Members Present – Thomas Hooker, Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, David Mills, Alicia Malay and W. Joseph Gagnon. Others Present: Chad Eugair, Charles “Butch” Shaw, Helen McKinlay, Stephanie Jerome, Chad Hewitt, Keith Whitcomb, Ralph Meima, Town Manager John Haverstock, Kelly Giard – Recording Secretary.
The meeting was called to order at 6:30 PM by Town Manager Haverstock.
This was a teleconference meeting.
J. Haverstock stated that there was a need to enter into Executive Session for 3 Personnel matters (COVID 19; Health Officer and Planning Commission). Motion by T. Pelkey and seconded by D. Mills to enter into Executive Session. Motion passed 5 – 0.
J. Haverstock stated that there was a need to amend the agenda as there was a verbal request from Kate Kennedy for expedited approval of a fireworks display, however, there was no application presented prior to the meeting, therefore, the application will proceed through normal channels. H. McKinlay has asked the Select Board to extend the Dog Licensing deadline from April 1 to May 1. Motion by T. Hooker and seconded by D. Mills to accept the agenda as amended. Motion passed 5 – 0.
The minutes of the March 4, 2020 Regular Select Board meeting were approved, with no corrections. The Select Board authorized Chairman Pelkey to sign the minutes on their behalf.
The orders in the amount of $117,395.67 and Payroll in the amount of $13,046.16 were signed with the following discussion:
D. Mills inquired about the expense for Otter Creek Engineering. J. Haverstock stated that this is for the design work for the infrastructure relocation within Route 7 Segment 2. D. Mills asked about a payment to Funny Business Entertainment. A. Malay explained that this was for a Recreation Department event that was held at the Police Academy. D. Mills asked about a payment to Winning Image for Fire Department plates. T. Hooker stated that these are membership plates for members vehicles.
Town Manager’s Report:
J. Haverstock reported the following:
- The OMYA Community Issues Committee met and discussed the Fire Hill Road railroad crossing and agreed that the concrete option was the best option due to the traffic turning sharply when exiting the driveway and entering the road. This recommendation was submitted to VTrans and Vermont Railway.
- The OMYA Plant Manager will be meeting with the Town Manager in the near future to discuss the possibility of the Florence Fire Substation being moved to a location on West Creek Road.
- The Veteran’s Memorial Committee met with a representative from Initial Ideas. Suggestions for how best to attach the names of Veterans to the marble wall will be submitted.
- The Town received a grant for $24,000, which would cover 80% of the cost of a Scoping Study exploring future sidewalks. There will be further discussion of this topic at the next meeting.
- VTrans has halted highway construction projects, including the one on Segment 1 or Route 7.
Select Board Comments:
D. Mills expressed concern about the weight of a schoolbus transporting a student across the weight-limited Depot Hill Bridge. There was a recommendation that the Transportation Manager of the School District be contacted to possibly avoid this bus going through the bridge.
D. Mills expressed the view that the town should “tighten belts” and watch spending due to the COVID pandemic because residents may have difficulty paying their taxes in November. J. Gagnon agreed that this could become an issue.
Rep Stephanie Jerome stated that she is available to discuss options with constituents in need of assistance during the pandemic. Rep Jerome requested that the websites that offer assistance be included on the Town website.
Rep “Butch” Shaw stated that the COVID 19 information is helpful. He stated that he is trying to understand the impact on the State and municipality budgets.
Consider Appointing New Member(s) to Fill Vacancy(ies) on Planning Commission (without interviews):
J. Haverstock reported that there have been 2 letters of interest for the Planning Commission vacancies. Currently, there is a full position and an alternate position open. D. Mills stated that Mark Pape applied previously and has showed interest. Motion by T. Hooker and seconded by A. Malay to appoint Derek Blow as a full member of the Planning Commission and Mark Pape as the Alternate. Motion passed 3 – 1 – 1 (Mills opposed and Gagnon abstained).
Presentation of Annual Audit Report:
Chad Hewitt from Sullivan & Powers was on the call to discuss the 2019 audit report. Mr. Hewitt explained that the audit resulted in a “clean” Unqualified Opinion, which is the best outcome that can be achieved. There were no issues and the audit included the Trustees of Public Funds accounts for the first time. The Management Discussion Analysis explains the finances of the Town for the fiscal year; the Global Financial Statements include the General Fund, Highway Fund and Non-Major Funds. The General Fund showed a balance of $113,000, which is an increase from $43,000 from the previous audit. The Highway Fund showed a balance of $16,000, which is an inventory balance and there is essentially no “liquid” Highway Fund balance. The Individual Detail of Fund Balances breaks out all accounts; the Water Fund is “solid”; the Sewer Fund is in dire straits because rates are too low.
