More Meeting Minutes

LETTER FROM ATTORNEY/ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER
The Zoning Board of Adjustment proposed several questions to the attorney. Nancy Bushika added the question of whether the Selectboard could adopt interim By-laws until the Planning Commission had time to update them completely. The attorney’s letter said anyone, including the Selectboard, has 15 days to appeal the Administrative Officer’s decision to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Jim Stimpson complained about the lack of communication in this town. He feels the people serving on boards, especially those in charge, are doing things that are wrong and against the law. He asked why he was denied a copy of the attorney’s letter. Nancy Bushika felt that correspondence should not be distributed before the Selectboard had a chance to review and discuss it. Jim Stimpson argued that this violated the law and that she did not have the right to authorize a call to the attorney. The board previously decided only Lori Shepard as Administrative Assistant would call the attorney with Selectboard approval. Dan Potvin acknowledged that a lot of mistakes were made by all of us, but feels it is best to move forward. Mike Denault agreed that the board needs to be more careful and email should only be used to distribute information. If a topic cannot wait two weeks for a regular meeting, the board will call a special meeting. Jim Stimpson said he has absolutely no confidence in the town processes currently in place. Dan Potvin suggested Jim Sullivan from the BCRC could be a resource when the A.O. has questions about the By- laws and Dave Saldo offered the Planning Commission as a resource. The Selectboard does not want the ice cream truck owners to be the victims of this issue and does not want to do anything that will negatively impact their business during the short summer season. Jim Stimpson wants the board’s full support moving forward. Jim Stimpson would like more people appointed to these boards. The board will check state statute to confirm that the Planning Commission can have up to seven members, but it is hard to find people willing to serve. Bill Levine felt that if members of the town boards and commissions are not acting responsibility and participating, then the Selectboard can replace them. The board decided they will not override the Administrative Officer’s decision that a permit was not needed for the ice cream truck business.
MOTION by Mike Denault to stand by the Administrative Officer’s decision in his interpretation of the By-laws. SECONDED by Dan Potvin. All in favor. Motion APPROVED.

2018 TAX RATE
1. Due to the paving project and other costs, the town is low on funds and will need to send out tax bills in July to bring in money. Having to bill so early will cause a large amount of extra work because the state has not finished processing over 14,000 homestead declarations and state payments. Last year the treasurer was able to wait until September to send out bills which gave the state more time to process returns and meant less revised bills were necessary. Nancy Bushika asked if other town funds could be used to borrow from ourselves. MOTION by Chris Warren to use $100,000.00 from the reappraisal fund CD which is up for renewal to cover town expenses until September when it will be reinvested with interest at the CD’s current rate. SECONDED by Mike Denault. All in favor. Motion APPROVED.
2. Lori Shepard provided a spreadsheet explaining the calculation of the 2018 tax rate. The state’s homestead residential rate is $1.3031 (last year’s rate was $1.1724). The state set the non-residential rate at $1.4873 (last year’s rate was $1.4059).
MOTION by Dan Potvin to set the 2018 tax rate as follows: to accept the state education residential rate of $1.3031 and the non-residential rate of $1.4873 as calculated by the State of Vermont. The Selectboard set the municipal tax rate at $0.2970 and the highway rate at $0.4060. The total residential tax rate will be $2.0061 and the total non-residential tax rate will be $2.1903. SECONDED by Carol Fachini. All in favor. Motion APPROVED. The 2018 tax bills will be mailed in September. Chris Warren would like to discuss moving to a cash-positive position.
3. The Selectboard reviewed the 2018 tax bill insert and made some minor changes.

