Town of Pittsford Select Board Meeting
January 3, 2007
Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, Chairman opened the meeting at 6:30 PM. Select Board members present were: Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, Allen Hitchcock, Joseph Gagnon, David Markowski, and Thomas Hooker. Also present were Michael Balch, Linda Drummond, Todd Grant, Mary Grant, J. Michael Warfle, Lema Carter, Tom Carrara, Elmer Potter, Robert Forrest, and David Rowe. April Moulaert, Doug Blodgett, and Steve Pytlik arrived at 6:45 PM.
The Select Board minutes of December 20, 2006 were reviewed, discussed, and approved.
The orders of January 3, 2007 were reviewed, discussed and approved in the amount of $22,914.99.
TOWN MANAGER’S REPORT
Mike Balch reported on the following:
Sullivan, Powers & Co., the Town’s certified public accountants, have finished the Town audit and it will be approximately 70 pages including GASB34. A draft of the audit should be sent to the Town by the middle of January which will be cutting it close for the Town Annual Report. The audit will be put in the Annual Report in draft form. The Town will be in compliance with GASB 34 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006.
M. Balch spoke with Town Auditor Joseph Sposta in the regards to the resolution regarding the Town Auditors. The Town Auditors will be meeting on January 5, 2007 and will discuss the change. The resolution will be discussed at Town Meeting and voted on by Australian ballot the next day.
Twenty-three water meters have been installed to date and three more have been scheduled.
The next few weeks will be dedicated to the semi annual water meter readings. L. Drummond will check on the availability for ordering more water meters and backflow preventers.
D. Markowski checked over the Gorham Bridge looking for an elevation benchmark. There was a fenced off area for an archeological dig during the reconstruction of the bridge. There was a designated benchmark maintained either by the general contractor or the State during the bridge reconstruction. There should be a benchmark on the plans for the bridge reconstruction. D. Markowski went to the bridge today and found a new grade stake with a nail and pink ribbon. He could find no other markings. There may be an elevation marker on the site plans. M. Balch will look at the plans.
There has been a request for police services from Todd and Mary Grant regarding animal issues.
All the information is in for the January newsletter and L. Drummond will be putting it together.
Adobe Acrobat has been added to her computer so a PDF can be made of the newsletter so the articles will not shift. The newsletter will be sent out by the end of January.
Todd and Mary Grant have a written dog barking complaint they hand delivered at this meeting in regards to the Buros’ animals. This is the second time for a dog barking complaint from the Grants against the Buros. T. Grant stated that there was no action at that time and that they were not given any answers. M Balch replied that a written finding of fact and conclusion of law was mailed to the Grants on April 18, 2006. Based on the facts that were presented at the hearing in March 2006, the Board concluded that no Town ordinance had been violated. M. Warfle addressed the Board and asked how many times the Constables Department should keep responding to the Grants’ dog barking complaints. M. Balch responded that barking dogs are not an emergency in Pittsford or the State of Vermont. The Town of Pittsford’s emergency policy does not require someone to respond to a night call for a barking dog. The Town’s animal control officers have responded to the Grants’ night calls as a courtesy in the past and because there has been an ongoing issue.
Routine work is done during a regular 40 hour work week. The Vermont State Police have asked not to be called by the Grants on the dog complaints by the Grants especially on the 911 emergency line. Doc Potter sat in the parking lot across from the Grants’ home after a State police dispatcher reached him at midnight one night and heard no barking. He spoke with the Grants right after and they agreed that the dogs do not bark all the time.
David Rowe asked if the Town will still be going ahead with the Town water line upgrades even though the Route 7 project may be on hold. The State is supposed to still continue with their Route 7 right of way permits. M. Balch replied that the commitments in the earlier letters still stand as long as the State can give the Town a safe place for the water lines. As soon as the State says that the Town can put the water line in and it will not be interfered with then the Board will go ahead with the upgrade. The Board has not received any official updated information from the State on the Route 7 project.
April Moulaert from the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation addressed the Board in regards to a new State program which she has been hired to run called the State of Vermont Wetlands Protection and Restoration Program. This new program is part of the Lake Champlain Clean and Clear Action Plan which is to clean up Lake Champlain. The wetlands component addresses that the wetlands have an important role in protecting and maintaining the water quality of the rivers, lakes, and ground water. Vermont has lost about 35% of our wetlands which have been converted into other uses. The purpose of the wetlands program is to work with willing land owners to restore areas that have historically been wetlands back to wetlands. A. Moulaert met Robert Forrest through the Natural Resource Conservation Service and has met with him at his property. Maps and photos were distributed to the Board and reviewed of R. Forrest’s land showing the relationship to other wildlife management areas and the portion of R. Forrest’s land that the wetland program is interested in acquiring. R. Forrest is interested in selling his land to the State and the State is interested in doing an ecological project on the property. A. Moulaert has come tonight to see if she could get a letter of support for this project from the Town. To go forward with this project, they would have to have a letter of support from the Select Board or have a Town vote in support of this project.
Discussion was held in regards to mosquito control if the Forrest property was to become a State owned wetland. Doug Blodgett of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept. commented on the long term property management of this project which his office would be handling. Mosquito control would be permitted similar to the Pomainville wildlife area agreement. To address this issue, the Town would write a conditional letter of support stating that the mosquito control issue is a concern and that the State would have to address this issue to the Town’s satisfaction. The mosquito problem was huge the summer of 2006 for the Town of Pittsford.
