OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
February 8, 2021
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus, Moderator Paul Blais, and Robbin Gabriel were present in the conference room. Peggy Rafus, Amy Kamstra, David Jones, Linda Lyon, Everett Wilson, Stephan Chait, Patty Dow, Chris Mays (Brattleboro Reformer), Marilou Parkhurst, Douglas Parkhurst, Peter Silverberg, Amanda Ryan, Penfield Chester, and Cara Cheyette attended remotely by teleconference.
After Lewis Sumner opened the meeting, Pau Blais reviewed the call control features, reminded those present the meeting would operate under Robert’s Rules of Order, and outlined the meeting process.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Mitch Green made a motion to approve the 1/5/21 regular minutes as written. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Sumner made a motion to approve the 1/18/21 special meeting minutes as written. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Sumner made a motion to approve the 1/26/21 special meeting minutes with the date corrected. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Gift Baskets—Amanda Ryan
Sumner announced the Board had received an email from Amanda Ryan. He read Ryan’s letter for the record, as follows:
Hello! I am Amanda Ryan, and I am trying to coordinate COVID-19 Community Care Baskets for our small town of Halifax. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic I wanted to give back to our community and spread a little cheer. The baskets are concentrated to elderly folks in town, folks that have medical conditions or people who are simply having a harder time than most. Now that we are almost a year into this pandemic, we know people are starting to get “COVID-19 Fatigue.”
In creating these baskets, we hope to bring a little sunshine to these people and just simply let them know that our community cares about them and we recognize it’s hard for them.
I am kindly asking for $600. Most of this money would be going towards $10 gift cards to our local Jacksonville Store. The balance would go towards puzzles and snacks etc. I am expecting to have about 35 baskets to give out.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-802-368-2735. If you could please reach out and let me know either way, it would be appreciated. I am trying to have these baskets ready for the middle of March.
I think it’s a good idea, said Sumner. I’d like to see if people in town would donate the money first, before asking for town funds. Green agreed, but was hesitant about using taxpayer monies for the project. He suggest the Community Club, the church, or private individuals might donate. Sumner noted that private donations for the Honor Roll sign project at the Community Hall netted more than was originally requested. This might be the same way, he added.
Amanda Ryan said she understood the Board’s thinking, and asked for suggestions about ways to get the word out. I’ve posted on Facebook, she said, but haven’t had a very big response. Sumner suggested posting on the bulletin boards at the Post Office and Halifax Center, Green mentioned the town website, and Gabriel said she would send Ryan information about Front Porch Forum. Linda Lyon is a member of the Community Club and offered to facilitate communicating with that organization. Pete Silverberg also endorsed the basket idea and recommended Front Porch Forum. Amy Kamstra suggested the Halifax-Whitingham Lion’s Club. Patty Dow thought the information could go into the newsletter if she had the details before the end of February, and Paul Blais said the school newsletter could be another way of spreading the word. Amanda Ryan thanked everyone for their input.
Absentee Ballot Discussion/Information
Sumner said Patty Dow would present information on absentee ballots. In the November general election, said Dow, the State mailed ballots to every registered voter. While it was a great idea, many people were confused by the process. Some thought the mailed ballot might not be the same as the one provided for in-person voting, some threw their ballots away so there may have been live ballots floating around, and some were confused about the need to bring their mailed ballots with them if they were voting in person. A few people used really terrible words that are forbidden by the Moderator, so I cannot repeat those. After talking to a number of other town clerks I don’t think the State’s mailing process was perfect. This year (in Halifax) there are going to be four ballots; two for the Town, one for the Halifax School, and one for the Unified District School Board. The latter includes the town of Readsboro, and if we were to mail ballots, each town would first have to vote to mail the ballot to everyone on the voter lists, as those are commingled ballots. Also, the Town doesn’t govern what the School Board does, so it couldn’t be a simple Halifax Selectboard decision. Dow said the Governor had authorized Selectboards to approve mailing ballots to all voters, but her recommendation was to use the existing absentee ballot process. Any voter can request a ballot be mailed to them by calling the Town Clerk, picking one up at the Town Office, or making a request online at Vermont’s My Voter Page (https://mvp.vermont.gov/), and to simplify matters further the auditors are mailing out postcards with a postage-paid tear-off section that can be mailed to request a ballot.
Brad Rafus asked Dow if she knew what percentage of voters utilized absentee ballots in November. No, replied Dow, but I believe we had about 200 absentee ballots out of 600 registered voters. Cara Cheyette said she had been hoping all ballots would be mailed, but she understood Dow’s reasoning. It’s disheartening so many people were angry; I really appreciate everything you said, Cheyette added. Linda Lyon also thanked Dow and suggested posting the information in the same places mentioned during the gift basket discussion. Lyon had requested an absentee ballot online about a week ago and wondered when it would be mailed out. Dow said she had processed all requests received through today and would check on Lyon’s request status tomorrow. Pete Silverberg was disturbed that Dow had taken verbal abuse and asked what can be done about it. It’s part of the job, answered Dow; I try to defuse the situation.
Rafus announced the Town has hired a temporary employee who has a CDL and plowing experience, and will begin work tomorrow.
Hearing of Visitors
Marilou Parkhurst asked if the informational meeting postcards had been mailed out. They started going out on Saturday, said Patty Dow; everyone should be getting them in the next day or two. Dow also said that anyone who wanted to donate to Amanda Ryan’s gift project is welcome to drop things off at the Town Office.
Cara Cheyette pointed out that a lot of people voting by absentee ballot would be voting prior to the scheduled informational meetings and would not have the benefit of article discussion or conversations with candidates. Could the Selectboard hold informational sessions earlier than originally planned? If not, could private citizens set up Zoom meetings, and would Board members come and talk about the issues? Sumner advised that, per Vermont statute, informational meetings cannot be held earlier than ten days before Town Meeting. The school district has the same problem, said Blais; it’s a flaw in the process. Cheyette asked Green if he would attend a private citizens’ info session. I’d have to consider whether I could do that, answered Green. Marilou Parkhurst asked if there could be a debate, with just the candidates. The Board didn’t have an answer to that question; we’d have to check, said Sumner.
Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer for Payment
The Treasurer’s order was reviewed and signed.
Mail was reviewed. The Board signed three overweight permits and one driveway permit.
Green made a motion to adjourn at 7:37 p.m. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.