Town of Pittsford
Select Board Special Meeting Minutes
March 8, 2006
Michael Balch opened the meeting at 6:30 PM. Select Board members present were: Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, Joe Gagnon, Thomas Hooker, Allen Hitchcock, and David Markowski. Also present were: Mike Balch, Linda Drummond, Mary & M. Todd Grant, Mike Warfle, Doc Potter, Lema Carter, Attorney Steve Cosgrove, Vincent Buro arrived at 6:35 PM. Tom Carrara arrived at 6:45 p.m.
Select Board Reorganization
Appointment of Chairman
This meeting was recorded.
M. Balch entertained a motion for appointment of Chairman.
D. Markowski nominated H. Pelkey to be the Select Board Chairman. J. Gagnon seconded the motion. No other nominations for the Chair. The motion passed unanimously. M. Balch turned the meeting over to H. Pelkey at 6:33 p.m.
The dog hearing convened at 6:33 PM.
H. Pelkey stated that the meeting tonight was for a domestic dog hearing. H. Pelkey turned the meeting back over to M. Balch to explain the process of tonight’s hearing.
S. Cosgrove stated the Buros were not present yet but to continue the hearing as he would be their representative. M. Balch explained that the Board is a quasi-judicial board that will require an investigation of the complaint, hold a hearing, and adjudicate the issue. They decide what the findings of facts are, they decide what’s true, and then they decide in light of that truth if there is any violation of the town ordinance and that is the purpose of this hearing. Chairman in charge of the meeting, no one should speak until they are recognized by the Chair with only one person speaking at a time. While speaking, only address the Chair not another individual. The Complainant will get to state his complaint. Then the defendant and the Board get to question the Complainant. Then the defendant gets to state their case, the complainant and the Board get to question them.
The police officers who have gone out when complaints occurred will get to state what they believe to be the facts then the complainant, defendants, and the Board will get to question the police officers. At the conclusion of all testimony, the Board will go into deliberation. That is not a public event it is private. Out of that deliberation will
come findings of fact and conclusions of law. Maintain the process and it will help the Board to come to a conclusion quicker. When the Board comes to its findings and conclusions they will make notes. Then they will instruct M. Balch to write a report based on the findings and it will become public.
H. Pelkey asks who in the audience is prepared to give testimony and could they please stand. Those standing were: Mary and M. Todd Grant, Mike Warfle, Doc Potter, Lema Carter, and Attorney Steve Cosgrove. Swear in before the board. H. Pelkey led the swearing in of all those standing asking them to repeat after him: I (state your name) do swear or affirm that I will give truthful testimony in the matter before the Board. Each person standing repeated the statement.
H. Pelkey asked that Complainants state their case. Mr. Grant asked if everyone had a copy of the complaint. H. Pelkey stated that they had all seen a copy. M. Balch stated that a copy of the complaint and log that was with it and was given to S. Cosgrove as Exhibits without having to read them. S. Cosgrove stated that they can add to evidence with no objections.
Mr. Grant stated the dogs barking next door can be heard throughout the house and especially in the bedrooms which are adjacent to the dog kennel. The barking has been going on for a long time. The Grants have made various calls to constables and police. They have contacted the Buros but not very polite. Officer Allen told the Grants to document dates of barking and to make recordings of the barking. Mr. Grant has recording of the barking and howling. Very noisy. Children and grandchildren can’t sleep at night or take naps due to the barking & howling. It is extremely annoying and disturbing the peace. Mr. Grant had an addendum after the certified letter arrived. M. Balch stated it would have to be a separate complaint. Mr. Grant would like to play some of the recording of the dogs barking. M. Balch stated that there were no rules of evidence. It is up to the Board what they are willing to hear and as to how much credence they will give to the any evidence they receive. Playing of the Grant tape started at 6:40PM. Mary Grant narrated the tape stating that the recording was on Sat. Feb. 25, 2006 from 9:30-10.30 AM and 12:22-2:12PM. She stated that the barking went on and off for hours. Recording of dog barking. Barking continues. 3:20PM on Feb 25 barking off and on from 12:22. Feb. 26 dogs have been barking about 45 minutes, Mrs. Grant states just started recording. Mary Grant narrates during the tape. Howling on the tape is heard from Monday, February 27, 2006 recorded and narrated by Mary Grant. The Board listened to the tape for approximately 5 minutes with dogs barking and howling. Mary Grant states that they can not tape it all the time. M. Grant states harassment. The Grants have tried to talk face to face with the Buros about the barking of their dogs but they get very excited about the issue. Mrs. Grant asked the Buros if they should call them when the dogs are bothering them which Mrs. Grant started to do. The Buros called the police and said that the Grants were harassing them. Mrs. Grant said the harassment is the Buros’ dogs barking and howling all the time. Mrs. Grant stated that neighbors who are aware of a problem should be able to help fix the problem. H. Pelkey asked the Grants if they had any more testimony. Mrs. Grant said there is more on the tape. Mary Grant has taped the recording from an open window. Year round noise. Mr. & Mrs. Grant state that the barking wakes them up at night and their granddaughters can’t go to sleep at night. The Grants have had lots of dogs and consider them part of the family and bring them inside. Mrs. Grant states that the Buro’s dog kennel is further from their own house and closer to Grants. Mrs. Grant stated that over the weekend, the dogs didn’t seem to be barking as much and maybe the Buros are trying to train the dogs not to bark as much. But she stated today the dogs were barking again for hours. Mr. & Mrs. Grant stated that they didn’t know that there was animal ordinance until two weeks ago. Mr. & Mrs. Grant have many notes since last June and decided to take action.
