OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
May 7, 2019
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:10 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were present, as were Stephan Chait, Ray Combs, Nancy McCrea, Diana Conway, Sue Kelly, Peggy Rafus, Paula Schultz, Tim Putnam, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Lewis Sumner added a FEMA update.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Sumner made a motion to accept the 4/2/19 regular meeting minutes as written. Mitch Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Brad Rafus made a motion to accept the 4/25/19 special meeting minutes as written. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Health Code Violation
Health Officer Sue Kelly gave an update on the health code complaint at 10070 Jacksonville Stage Road (see https://halifaxvt.com/selectboard/meeting-minutes/2019-04-02-selectboard-regular-meeting-minutes-draft/). She reported that while she has communicated with the property owners in Florida, she has not been able to learn the tenants’ names or arrange for an inspection. The wall opening through which washing machine water was draining has now been covered, but Kelly said the plate appeared to be removable and water may still be discharged at night; the only way to verify would be to go inside the house and do an inspection. Per the rental housing code a landlord is not required to provide a washing machine, but if one is provided the landlord must also provide a legal way to discharge the water. Sumner said that in his opinion the drain may have frozen over the winter. Sumner has heard the tenants are moving, and there may be other actions pending that he would not speak of presently. He suggested holding off for the time being. Green suggested revisiting the situation in a month or so, and putting it back on the agenda for the first meeting in June.
Kelly advised she had received another health code complaint, this one was about the accumulating trash on the Ken Boyd property on Brook Road. The complainant has seen rats, and is concerned because small children play in the vicinity. Kelly advised the individual to take pictures for documentation. Sumner said he had received an email, and had met with the complainant at the post office. He advised making a complaint or coming to a Selectboard meeting; if we single out one property without a complaint that person will raise the question of why other situations are not being addressed. Kelly said the complainant, Mrs. Hardgrove, had not requested anonymity. She’s eighty-six, and might find it hard to come to a meeting, added Kelly.
Peggy Rafus urged the Selectboard to take action not just on the Brook Road issue, but on all properties in town where a perceived health hazard exists. Something needs to be done, she said. Green suggested drafting letters to the owners of 10070 Jacksonville Stage, 104 Brook Road, and any other property owners in town with similar issues. In discussion, both the State health codes and the municipal junk ordinance were referenced. Kelly said that in the case of junk vehicles there was a danger of toxins entering the environment, which called the health codes into play. Sumner recommended letters signed by the Health Officer and the Selectboard, while Green suggested assessing fines after notification, as the Town’s junk ordinance permits. Paula Schultz asked about the debris between the road and the stream on Brook Road; she was told that is all part of the 104 Brook Road parcel.
To assure fairness across the board, Brad Rafus proposed each Selectboard member come to the next meeting with a list of properties potentially in violation of health codes and the junk ordinance, then the Board would compile a single list and send notification letters to the landowners. Ray Combs asked if the Board members were going to go around checking places or if it would be word of mouth; Green answered they would welcome input if anyone knows of a situation, then the Board could check it out. Peggy Rafus asked if fencing was allowed to conceal junk vehicles. Not according to State law, responded Sumner. Our ordinance follows State law, which says no more than three unregistered vehicles. Green said he thought there was wording in State law about junk being out of sight of the road and neighboring properties, but he hadn’t read the statute in awhile. Gabriel will prepare letters after consulting with the town attorney.
2019 LEMP Adoption
The LEMP (Local Emergency Management Plan), which replaced the LEOP (Local Emergency Operations Plan) after Vermont Yankee closed, must be updated and adopted by the Selectboard each year. Emergency Management Director Peggy Rafus has been working on the update and is having it reviewed by Windham Regional Commission’s Alyssa Sabetto before presenting it to the Board for signatures. Peggy said the LEMP is more detailed than the older LEOP; we are required to assign specific individuals to each position in the chain of command. She said volunteers are needed and invites anyone willing to assist during an emergency to reach out to her. Peggy also told the meeting she would like to have the official emergency shelter location moved to the Community Hall. If we have to open a shelter while school is in session there is a conflict, and the Town Office is insufficient as a shelter. While the Town Garage has a generator and a shower, there is no place to put people. A shelter must be approved by the Red Cross to serve as a designated Red Cross shelter; without that approval the Town will not be eligible for funding in an emergency. Once she has information from the State about requirements, Peggy would like to speak to the Selectboard about using emergency management funds to purchase a generator for the Community Hall. Brad Rafus said that the Town should have a written contract with whatever entity is chosen as a shelter location. While there has been a verbal understanding in the past that the school would be used, there is nothing on paper, and the school is not Red Cross certified. Combs asked about supplies like cots and blankets. When we’re certified, answered Sumner, we can make a phone call to the Red Cross and receive necessary supplies.