Full Minutes Here


Click image to print

Not Everyone Screams For Ice Cream – Selectboard Version

ICE CREAM TRUCK PARKING
1. Nancy Bushika summarized the discussion from the last Selectboard meeting. At a recent Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting the ice cream truck came up and the ZBA decided to contact the town attorney for clarification. Pam Tworig was dismayed that so much discussion has been going on concerning her business. About 23 years ago they stopped having open business hours but she has been selling landscaping materials and products all along. Pam Tworig and Kristin Malachuck submitted a permit application for the ice cream business. Kristin Malachuck contacted the state and no permit is necessary to sell ice cream but she has applied to the state for a permit to sell hotdogs. Sheila Lawrence spoke to James Stimpson, the Administrative Officer, advising that he needed to shut them down because they were in violation due to the traffic hazard created by patrons parking on the road. Jean Kurpiel stated that Sheila Lawrence was speaking as a private citizen, not as part of the ZBA. The Administrative Officer said he would go down and speak to the ice cream truck owners concerning the parking along the Main Road. Dan Potvin agreed that there are a lot of rumors going around. Dan Potvin noted that the vast majority of residents support the ice cream truck business. Jean Kurpiel acknowledged that there is a valid concern for safety with the parking on the road. Pam Tworig supports parking on her property and Kristin Malachuck has already ordered signs to direct parking in the parking area. Nancy Bushika felt this matter should have gone before the Zoning Board. Jim Stimpson was frustrated that nobody contacted him directly. Jim Stimpson said he felt the root of the problem was that he allowed the business without a new permit because they already had a permit and he would do it again. Jean Kurpiel felt the parking was the main issue her board had and the new signs should resolve the safety issue. She did not expect to receive such an aggressive response from the attorney. Helen Fields was pleased with how easily the parties reached an agreement.
MOTION by Chris Warren to acknowledge that the Selectboard addressed, discussed and resolved the matter. SECONDED by Dan Potvin. All in favor. Motion APPROVED.
2. James Stimpson said if someone really feels there is an unsafe condition from cars parking on the road, then the sheriff or state police should be called. Dave Tatro asked who the Administrative Officer answers to. Since the Selectboard appointed him, it would be the Selectboard. If there was a real emergency, Bill Levine as head of Emergency Management could be contacted.
3. At the attorney’s recommendation to handle the unsafe parking issue immediately, the Selectboard amended their regular notice to include an emergency topic and gave emergency notice. Many were unhappy with the term and asked if the term urgent could be used in the future.

The rest of the minutes can be found here.

 

Latest Selectboard Meeting Minutes

OPEN PAVING BIDS
A bid was received from Serrano Construction in the amount of $59,800.00. A bid was received from A-1, Inc. in the amount of $45,200.00. Both contractors attended the pre-bid site visit. Nancy Bushika suggested Dave Tatro review the bids. Later during the Road Conditions part of the meeting, the Selectboard resumed discussion. Dave Tatro felt that the bid from Serrano Construction was written out more thoroughly than the bid from A-1. The A-1 bid is much lower but doesn’t mention the shim coat or tack coat. It was noted that both companies attended the pre-bid site visit and should be bidding on the same work. Mike Denault was concerned that the town didn’t do its job if we bid it out without specifications. Dave Tatro felt that he specified what needed to be done with each company at the site visit, but was concerned because A-1 used the term patching instead of a shim coat. Dave Tatro advised if the board wants to choose the lower bid, they should contact A-1 for clarification of his proposal first. The Selectboard asked for Dave Tatro’s recommendation. He said he had worked with both companies and they both do good work. MOTION by Dan Potvin to accept the bid submitted by Serrano Construction in the amount of $59,800.00. SECONDED by Chris Warren. All in favor. Motion APPROVED.

VELCO – COUNTY ROAD PROJECT
Jeff Disorda from Vermont Electric Company spoke about their project on County Road. They are doing a major upgrade of the power line from the Massachusetts border through Stamford, Pownal, Bennington and into New York. There are 18 structures which need to be replaced. They will be working within their right of way but would like to upgrade County Road from the intersection of Klondike Road to the area where the power line crosses County Road. Dump trucks will be hauling over 1,000 yards of stone. They will cover culverts with a timber construction mat to prevent damage and will cut tree branches to widen some areas. When they are done they seed and mulch their easement road under the power lines so there will be little maintenance needed after re-vegetation. Helen Fields asked if native species could be planted. Jeff Disorda stated that what they use is approved by the state and encourages the growth of native species. They have hired Casella Construction who will get all the appropriate road permits. The Selectboard asked him to work closely with Dave Tatro and asked Dave Tatro to keep the board informed.

BENNINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
1. Mike Denault has received complaints from people who think the town shouldn’t hire the sheriffs or think the hours should be reduced. He feels the townspeople voted to keep the sheriff at a prior town meeting so the Selectboard should renew their contract.
MOTION by Mike Denault to sign the contract for 22 hours/week sheriff’s patrol at the rate of $43.25/hour. SECONDED by Nancy Bushika. All in favor. Motion APPROVED.
2. Mike Denault will contact Sheriff Chad Schmidt concerning joining with other towns.

The full minutes can be found here.

Some Items From The Selectboard Meeting Minutes

CREDIT CARD COMPANY ISSUE
The town clerk believes the issue is finally resolved. Credit card payments are processed with no problem and the credits appear to be straightened out.

LISTENING SESSION
Nancy Bushika attended a listening session in Bennington hosted by the Vermont League of Cities & Towns (VLCT). VLCT is asking local town officials what they can do to help us. People who attended complained about losing local control. Many complained about the state passing mandates without providing any funding or assistance to help towns comply. One suggested towns ban together and storm the state house like the teachers did to say enough is enough. Bulk purchasing and partnering between towns to save money was also discussed. When VLCT finishes holding these sessions around the state, they will send the results to all towns.

PERMITS
Nancy Bushika learned during the session that Administrative Officers have fifteen days by state law to approve or deny permits. If the Administrative Officer fails to act within fifteen days, the permit application is considered approved.

LAWN BID DECISION
Nancy Bushika requested a motion to enter executive session to discuss the bids received and make a decision. Dan Potvin felt there was no need to enter executive session, that many bids and proposals have been discussed and decided in open session in the past. Dan Potvin felt Yard Work by Dan submitted the lower bid and does good work and he should be chosen. Nancy Bushika felt the town has hired Lawrence Mowing for years and would like to stick with them. Although there was a small problem last year, they corrected it right away. Carol Fachini felt choosing a Stamford resident over a non-resident was best, and we should take care of our own. Chris Warren said hiring someone new is a risk, but the risk is limited since Dan Denault is known by others. Chris Warren felt the job should be bid out each year. Carol Fachini decided that choosing the lowest bidder might be the best way to serve our residents.
MOTION by Chris Warren to accept the quote from Yard Work by Dan in the amount of $2,430.00 for 18 mowings. SECONDED by Dan Potvin. 3 in favor, 1 opposed (Nancy Bushika).

The full minutes can be found here.

 

This Week in Town

UNOFFICIAL TOWN WEBSITE
Mike Denault noted that CJ Vadnais does a great job and obviously puts a lot of time into his website, but the highlights can easily stir the pot.  Bill Levine agreed that the website is an editorial and is a private enterprise.  Bill Levine stated that CJ Vadnais does not want to lose control nor his ability to edit the website.  Mike Denault suggested having our own town website would create an official place where the people can read the facts.  Lori Shepard stated that if the town was in charge of the website, the Selectboard agendas could be posted and people could come to meetings to participate in topic discussions instead of reading about them later in the minutes.  Town documents such as building permit applications and ordinances and by-laws could also be posted for review which would be beneficial.  Chris Warren recalled that the Selectboard didn’t want an official town website because of the open meeting laws.  Chris Warren said a domain name could be purchased for $30.00-$50.00 per year and said building a website was quick and easy.  The Selectboard could permit access to whoever they choose.  Chris Warren offered to put together a draft of what to expect for the next meeting.  Nancy Bushika thought the town may need to adopt a policy.

