OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
April 19, 2016
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were present, as were Heidi Taylor (Deerfield Valley Rescue), Dennis Pike (Deerfield Valley Rescue), Raymond Combs, Peggy Rafus, Michael Fournier, Kaitlin Stone, Keith Stone, Robert Leete, Susan Kelly, Andrew Rice, John LaFlamme, Sirean LaFlamme, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Brad Rafus added a discussion of a dog issue in Halifax Center.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Lewis Sumner made a motion to accept the 4/05/16 regular meeting minutes as written. Mitch Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Deerfield Valley Rescue—Heidi Taylor
Heidi Taylor introduced herself as Deerfield Valley Rescue Administrator; she was accompanied by Dennis Pike, who is on the Board of Directors. She thanked the Selectboard for the invitation to speak, and added that the Halifax Fire Department and EMS play a key role in DVR’s ability to provide emergency medical care in the town. Taylor provided a handout outlining the organization’s history and detailing its functions. Response to DVR’s annual subscription drive was low last year; there were 54 responses to the 170 requests sent out locally, and only 29 responses to the 399 requests sent to out-of-state property owners. Taylor said she would welcome suggestions on ways to increase subscriptions, which are an important part of DVR’s funding. DVR provides 24-hour coverage in Halifax (except the Thomas Hill/Lucier Road area, which is covered by Rescue, Inc.), Searsburg, Wilmington, Whitingham, Dover, and portions of Marlboro and Stratton. They fielded 884 calls in 2015; 41 were in Halifax. Taylor told Sumner she could provide a break-down of call types to share at a future meeting. Last year the 23 DVR volunteers logged 19,661 hours. Volunteers receive $24 for a 12-hour shift and a $20 stipend on calls.
DVR has outgrown their current housing on property owned by Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. As the Medical Center searches for a new, expanded location, DVR is considering use of the existing medical center building in addition to their present structure. DVR is also planning either the purchase of a new ambulance at an estimated cost of $125-$150,000, or installing an ambulance box on a new chassis (about $80,000). DVR hosts an open house every September, and offers CPR classes and blood pressure checks.
Taylor told Kaitlin Stone applications are available either online or at the squad house in Wilmington for anyone wishing to become a volunteer. DVR pays for EMT training, in return for a contract agreeing to one year of volunteer service. Keith Stone asked whether DVR had different subscriptions for distance. Yes, responded Taylor, we have $50 subscriptions for local hospitals (Bennington, Greenfield, Brattleboro), $80 for Albany Med or Dartmouth, and $125 for metropolitan hospitals (Boston, New York). Cara Cheyette suggested subscriptions and volunteer recruitment might be increased if DVR were to host an event—perhaps at the Halifax Community Club—to explain the benefits and savings gained by supporting the rescue organization.
Sumner asked Animal Control Officer Andy Rice and Health Officer Sue Kelly for details of a dog bite situation in Halifax Center. Rice said he and Sue Kelly had dealt in late January with an incident in which a DHL delivery driver had been bitten, and he (Rice) had been called again last week when Justin Hill was bitten by the same dog while doing yard maintenance at a neighboring house. Both Hill and the DHL driver received emergency room treatment for their injuries. The dog was unregistered and did not have a current rabies certificate at the time of the first bite, but was vaccinated and registered thereafter. On Saturday Rice received information that the dog had bitten on two prior occasions, approximately three years ago. Rice and Kelly were unaware of these incidents, as they were not notified at the time. Rice said the situation would have been handled differently if he and Kelly had had this information. Of the most recent occurrence, Kelly said that while the victim’s and the owner’s stories conflicted, after research she was much more inclined to believe the victim. Town ordinance defines a dog who acts in this manner as vicious. Rice told Keith Stone that while our ordinance does not include a leash law, it does say a dog must be under its owner’s control.
Lengthy discussion followed, covering past owner compliance difficulties regarding a ten-day quarantine period, the possibility of holding a hearing, lack of impoundment facilities, and euthanization. The Board agreed that Kelly and Rice should obtain an agreement from the owners for the dog to be euthanized within 48 hours; Rice will take possession of the dog in case of non-compliance. If the State requires, the head will be sent to the lab for rabies testing. Rice suggested asking Hill’s permission to get copies of medical documentation for the town’s records.