Peggy Rafus advised the State is still requesting additional documentation before their portion of reimbursement funds can be released. The town has already received federal monies. The difficulty seems to be with a lack of communication between State agencies, said Peggy; she is getting messages that projects are still open although all documentation has been submitted, and in one case she is being asked to revise some submissions even though that paperwork has been approved. She continues to work with the various departments and says she has until May 17th to work out the difficulties. FEMA has approved and signed off on everything, said Peggy, and has paid us. But the State is saying that FEMA is questioning our documentation.
Letter from School Board
Sumner read a letter from the Southern Valley Unified Union School District to the Halifax Selectboard for the record: “Please be advised that the Southern Valley School Board has a vacancy for a Halifax town resident school board member. As per the State law, Act 46, the Southern Valley School Board is required to inform the Halifax Selectboard about this vacancy. If there is an interested party they may send a letter of interest to the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union, Attention: Board Vacancy, 1 School Street, Wilmington, Vermont.” We don’t have anything to do with appointments, said Sumner, but by law they have to notify us. Jessica Cooney said she had given a letter of interest to Patty Dow. Sumner said Dow would have forwarded the letter to the supervisory union; Cooney will call her to verify.
Board members discussed correspondence received from State Telecommunications Specialist Corey Chase, who is asking towns with inactive microcell installations if they would be interested in funding operating costs for one or more of the units in their town. Estimated operating cost is $1,500-$2,000 per microcell. Halifax has several along Route 112 and one at the Town Garage. While the State has no budget for such a project, they are considering the possibility of reactivating some of the microcells if enough towns are interested. After discussion, Board members decided the units installed locally did not have enough range to be practical. Brad Rafus said that now the town has upgraded its radio system communication is much improved; the Highway Department can talk to the fire department and Keene Mutual Aid from almost anywhere in town.
Hearing of Visitors
Stephan Chait advised that the newly formed Conservation Commission met for the first time on April 23rd, with four of the five members present. The next meeting will be May 28th, and the Commission is planning regular meetings for the fourth Tuesday of each month, with possible adjustments for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
Chait reminded those present of last year’s May 30th Resilient Roads and Watersheds event, held in Guilford and sponsored by the Green River Watershed Alliance. Chait said the meeting was quite productive; he is currently working with Brad Rafus and Emily Davis of Windham Regional Commission to organize another such event, this one to be held in Halifax with a tentative mid-June date. Road crews from surrounding towns would be invited and the primary subject would be the impacts of Act 64 on town budgets and work loads. Chait would like to involve the Selectboard and Planning and Conservation Commissions and hopes the event will include a demonstration featuring a stream table, a very effective method of helping people understand water movement in nature.
Ray Combs said that Collins Road seems to have smoothed out now that the ground has thawed. He mentioned a wet spot on Jacksonville Stage Road with an adjacent puddle that doesn’t seem to have a way to drain. We have a number of roads like that, said Rafus, but with Act 64 that’s all going to change. He spoke of the mandate for deep, wide, stone-lined ditches and said that while we must abide by the new State requirements to keep grant funding, our narrow, hilly, tree-lined roads make putting the directives into practice extremely difficult and expensive. Paula Schultz, who lives at the corner of Tucker and Old County Roads, spoke of the unusually bad mud season, and asked why, in places, gravel from the roadbed had been pushed to the side of the road. Rafus explained that his crew goes out in the small hours of the morning, when the roads are still frozen, to lay stone. However, when the roads have softened, they will push the top layer of mud into winrows on the sides to reduce the depth of mud in the travel lanes and to allow the winrows to dry. Later that gravel is pulled back into the roadbed. People ask why we can’t just gravel the whole road, he continued. We spent $69,000 on stone this spring—our budget is $10,000.
Selectboard’s Order to Treasurer for Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed. This order included the second of the two FY2019 State Education Property Tax payments, in the amount of $96,406.82.
Correspondence was reviewed and filed. Two overweight permits were signed. One driveway permit, for an underground installation of an electric line beneath the trail portion of Thurber Road, was signed with conditions. As the installation was done prior to a request for a permit, the Board is requiring the line to be dug up so depth can be verified. Sumner told Combs the Road Commissioner inspects such installations. Peggy Rafus asked if the town would be liable should there be an injury when the line was being dug up. There is no liability to the town said Board members. Brad Rafus said any excavation in the town right of way requires a permit, and all permits are recorded in the town land records. Vermont Agency of Transportation has corrected the mileage for Aldrich Road in their records and on our town highway map. Sumner provided the State with documentation from the Land Records after the error was discovered.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:47 p.m.