{I generally do not comment on items selected from the Selectboard meeting minutes, but since my name was mentioned directly in the meeting without opportunity to respond, I will gather my thoughts for a response next week.}

CREDIT CARD COMPANY ISSUE
The town continues to have problems with the Satellite.Biz credit card company.  At the suggestion of Chris Warren, the treasurer requested information concerning the problem, the risk of town and customer information and how they store and protect the information.  The board suggested that the treasurer look into other credit card companies and push for a quick resolution

VERMONT STATE POLICE
1. Lt. Mozzer from the Vermont State Police advised that he will be unable to offer any patrol services to the town based on unanticipated commitments. The Selectboard has a contract with the Bennington Sheriff’s Department which expires in June.  Their rate increases in the proposed contract from July 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018.  There was not enough money budgeted in December to provide for the increase at 22 hours per week.  The board may choose to reduce the sheriff’s services to 20 hours per week.  The decision to accept the July through December contract with the Bennington Sheriff’s Department will be discussed another time.

2.  Sheriff Chad Schmidt had previously suggested that the town combine with other neighboring towns to commit to 40 hours per week.  Nancy Bushika was not sure if other towns were willing.  Mike Denault said Searsburg is not ready right now.

REVIEW CANDIDATES FOR LISTER CLERK POSITION
1. The town office has not received any applications. Nancy Bushika asked Debbie Darling if she was interested but she declined.  Debbie Darling said she felt sorry for the position the Selectboard is in.  When she asked for a rate increase, she had another person interested in serving as lister and they could have made it work, but when the raise was denied, the person didn’t come forward.  She has been working with the NEMRC representative.  Before the town negotiates another contract with NEMRC, Debbie Darling feels the town should make sure they get the services they want.  The board should request that he fill out the papers and do the assessments the way the town has done them in the past, instead of determining the assessment in his head.  She also cited several discrepancies in the grand list and recommended that the town start the reappraisal process now.  Tomorrow is her last day, but she has an appointment on Wednesday to meet with NEMRC to finish updating the grand list.
2. Nancy Bushika said she received a phone call from someone with lister experience who is willing to help the town get through the grand list season. They did not want the position permanently.  Nancy Bushika requested permission to contact this person and hire them through the end of June and pay the current lister rate.  Debbie Darling asked how the board could evaluate a candidate and choose a pay rate when they don’t even know what the job entails.  Mike Denault feels the salary can be based on the experience of the person on an individual basis.
3.  The board will advertise the Lister Clerk position in the VLCT newsletter, on Berkshire Jobs, indeed.com and will look into other resources as well.

 

Select Selections From Selectboard Minutes

CREDIT CARD COMPANY BREACH
The town office accepts credit card payments through the Satellite.Biz Company.  When the account was created no password was needed.  Their business was hacked in March.  Because the town’s accounts were not password protected, our accounts were affected.  The Satellite.Biz Company reversed many of the transactions, but a property owner’s payment was also reversed in error.  The treasurer has been working with the credit card company to resolve this matter, but after several weeks there are still problems.  The Selectboard encouraged the treasurer to aggressively seek a resolution with the company and gave permission to find another credit card company for the town if needed.

LISTER CLERK POSITION – JOB DESCRITPION
1. Nancy Bushika spoke with five other towns and the current and former town listers about the position. She provided a draft help wanted ad and proposed job description which the Selectboard approved.  The job will be posted at the town office, Bilmont’s Store, the library, the recycling center, on CJ Vadnais’ website and will be sent by email to everyone on the Selectboard’s email list.  Anyone interested should apply at the town office by noon on April 18, 2018.

2.  Helen Fields suggested the town implement background checks for our own safety as well as the school children.  She said the Seed Savers Group who use the school grounds for their gardens will follow whatever requirements are put in place.  The board agreed to look into it.

GAZEBO IN FRONT OF SCHOOL
Dan Potvin is part of the community group who would like to build a community gathering area.  A gazebo in the front of the school will give the town a central focus and a place for people to meet.  The group is exploring grants for funding and is hoping the building permit and zoning board permit fees can be waived.  Micah Hayre, the school principal, is supportive and said kids are looking forward to having a place to visit with their friends.  The size has not been determined and the Heather Torres memorial tree may have to be relocated.  The structure can be added to the town’s insurance since it is on town property.  Nancy Bushika asked who would maintain the building in the future.