Award Tandem Truck Bid
Rafus and Stone thoroughly reviewed the five tandem truck bids received and determined three were satisfactory in terms of cost and quality. Patriot Motors offered a 2017 Western Star, in stock and available for delivery in two weeks, for $173,839 with warranties and trade. Clark’s has a 2017 International which, with warranties and trade, would cost $171,800. This truck is also in stock and can be delivered in about two weeks. The third truck, a 2017 International from Delurey’s, would need to be ordered and would be available mid-winter for $176,459. Sumner said he has heard good things about Western Star. Rafus told Ray Combs the trucks have automatic transmissions. The Board discussed similarities and differences in equipment, emissions, engines, and travel distance for service. Keith Stone and Mike Fournier favored Chalmers- or Hendrickson-style suspension over springs. Mitch Green made a motion to approve the Clark’s Truck Center bid for a 2017 International tandem dump truck at $171,800. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1. Rafus, having given his personal opinion on the choice, abstained.
Windham Regional Commission Representatives
Sumner read a letter from Nick and Maggie Bartenhagen, thanking the Selectboard for appointing them as Windham Regional Commission representatives, and advising they would be resigning effective May 1, 2016, as their home is under contract and they expect to be leaving in July. Sumner made a motion to accept the Bartenhagen’s resignation as WRC representatives. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. In discussion, Cheyette asked for specifics of the position’s requirements. Sumner said representatives attended WRC meetings around the county, and served on various committees working on the Regional Plan. Sirean LaFlamme suggested the Bartenhagens might provide a job description to accompany the vacancy posting. Combs asked whether town representatives had a vote in WRC actions; Green and Sumner thought they voted on Town Plan approvals and offered sub-committee recommendations. Gabriel will ask the Bartenhagens for a job description and then post the vacancy.
Sumner said the Board would hear other business and visitors before moving to executive session.
Hearing of Visitors
John LaFlamme told the meeting the VY radiological response plan has been rewritten. With the plant’s closing, Halifax participation in a potential event is now limited to monitoring. Funding is available for another drill he said, but it would need to be in the coming week, and we would have no involvement other than monitoring the situation. Invoices for reimbursement must be submitted by May 15th; billing for EMD, pager, and radiological officer compensation through June will be posted on the April 19th treasurer’s order. There is also a $1,332 balance remaining on the grant. LaFlamme recommended applying those dollars to overpayment of the propane and phone bills. Keith Stone wondered if some of those funds could be used to determine why equipment used in town trucks to communicate with the repeater is not working properly. LaFlamme liked the idea but said the two-week window for using the funding would not allow sufficient time to make that happen. We do need to get that problem resolved, said Green. LaFlamme told Cheyette that some of the available discretionary funds had been spent on maps. The State has asked whether emergency response personnel would rather use cell phones or pagers for communication purposes. LaFlamme prefers cell phone texts, while Sumner would like to continue carrying a pager. LaFlamme will schedule a VT-Alert training session for Thursday evening, April 28th. Keith Stone said he found it ironic that VY funding is going away when the fuel rods and dry casks will remain in place for years to come. The rods have cooled to the point that they could remain out of water for sixteen days before a reaction occurred, explained LaFlamme. The rods are becoming more stable, and the type of radiation they would release is no longer an iodized radiation.
Robert Leete had questions about the condition of McMillan Road. He had been told the road was repaired with substandard materials after Irene. Not true, responded Rafus; we had an abundance of material to work with during the rebuild process. McMillan Road was originally a logging road and the base is not very good. The road has poor drainage and a lot of traffic, but that is true of many roads in town. So when will all the roads be fixed?, asked Leete. Probably never, Sumner responded, amidst laughter. The highway department must work within budget and time limitations when maintaining and rebuilding roads, said Rafus. We have 54 miles of gravel road, and one grader; we can do two miles a day. We can reclaim about eight-tenths of a mile of paved road per year. Not everyone can be first. Is there a list people can look at to learn when their roads will be worked on?, asked Cheyette. She suggested posting a schedule on the web site. We start each year with the spots that are worst during mud season, answered Rafus; then it just comes down to available funds.
