OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
September 1, 2015
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Edee Edwards, and Douglas Grob were present, as were Brad Rafus, Stephan Chait, Ray Combs, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Edee Edwards requested a discussion of plans for Branch Road bridge (#15) repairs.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Edwards made a motion to approve the 8/18/15 regular meeting minutes with two changes. Lewis Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
ZBA Member Appointment
One candidate has volunteered to fill the open position on the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Edwards nominated Linda Lyon to serve on the ZBA through the end of the current term, ending March 2016. Doug Grob seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Gabriel will send a notification letter.
Time Clock Replacement
Edwards recommended the purchase of a new time clock to replace the malfunctioning unit at the town garage. In discussion, Brad Rafus asked about procedure regarding lunch hour; the men do not get paid for lunch, and do not always return to the garage at mid-day. Sometimes their work make it impractical to take a lunch break. Edwards said the crew should take regular lunch breaks, but thought a handwritten “no lunch” on time cards acceptable for times when the men are out on the road and do not take a break. This has been the practice since the time clock stopped working last winter.
WRC Roads Mapping
Jeff Nugent of Windham Regional Commission is working to improve the accuracy of local maps in advance of hazard mitigation planning. He recently requested information about several roads in Halifax and also referred to earlier discussions with the town concerning roads which appear to be navigable on GPS but are actually not maintained by the town and cannot be safely negotiated by car. Sections of Perry, Old County, Ballou Mountain, Hall, Josh, Worden Cemetery, Bell, and Carey are on the list of roads about which Nugent would like to have current information, both for mapping purposes and to correct GPS accuracy. This latter endeavor may not be successful, but Nugent has indicated he will make the attempt. A State deadline earlier this year required towns to identify ancient roads not shown on state maps; old roads not reported were automatically discontinued. As Halifax did not declare any such roads there is the likelihood we have several which are no longer public rights-of-way; they have reverted to landowner possession. Gabriel has begun research on the above-mentioned roads and will prepare a report for the Board and WRC and for use in the yearly report to the State. What are we trying to accomplish here?, asked Ray Combs. Edwards said the main purpose was to determine available legal rights-of-way which could be used in the event of an emergency. We also hope to convince GPS vendors to provide more accurate information, she added. Edwards also mentioned the confusion engendered by state road numbering versus local road names. Branch and Brook Road are both part of TH1 according to the state’s numbering scheme, while half of Bell and half of Carey are known to the state as TH38 (Class 4) and the second halves of each as legal trail #12. Rafus noted that the town has a cemetery on the legal trail section of Bell Road, and Sumner said there is a house out there. Sumner is dubious about the chances of getting the state to change road numbering. We can try, said Edwards.
Edwards described the last regular Selectboard meeting as one of the worst she could remember; someone seemed to have an axe to grind with her on issues unrelated to the agenda topics, and she wanted to solicit suggestions as to how to keep meetings civil. I’ve been through a lot of rough meetings, offered Sumner. I figure you let people have their say, and they move on. If you start answering them back, it gives more fuel. If someone attacks your integrity, as in saying “you violated open meeting law,” it is hard not to respond, said Edwards. People need to be encouraged to talk to us before they wait six months and are steaming, commented Grob. And if it is a town employee, I feel it is really crossing the line. People who are town employees do have the right to come to meetings as private citizens with an opinion, said Edwards, but it can keep us from being productive and making good decisions. Stephan Chait recommended setting the tone of meetings with an opening statement acknowledging “hot” topics and advocating civility and respect. Edwards said Marilyn Allen had sent an email expressing a similar view, and recalled the time John LaFlamme had used a rock as a gavel to keep meetings on track. Edwards quoted one statement from the August 18th meeting with which she said she was in complete agreement: “It’s ridiculous what’s going on around here, it’s mean-spirited and disrespectful to the whole town, and most people are tired of it.” I could say the same, she said, we agree this is not a good way to be communicating. Rafus said that during hearing of visitors the Board often hears unexpected things. People often form and express an opinion when they only have a small piece of the picture, he said; in that same vein, highway crew members also are often verbally accosted in the course of their duties. Those instances should be brought to the attention of the Selectboard, said Edwards. The Board agreed to make an opening statement at meetings encouraging civility, and open meeting law will be a topic on the next regular meeting agenda.