D. Markowski expressed his concerns that the State is purchasing more properties in the Otter Creek Basin. Recently other prime agricultural lands along the Otter Creek have been purchased for wildlife reserve and power line right of ways. These areas in the past were maintained as prime agricultural lands. R. Forrest stated that has been difficult to maintain his land for farming because of the flooding. A. Moulaert stated that R. Forrest’s property was brought to her for consideration as a wetland restoration and that his property is the only one in Pittsford that she is working on at this time. Discussion was held on the flooding and the difficulty in maintaining the land. Mentioned was the permit process that would have to be put in place for the Forrest property for any other change in land use. There is no permit process to change the Forrest property from prime agricultural land to a State owned wetland. D. Markowski stated that the State is not asking the Town for a permit to make the change from prime agricultural land to a wetland but they are just asking permission. Property which had value to the economic structure of the Town might potentially cause a mosquito control issue for the Town. D. Markowski asked if there would be a trade off from the State to the Town for the acreage that would be changed from economic value for the Town into a potential problem area for the Town.
More discussion was held in regards to the current value of R. Forrest’s land as prime agricultural land. Steve Pytlik from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service stated that about 50% of the land is considered prime agricultural land as the soil samples test results show that 50% of the property’s soil is not fit for farming because of the seasonal flooding.
By restoring the wetland on Forrest’s property, other areas will have better drainage as the wetland will store more of the flooding water.
State river management has changed their objectives over the years and no longer provides financial assistance to remove snags in rivers. Land owners can remove the snags on their own.
H. Pelkey stated that the Board has a fiduciary responsibility to the Townspeople. There would be about a $267 loss in property taxes on the R. Forrest property to the Town. The Board needs to be aware of the loss of the economic value of properties for the Town especially if other lands in the Otter Creek Basin are sold to the State. The wetland project is a small piece of the large action plan to clean up Lake Champlain. There would be a perpetual easement on the R. Forrest property to keep it in conservation as a wetland and out of farming forever. Further discussion was held in regards to the outlook for farming at the present and the future. Discussion was held on how all regulations will be overlooked to change prime agricultural land to wetlands when to change any other property to another use takes all kinds of State permits for the change. A. Moulaert states that she does not have to go through a process because the State will not be changing the land use. Disagreements were voiced by some of the Board members. M. Balch clarified that the State is entering into a legal agreement removing the property from prime agricultural use to never be farmed again. And therefore that is a change in the economic use forever.
The Board tabled their decision on the support of the State of Vermont Wetlands Protection and Restoration Program in acquiring the 130-acre portion of the R. Forrest farm with Clean and Clear funds until January 10, 2007.
The Board recessed the meeting at 7:45PM.
The Board reconvened at 7:53PM.
The Select Board recessed as the Select Board and convened as the Water Board at 7:53PM.
The Select Board reconvened 7:58PM.
The Select Board recessed as the Select Board and convened as the Sewer Board 7:58PM.
The Select Board reconvened at 8:00PM
Consider 2nd Draft of ATM Warning
M. Balch gave the background for the first draft item for the ATM Warning which is to see if the voters of the Town of Pittsford will approve an increase of the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption from $20,000 to $40,000 as set forth in 32 VSA §3802 (11) as amended. The Town has 14 disabled veteran exemptions which currently cost the Town $2,000 per $10,000 on assessed exemptions. Starting this fiscal year, the Town has to pay back the School Fund for the exemptions. Therefore, it is costing the Town $4,000 a year. If the amount was doubled to $20,000, it will cost the Town a total of $8,000 a year for the exemptions. The Board consensus is that the article proposed in the draft to be included on the ATM Warning.
The second draft item is to see if the voters of the Town of Pittsford will authorize the elimination of the office of elected auditor of the Town of Pittsford as set forth in 17 VSA 2651b. The Board’s consensus was to include the item in the ATM warning.
The third draft item is to see if the voters of the Town of Pittsford will authorize the Tax Collector to assess a graduated penalty on all taxes paid after the expiration of time established in the notice required by 32 VSA § 4772 or § 4792 such that: taxes paid within 10 calendar days after the above due date pay a 2% penalty; and all taxes paid 11 or more calendar days after the above due date will pay an 8% penalty. Pending a legal review of this item, the Board’s consensus was to include this item in the ATM warning.
Review Draft-Budget Management Memo
The review was completed at the December 20, 2006 meeting.
M. Balch will finalize the budget and the ATM Warning for the Board meeting on January 17, 2007. January 24, 2007 is the last day for petitions and the ATM Warning can be signed after that date. A short Board meeting will be set at a later date.
T. Carrara inquired about the conflict of interest issue and if there will be an ordinance addressing this issue on this year’s ballot. The Board is working on this ordinance. VLCT has a form which addresses how small towns handle conflicts of interest.
There was no other new business.
H. Pelkey made a motion to go into Executive Session for Personnel and Contracts at 8:10PM.
T. Hooker seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously. M. Balch was asked to stay.
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 and Contracts at 8:10 PM. M.Balch was asked to stay. The Board came out of Executive Session at 8:25PM.
No action taken.
Without any further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:26PM.
Linda Drummond, Recording Clerk
Thomas “Hank” Pelkey, Chair
Allen Hitchcock, Vice-Chair
W. Joseph Gagnon, Selectman
David Markowski, Selectman
Thomas Hooker, Selectman