Sirean LaFlamme told the Board there was an opening on the Planning Commission/ZBA, as Brian McNeice had resigned. Sumner said the Selectboard will not take action on a resignation until written notice had been received. LaFlamme would like a job description posted along with notice of the vacancy when that time comes. We had wonderful success advertising the Zoning Administrator position, she said.
What can we do to get the radios on the trucks working properly?, asked Ray Combs. Sumner recommended the town hire a reputable company to troubleshoot and advise what needs to be done. Stone said Keene Mutual Aid had been knowledgeable about some of the system’s deficiencies in the past. The Board agreed with Green’s suggestion that Keene Mutual Aid should assess the situation and provide an estimate.
Do we have a representative here from The Commons newspaper?, asked Keith Stone. Me, responded Cheyette. Stone quoted a line from an article written by Cheyette and published in the paper: “. . . three other individuals, Turner Lewis, Peggy Rafus (wife of board member Brad Rafus), and Kaitlin Stone (daughter of a member of the road crew). . . .” He then asked why the identifiers in parenthesis had been included for Peggy Rafus and Kaitlin Stone. Why didn’t you do the same for Turner Lewis, or Stephan Chait, he asked. Was this a spot of judging or degrading my character towards the Selectboard or my position? No, said Cheyette, it was identifying the way people are related to people and providing background for the appointments. Cheyette invited Stone to talk to her editor (Jeff Potter) about her writing. Are you on a fishing expedition . . . for nepotism?, asked Stone. That came up at the last (Selectboard) meeting, said Cheyette that some people might be appointed more for relationships than qualifications. That came from you, said Peggy Rafus. Stone asked why Cheyette had used Peggy Rafus’ name when she had withdrawn. That wasn’t information I had at the time, said Cheyette; that will be in tomorrow’s paper. Peggy Rafus said she felt at times as though she couldn’t express her opinion, because Cheyette was taking her remarks out of context, and directing attention to her (Rafus’) relationship with her husband instead of facts about happenings in the town. I’d like to make the point, said Stone, that I did not want my daughter to run for that position. She is stepping into a hornet’s nest that was created by other people, and now her decisions will be judged based on looking at me. John and Sirean LaFlamme empathized, recalling a similar situation they encountered when he was on the Selectboard and she served on the Planning Commission. I’m not getting paid, said Kaitlin Stone, I’m a volunteer. As I explained, I’m doing this to learn and serve the community. Cheyette said again that it was a question of appointee qualifications, and the Selectboard should be able to explain the reasoning behind its choices. If you remember, said Sumner, that question was asked, and I said those two people had cost the town a lot of money, and we hadn’t even started yet. You said that, Cheyette agreed. It’s unprofessional to take cheap shots at people who are trying to do things for the town, said Brad Rafus. I understand your issue with me; you ran against me twice, and lost. It’s personal, and that’s fine. I’m going to continue to do what’s best for this town; that’s what needs to happen. I had three questions I asked each candidate, and I scored the responses with a numbering system. My choices for appointments were the two individuals with the highest scores. Cheyette asked for the questions, and Rafus said they were, What do you like about this town?, What do you dislike, and how would you change it?, and, How much control should you have over what your neighbor does on his property? The first question was the most important, added Rafus.
Sumner made a motion to enter executive session, and invite Gabriel, to discuss the quarry legal action. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. There’s a requirement (when holding an executive session) that the town would be at a disadvantage if the public were aware, said Cheyette. We are discussing a legal matter, answered Sumner. Green added that Sumner had attended a meeting with lawyers, and he (Green) and Rafus need to be brought up-to-date on what happened at that meeting. The Board went into executive session at 8:53 p.m. They exited the session at 9:05 p.m. with no decisions made.
Sign Orders to the Treasurer
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed and appropriately filed or signed, including the liquor license for Honora Winery. Is that a renewal or something new, asked Bob Leete. They have to renew every year, responded Sumner.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.