress. He advised that recently they have hired an additional contractor to specifically work in the Green River. The Board met today with representatives from FEMA regarding IA (Individual Assistance) and additional handout information is available. He further advised they had also met with representatives regarding PA (Public Assistance) which is the municipal portion. A meeting in Springfield will be held on Friday for further information and instructions for completing the necessary paperwork in order to be considered for participation in the PA aid through FEMA.
Ms. Edwards began by thanking Mr. LaFlamme and Mr. Sumner for setting up this special meeting. She is aware that she is the one who wanted the meeting as she is new to the Board and not as aware of the procedures as they are. She is concerned with how the purchasing is handled during emergencies and also during the remediation period after an emergency. She advised that because FEMA has specific rules and requirements she wants to be sure that the town follows them in order to be assured of the reimbursements that FEMA pays to the town. She also thanked Joe Tamburrino for taking on the job of procurement and purchasing of emergency supplies. She advised that her concerns regarding purchasing procedures currently followed by the town have been voiced before, but in this emergency situation she is especially concerned by the differences between what contractors are quoting and the rates that are approved by FEMA. She feels that there should be discussion by the Board prior to approval of expenditures.
Mr. Tamburrino advised that in this situation with the massive amounts of damage throughout the Northeast, if they took time to call a meeting and discuss it they would miss out on the availability of the materials. He advised that he has been told by some suppliers that they cannot guarantee having the product if the order isn’t placed then. The system they have been using right now has been working; he gets a quote, calls the EOC for approval, and immediately calls the supplier back. As a result they have been able to get almost everything they need when they need it. He further advised that after this initial emergency procurement period if the concern is the amounts being quoted, they could set different levels such as under a certain amount he could just order it; between certain higher amounts he would need verbal approval; and over a certain amount a meeting, review and approval would be necessary.
Mrs. Dow suggested that they could set price ranges for the different equipment and materials. If the quotes received are within that range they could be ordered without further approval.
Mr. Tamburrino agreed that is a good guideline for the future, and Mr. Rafus is knowledgeable about the prices and could assist in setting the ranges.
Comments from visitors:
Ms. Webber: She is concerned about the dangers if the roads are not fixed before winter; the Road Crew will not be able to safely plow the roads; more damage could result from the weight of vehicles on areas damaged by the storm. The work needs to be done and they should keep doing it.
Mrs. Martynowski: Once snow covers the roads they won’t see the damages that remain and will cause accidents and more damages. Just with the rains since the storm some of the areas that had been repaired began washing away again.
Mrs. Barnett advised as a lifelong resident she is very proud of the Town of Halifax and the way they pulled together to help people and especially the Road Crew for making the roads passable so quickly.
Mr. Sumner advised that he is especially concerned with getting the work in the river completed. He advised that the state has given them temporary permission to clear out the debris, but at any time they could say that’s the end, and they would not be able to do any more. Right now the trees and other debris is creating dams and if not removed before winter, the spring melt and runoff will cause a lot more damage.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that this would be local damage and wouldn’t be covered by FEMA. It is important to get the debris cleared while they have the permission to do so.
Regarding the authority of the Selectboard to act in emergency situations he read excerpts from state statutes 24 VSA 1623 and 1 VSA 312 to clarify that the decisions made are within the legal scope of their authority and that emergency meetings required in this situation do not have to be posted and warned in the same manner as regular or special meetings. He further advised that a notice be posted on the Town Website that advises the public that meetings at the EOC may need to be held and decisions may need to be made.
Ms. Edwards advised that she still has a concern about the indefinite time frame for these meetings.
Mr. Alboum advised the Selectboard that he feels they have to continue doing what they’re doing, but when it comes time to develop the budget for next year they need to decide “what they don’t have to spend”, because everyone was economically “hit” this year and the grader payment will impact the budget next year.
Mr. Sumner advised that the state treasurer is considering possibly a bond for all of the towns so that they don’t have to pay for this all at once, but over a number of years at a low interest rate.
Ms. Edwards asked to make a couple more comments regarding the purchasing. She mentioned the Windham Solid Waste Management District purchasing policy and read an excerpt relating to purchasing authority during emergencies. The policy also referred to 24 VSA 1623 which authorizes “1 or more” to approve payment.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that the Selectboard uses that authorization but requires a minimum of two to approve payment.
Ms. Edwards advised that both she and Mr. Sumner will be out of town tomorrow and by requiring two to approve, Mr. LaFlamme cannot act on any expenditure.
Mr. LaFlamme advised that he does not foresee the need to approve anything tomorrow, however if something should need approval he has Mr. Sumner’s pager number.
Mr. Rafus advised this is the fourth major event he has been through since he has been employed here. He advised this has been the most organized, by far more damage than any he has seen and much more organized, which makes everybody’s job easier.
Mr. Kuhn suggested that if they put something in their policy authorizing one member to approve if unable to contact the others, there should be a statement about what is a reasonable attempt to contact.
Mrs. Barnett asked how long the EOC would be open.
Mr. LaFlamme advised they did not know, but it would be until they were sure that all of the needs of the community members had been met.
Mr. Holtz asked if FEMA would help with individual washed out driveways.
Mr. Sumner advised he did not know but people who had any damage should at least register with FEMA before the 60 days is up or they would be out of luck even if they have covered damages.
Mr. Holtz has been urging people to register but cannot force them to do so.
Ms. Edwards advised that it is good to make people aware of the need to file but it is ultimately the individuals who are responsible for doing so.
Mr. Sumner thanked Ms. Edwards, Mr. LaFlamme, Mrs. Dow, Mr. Tamburrino, and all of the others who have worked so hard during this emergency. He advised that their help made the EOC operate smoothly and his job easier.
Mr. LaFlamme thanked all of the volunteers in Halifax that have made a huge difference.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:50 PM.
Phyllis H. Evanuk