J. Haverstock stated that the Highway Fund budget for FY21 has been increased for winter operations (salt, sand and overtime) and to increase the Highway Fund balance through a built-in surplus of roughly $65,000. The Water & Sewer Commission is aware of the Sewer Fund problem and will be reviewing the rates once the Depot Hill project’s cost becomes clearer.
D. Mills inquired about the expense of $97,712 from the Burditt Fund. T. Hooker explained that this was to pay on the bond financing the cost of past improvements at Lothrop School. J. Gagnon expressed concerns over the Sewer Fund and would like some recommendations to resolve the issue. Mr. Hewitt explained that there may be a need to lower the water rates and increase the sewer rates and/or raise rates annually to keep up with rising costs of operation.
Remarks from Solar Farm Developer Regarding Corn Hill Road Site:
Ralph Meima was present to discuss the proposed Solar Farm at the Colburn property on Corn Hill Road.
Mr. Meima stated that he represents Green Lantern and has been working with the Planning Commission to construct a 500kw solar site on the Rick Colburn property. Mr. Meima stated that the property has been checked for wetlands and rare species and has received waivers from ANR. There are no real concerns over the grass on the site as the property has been hayed regularly in the past. Mr. Meima explained that this property qualifies as a Net Metering Preferred site. Mr. Meima stated that the Planning Commission met at the site on February 27, 2020 and voted to approve it as a Preferred Site. J. Haverstock inquired how many solar farms of this size have been constructed by Green Lantern. Mr. Meima stated that there are 85 farms that are between 150 kW and 500 kW. J. Haverstock inquired if Green Lantern has ever paid towns for their support. Mr. Meima stated that they have not paid towns because local property taxes are paid.
T. Hooker inquired who maintains the property once a project is built. Mr. Meima stated that the project developer maintains the property. J. Haverstock inquired if there was any opportunity for the Town to weigh in on the landscaping and screening. Mr. Meima stated that there would be opportunities for the town to weigh in later in the State’s approval process.
A. Malay inquired about the location. Mr. Meima stated that the property is located just north of the Rutland Town line. A. Malay inquired the number of poles by the road. Mr. Meima explained that the gravel road would be used for access, with 3 poles for power from Corn Hill Road. There is 1 house, which is immediately south of the project that may be able to see the project and there is a proposal to extend the line of white pine trees to mitigate this.
D. Mills inquired about the screening. Mr. Meima stated that there would be an increase of trees and bushes. D. Mills inquired who would be benefitting from the power that is generated. Mr. Meima stated that this is being discussed currently and there are some possibilities. D. Mills inquired if there was any neighbor opposition. Mr. Meima stated that he has written 2 letters to the Halliday’s, who are neighbors of the project and there has been no response.
J. Gagnon stated that the 3 phase power has only been in service for a short time and inquired if there would be any contribution to the construction costs to Green Mountain Power. Mr. Meima stated that Green Mountain Power indirectly approves the connection and will advise of any associated costs.
Mark Winslow, Chairman of the Pittsford Planning Commission, stated that the Rutland Regional Planning Commission has designated the area as a Preferred Solar location and this project will fall under their Energy Plan. The access cut will need to be approved by the Highway Foreman and the Select Board before construction. Motion by D. Mills and seconded by J. Gagnon to have the Select Board Chair sign a letter designating this as a Preferred Site, as requested. Motion passed 5 – 0.
Review Truck Cab and Chassis Bids:
J. Haverstock reported that the bids were received for the replacement of Truck 2. The lowest bid was from ATG Advantage with a cost of $116,107 minus a trade of $68,000 (net cost of $48,107). The second lowest bid came from Green Mountain Kenworth with a cost of $127,208 minus a trade of $72,000 (net cost of $55,200). Mr. Eugair stated that the Freightliner truck is a stock truck with some options that were not of his liking and was located in Westminster, VT, which meant that any necessary service may require a truck being towed to Westminster. The Kenworth is local with near complete spec, however, delivery is about a year out.
D. Mills stated that he likes that the Kenworth is a full frame, 90/10 on road/off road truck, anti-lock brakes, battery in the cab and that the motor configuration was newer. D. Mills recommends the
Kenworth with the 84 month warranty and adding the corner windows for an additional $600. Motion by T. Hooker and seconded by T. Pelkey to purchase the Kenworth cab/chassis at a cost of $127,000 minus the $72,000 trade, adding the warranty and the corner windows. Motion passed 5 – 0.