Zoning Update: Public Hearing Scheduled
The Selectboard will hold a public hearing on the Planning Commission’s proposed bylaw amendments on September 22nd at 7:00 p.m. in the school multi-purpose room. Edwards suggested engaging an outside moderator for this hearing. Gabriel will query Windham Regional Commission and Patti Pusey in this respect. The Board discussed hearing procedure: Is the hearing is a forum for a two-way conversation between Board and public, or simply an opportunity for the public to comment? Sumner said that in his experience the purpose of the hearing was to receive public opinion; Board discussion could take place in open meeting thereafter, and any agreed-upon changes to the amendments would then be passed back to the Planning Commission. Chait and Rafus both spoke of their past involvement in similar hearings, and Gabriel provided the Board with a printout of VLCT’s instructions for legislative public hearings.
Branch Road Bridge (#15)
Having reviewed a rough estimate of concrete and guardrail repair costs obtained from LaFogg and Hathaway Construction, the Board again discussed how to proceed on that work. In the past, said Rafus, LaFogg’s numbers have always been on the lower end of the bid spectrum; therefore their $66,700 estimate is likely to be a fairly accurate indication of what the town would receive in response to an actual bid request. At present, however, the town has only about $27,000 available for bridge work. One jersey barrier design offered by the state was rejected because it would narrow the travel lane of the bridge to the extent that the plow trucks could not go through. After talking over various possibilities, Sumner supported Rafus’ suggestion of setting jersey barriers only at the ends of the damaged guardrails as a temporary fix, and applying for a state structures grant next season to effect permanent repairs. Will the bridge need to be wider, asked Combs. No, replied Rafus, the deck is fine. We need new concrete curbs, uprights, and guardrails, and the I-beams will be sandblasted and recoated. Chait asked about repaving. We repaved it after Irene, said Rafus, so we’ll only need new pavement in spots where the existing pavement will be cut back. During inspection, added Grob, the state engineer said the bridge itself is in good shape, and should not need full replacement for another 15 or 20 years. Edwards made a motion to bypass the engineering grant, work to get a structures grant for Bridge #15, and implement safety measures by placing temporary jersey barriers outside the bridge deck along the edge of the river as appropriate. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. The remaining town funds currently earmarked for bridge work will not be returned to the general fund at year’s end but will be held in reserve for future bridge work.
Town Garage Roof
Grob has learned that Rodd Roofing in St. Johnsbury is not willing to discuss specifics of the town garage roof problems without an engineering study. Edwards made a motion to issue a bid request for an architectural engineering firm to assess the leaking roof, condensation/ventilation issues, and insulation in the town garage. Grob seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Rafus asked whether a request should go to the engineer who originally designed the building, and the Board agreed.
Old Town Garage
Should we give the go-ahead for the highway department to take down the building when they get a chance?, asked Grob. We have confirmation that EMS is not interested in utilizing the building, said Edwards. From my perspective, it’s important to remove the items in storage there, but a higher priority is to deal with the berm on Green River Road that will have flood mitigation impact. Do it (garage demolition) if the opportunity presents, she added. Rafus asked if the concrete slab should be removed; the Board suggested it might be left in place for parking, or possibly as a site for the recycling bins, which may or may not remain in town after the end of the year.
Hearing of Visitors
Rafus and Keith Stone recently attended a 13-hour VLCT seminar on workshop safety and hazardous materials handling on the road and in the shop; Rafus shared the completion certificate with the Board. A VLCT safety officer visited the town garage today, he said, to advise on tailgate safety, as a road crew worker in another town had just lost his hand while attempting to dislodge a rock from a town truck’s tailgate. Warning decals will now be attached to the trucks. Rafus also told the Board he would be setting up a class for flagging recertification next month.
Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer for Bill Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed. This order included the $98,000 payment for the new box culvert on Reed Hill Road by the Post Office.
Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed and filed. The Board signed a Listers Errors and Omissions certificate, discussed the upcoming WRC Hazard Mitigation meeting on September 16th, and reviewed and signed the KAS old town garage well monitoring report.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:48 p.m.