D. Markowski wanted clarification of how many dogs are involved in the complaint. Mr. & Mrs. Grant stated that there are 3 dogs. Mr. Buro identified his three dogs, Siberian husky, American Eskimo, and a Pomeranian.
H. Pelkey asked if there were a question from the Board.
Mr. Cosgrove asked if there was howling on the tape. Yes there was howling on the tape. Nothing further.
H. Pelkey asked S. Cosgrove if his client had any testimony he would like to offer the board. S. Cosgrove asked for the Constable. Mike Warfle identified himself. S. Cosgrove asked M. Warfle if he had submitted a written report to the Board. Yes, stated M. Warfle. Is there anything further he would like to add? M.Balch said that M. Warfle will be asked to testify by the Board and S. Cosgrove will have an opportunity to question him.
M. Balch asked S. Cosgrove if his client had any testimony. S. Cosgrove answered not at this time. He needs to meet with him first.
A. Hitchcock asked who Officer Allen was. M. Balch answered Deputy Sheriff Allen who was on duty at that time last summer. Mr. Grant stated it was on the document in the log they had kept last summer.
H. Pelkey asked if the Board could hear from M. Warfle. M. Warfle stated that the dog barking complaints have been happening for a long time during which he has responded to calls from the Grants. M. Warfle has been down to Conway’s Mobil lot 60 to 70 times and has video taped the Buro dogs. Other officers who have responded to the complaints are L. Carter present, Doc Potter present, and written statement from Chris Boucher. M. Warfle stated that when this all started over a year ago, Mary Grant was given a copy of the Pittsford dog ordinance and she was told that that the complaints needed to be in writing so the Board can hear it. The other officers have also told M. Grant many times that the complaints needed to be in writing. M. Warfle has observed the dogs in the kennel and they are laying there. Times when he has walked on the property the dogs will bark but they do quiet down. M. Grant is the only one who calls M. Warfle. The house is occupied year round but the only time the officers receive dog complaints are when the Grants are at their house on vacation or visiting. The dogs are healthy and in good shape, and are adaptable to cold weather. The Buro’s kennel is located on the North end of the property and he estimates it is about 4 feet from property line. It is a metal, mesh kennel with a green tarp over it and there is a dog house to the back of it and there are bales of hay that line the perimeter. M. Warfle attempted to bring this issue to a close with bringing in the Zoning Commission and review the property line, the fence and the kennel. It was determined that the fence and kennel had been in place for approximately 18 years and the Buro’s were grandfathered for fence and kennel. They did not need to move them and no variance was needed from the property line. After the Zoning Hearing, the complaints seemed to become more frequent. He has talked to both sides. M. Grant has called his house and left a message and has denied calling him when he calls her back. M. Warfle has video tape and written reports from himself and Officer Boucher that they have responded to the dog complaints and haven’t even found the dogs outside.
M. Warfle has been called on many complaints. Doc Potter, Officer Carter, and Officer Boucher have also responded many times.
H. Pelkey asked how many times M. Warfle has responded to the Grants phone calls. M.Warfle stated at least 60 to 70 times. He has also checked the dog situation on his way to work in Rutland and on his way home many times. M. Warfle does not live far from the Grants so his response time is very quick.
H. Pelkey asked M. Warfle about during those responses did you or your officers see any evidence to support the claim of the Buro dogs barking for long periods of time. M. Warfle replied “I have not.” Only barking when he gets out checking on the dogs.
H. Pelkey asked the other Board members if they had any questions. A. Hitchcock replied that he would like to hear from Doc Potter.
Doc Potter stated that he had responded to dog complaints 10 to15 times. Doc Potter repeatedly told Mrs. Grant to put a complaint to the town. When Doc Potter responds to the Grants phone calls about barking dogs, he never hears any barking when he arrives. He told Mrs. Grant to call 483-6500 ext. 14 the police phone and M. Warfle will respond.
He stated he had told her about the ordinance and that she had to put a complaint into the town in order for the ordinance to be enforced.
H. Pelkey asked if any other Board member has any questions. T. Hooker asked if the dog heard doing most of the barking on the tape was a small dog. M. Warfle answered that it was the Pomeranian.