Consider Purchasing Additional Feature(s) for New Truck’s Body:
J. Haverstock explained that he previously approved the purchase of the rapid connection feature to the Chevy 5500 now under construction $810. C. Eugair stated that they do not need the back up camera, which will provide a credit of $445. Mr. Eugair would like to purchase a tarp to keep the asphalt hot to the work sites. The cost for the tarp is $990. D. Mills inquired if this was necessary at this time. Mr. Eugair stated that there is a tarp that is currently being used from an old truck and he will see if this one will work with the new truck. This purchase was tabled.
Discussion of Arm Mower Replacement/Purchase vs Rental Options:
C. Eugair stated that the current 1994 mower was purchased used and is due for replacement next year. Currently, the mower is lacking air conditioning and is a comfortable house for mice. The cost of a new mower is approximately $140,000 and a used mower is between $85,000 an $90,000. The mowing can be done when other projects are complete. The possibility of renting a machine was discussed. The mower would be dropped off on Monday and picked up on Friday for a cost of approximately $3,000. There are no set hours for this cost. J. Gagnon would like to explore the possibility of other towns purchasing a mower and “share”. There was discussion concerning the ditch mowing, which is not easy to do banks, or corners with visibility a concern. T. Hooker recommended checking into the possibility of bidding the mowing to an outside contractor. The Select Board agreed to investigate this option. D. Mills stated that the electronics and emissions could cause issues if the machinery sits too long.
Consider Appointing Trustee of Public Funds:
The Select Board agreed unanimously to appoint Bradley Keith to the Trustees of Public Funds.
Consider Appointing Grand Juror:
The Select Board agreed unanimously to appoint Robb Spensley as Grand Juror.
Consider Appointing Alternate Representative to Rutland County Solid Waste District Board:
The Select Board agreed unanimously to appoint Bill Drummond as the Alternate to the Rutland County Solid Waste District.
Review and Discuss Health Officer Position Application:
J. Haverstock reported that there was an application for the Health Officer position and this will be discussed in Executive Session.
Discussion of COVID 19 Coronavirus Response:
J. Haverstock reported that he has been working with Emergency Management Director Jason Davis, who has been in contact with Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Hooker. The Town Manager has also been in touch with Federal and State authorities and the Rutland Regional Planning Commission regarding the COVID 19 pandemic. There is a link on the Town Facebook page and the there is a new Coronavirus page on the Town website directing residents to resources that are available to assist during this difficult time.
The Town Office workers are working from home and limiting access to the office to about 25%. Liz Willis and Helen McKinlay are getting the mail and splitting their time in the office; Pat Johnson is working 1 day a week; Randy Adams is working 1 – 2 hours per day; The Zoning Administrator has cut his time back; Linda Drummond is working 2 short days at the office; the Highway Department is working half time with 2 workers at a time; the Police Department, Water and Sewer Department and Transfer Station employees have been identified as “essential” workers per Government Guidelines, so they continue to work normal schedules. Bruce Babcock is using his sick time to stay away; the Town Manager is in the office early in the morning and again later in the day; and there are usually no more than 2 people in the building at a time. The custodian has been asked to clean more, focusing on the heavily touched areas, e.g. bathrooms, door knobs, and any handles. There has been 1 officer in the Police Department that has had a family member test positive and that officer will be asked to not work for the 14 day quarantine post-visit period. Many Recreation Department programs have been cancelled. The Town has supplemented its annual appropriation to the Pittsford Food Shelf with an additional $1,000 for the pandemic and has encouraged the towns of Chittenden and Proctor to follow suit. There will be a Staff Meeting on April 9, 2020 at 9:00 AM via teleconference.
Discussion Concerning Dog Licenses:
H. McKinlay stated that other towns are extending the deadline to license dogs by 1 month due to the COVID 19 restrictions. D. Mills recommended extending to May 15. Ms. McKinlay stated that people are mailing and calling in to license their dogs. Motion by J. Gagnon and seconded by T. Pelkey to extend the dog licensing deadline to May 15. Motion passed 5 – 0.
The Select Board recessed at 8:25 PM.
The Select Board reconvened at 8:27 PM.
T. Pelkey made the motion and seconded by D. Mills to go into Executive Session for personnel where premature knowledge would be damaging to the Town and may be jeopardized by public disclosure.
In accordance with 1 VSA 312 (b), where premature general public knowledge would clearly place the Municipality or person involved at a substantial disadvantage, the Board unanimously agreed to enter into Executive Session for the purpose of personnel at 8:36 PM. Town Manager Haverstock was invited to remain for Executive Session.
The Select Board exited Executive Session at 8:55 PM, with no action taken.
The Select Board meeting was adjourned at 8:55 PM.
The next regular meeting of the Select Board will be held on April 15, 2020.
Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, Chairman
Alicia Malay, Vice Chairman
Thomas Hooker, Selectman
W. Joseph Gagnon, Selectman
David Mills, Selectman