D. Markowski asked the Grants approximately how many feet to their window stands the kennel. Mr. Grant replied 15 to 17 feet to the house.
H. Pelkey asked if there were any more Board questions. A. Hitchcock asked Lema if he had any comments. He has been there numerous times. Only if he heads towards the house then they will bark. He has not heard constant barking.
D. Markowski asked the Grants are you fulltime residents. No but one of their children lives there fulltime. The Grants have been there for 3 months. They have owned the house for 32 years. Different children have lived there over the years as well as tenants. Mary Grant stated they did not know about the dog ordinance until 2 weeks ago. Mr. Buro had told the Grants that the dogs could bark between 8 AM to 9 PM. The state police said to call M. Warfle. Noted on report how many calls. M. Grant stated that now they have written the complaint in accordance with the dog ordinance. Moved many times, vacations, plan to retire and participate in community.
H. Pelkey asked Mr. Cosgrove if he had any questions. He answered nothing.
H. Pelkey asked Mr. Cosgrove if his client wishes to give any testimony. S. Cosgrove replied that he doesn’t have anything to comment on. If anyone has any questions he will be glad to answer to them.
A. Hitchcock asked Mr. Buro how old his dogs are.
H. Pelkey asked Mr. Buro to stand and be sworn in at 7:00 PM. Mr. Buro stood and was sworn in by H. Pelkey at 7:00 PM.
Siberian is 12 years, Eskimo is 3 years, Pomeranian is 4 years and they are not outside all the time. During the night they are inside. Siberian is outside more because she likes the cold weather. J. Gagnon can you think of any location to move the kennels. Mr. Buro Neighbor Patty Carter does not have any issues with the dogs and they do not bother her. D. Markowski asks to clarify that the Buros have a chain link fence and a tarp over the kennel covering the sides-fence in the back. Mr. Buro answered a question from D. Markowski about the size of the kennel area which he said was about 8’ x 18’. There is one dog house for all the dogs. The Buros have never had any problem even when they had 3 huskies in the kennel. The kennel is completely separate from their house.
H. Pelkey asked if there were any other questions for Mr. Buro.
H. Pelkey asked Mr. & Mrs. Grant if they had any questions for Mr. Buro. Mr. Grant said yes. 18 years of barking is a long time. H. Pelkey said no statements only questions for Mr. Buro. Mrs. Grant asked Mr. Buro are you trying to teach the dogs not to bark. Address only the chairman and questions only. Mr. Buro said the motion light goes on and the dogs bark to greet him when he gets home. Mrs. Grant asked why Mr. Buro pounds on metal several minutes while she was recording. Mr. Buro answered he doesn’t know.
H. Pelkey asked if there were any other questions for Mr. Buro. H. Pelkey stated that testimony from all parties has been given.
D. Markowski made a motion to go into executive session for legal deliberation on the dog issue. A. Hitchcock seconded the motion. Passed unanimously. 7:10 PM
Do not need the tape from the Grants.
In accordance with 1VSA 312(b) where premature general public knowledge would clearly place the Municipality or person involved at a substantial disadvantage, the Board unanimously agreed to go into executive session for legal at 7:10 P.M. All others were excused. The Board came out of executive session at 7:30 P.M.
Tabled until next Wednesday, March 15, 2006 for visual inspection of the Buros and Grants.
Reorganization Meeting Continues at 7:30 PM
Appointment of Vice Chairman
D. Markowski nominated A. Hitchcock for Select Board Vice Chairman. The motion was seconded by T. Hooker. The motion passed unanimously.
Appointment of Recording Clerk
D. Markowski nominated L. Drummond for Recording Clerk. The motion was seconded by A. Hitchcock. The motion passed unanimously.
Appointment of Official Newspaper
A. Hitchcock made a motion to appoint The Reporter as the Official Town Newspaper. The motion was seconded by D. Markowski. The motion passed unanimously.
Adoption of 2006/2007 Select Board Meeting Schedule
D. Markowski made a motion to approve the Select Board meeting schedule to be on the first and third Wednesday evening of each month at 6:30 p.m. T. Hooker seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Appointments of Officials and Various Boards and Commissions:
The following list of appointments was reviewed for appointments to various boards, offices and commissions.
J. Gagnon made a motion to appoint the names as listed. D. Markowski seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
A. Hitchcock made a motion to go into Executive Session at 7:43 PM for Personnel. T. Hooker seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
In accordance with 1VSA 312(b) where premature general public knowledge would clearly place the Municipality or person involved at a substantial disadvantage, the Board unanimously agreed to go into executive session for Personnel at 7:43 P.M. M. Balch was invited to stay. All others were excused. The Board came out of executive session at 8:04 P.M. The Board took no action at this time.
With no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:04 P.M.
Linda Drummond, Recording Clerk
Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, Chair
Allen Hitchcock, Vice-Chair
Dave Markowski, Selectman
W. Joseph Gagnon, Selectman
Thomas Hooker, Selectman