APPROVAL OF FENCING AROUND SCHOOL YARD

Micah Hayre submitted a hand drawn proposal for the Selectboard’s review.  He would like a chain link fence where the current orange fence is near the slide and Leo Ethier memorial garden with a 10’ wide gate.  He would like a fence on the south corner of the building near the middle school section with a 3’ wide gate.  He would also like a fence from the corner of the library running north behind the dumpsters with a 10’ wide gate.  The gates will not be locked but will provide a visual barrier for the safety of the children.  There will be signs on each gate requiring all guests to sign in at the main office.   The gates will allow mowing machines and vehicles access to the building.  Bill Levine felt the 3’ gate would not allow a fire truck access in the event of an emergency and offered to pay for the difference between a 3’ gate and a 10’ gate with his emergency management funds.  Dave Tatro initially suggested a jog in the fence behind the dumpsters, but then felt if the dumpsters were gone, there would be more room and the parking lot could be plowed easier.  Helen Fields wanted to ensure that the Seed Savers would still have vehicular access to the tennis courts.  Richard Cristofolini, the school custodian, was summoned to the meeting to participate in the discussion.  Both the trash and recyclable dumpsters are filled every two weeks.  The Selectboard felt if the custodian could bring the trash up to the recycling center, the two dumpsters would not be needed and could be removed.  The Selectboard felt the money they saved by removing the dumpsters could be used to pay the custodian for this additional work.  The Selectboard approved the fences as long as all the concerns voiced at the meeting were addressed.

As always the full minutes, as well as minutes from past Selectboard meetings can be found here.

 

 

A Sampling of the Latest Selectboard Minutes

ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER

James Stimpson advised that the Planning Commission feels he will be enforcing the town ordinances and policies in the future.  Mr. Stimpson felt he should have a conversation with the Selectboard as to how this will happen.  The Selectboard stated that our ordinances are designated as civil and certain individuals are already in place to issue tickets and appear in court if needed.  The Judicial Bureau appointments will be reviewed at the next meeting.

ROAD CONDITIONS

  1. The weather has brought a roller coaster of conditions. The town sustained around $7,000-$8,000 in damages from Friday’s storm.  There was a small washout on Mill Road.  A large culvert on Lincoln Road was undermined by water and traffic was diverted through Dave Tatro’s yard while the road was being repaired.  Both Sportsman Road and Sumner Road had minor shoulder damage.  Dave Tatro had to call Jon Bohl and Tietgens Excavating for excavator work during the storm.  There are a few more repairs to be completed and the total cost will be around $10,000.  Bill Levine asked that Allison Strohl at the Bennington County Regional Commission be contacted with that estimate.  If the county sustained enough damage as a whole, FEMA money may be available.  Dave Tatro noted that a representative from the Agency of Natural Resources was in town on Saturday and issued a permit for the bank work needed on Mill Road.
  2. There is an ongoing water issue on The Lane. Dave Tatro stated that the culvert on Poplar Drive is squashed and water from the Beaupre residence is running from the ditch line into the road and freezing, making dangerous icy conditions.  Dave Tatro wonders if there is a drain in the Beaupre’s basement because he recalls having this problem before and after he spoke with the former owner, the water problem ceased.  Ruth West spoke about the icy conditions, problems with the snow plowing contractor, and a water pipe easement.  She requested the Selectboard’s help as fence viewers concerning a water easement and ditch line.  She thinks the pipe is leaking which is where the water problem is coming from.  The Selectboard did not want to get involved.  They felt it was a private matter and not a town issue.  The Selectboard agreed to send letters to the Poplar Drive residents and Mr. and Mrs. Beaupre concerning the water running and freezing on the Lane which could cause an accident.
  3. It is time to replace the Ford.  Dave Tatro has the specifications for two different trucks:  a Freightliner for about $140,000.00 and a Dodge Ram for about $100,500.  The Freightliner is a bigger, stronger truck that should last for 10 years.  The Dodge is the same size as the white Ford and will last 5-7 years.  It was noted that for 40% more in price, the town would get double the use from the Freightliner.  Dave Tatro described the advantages and disadvantages of each.  The truck could be funded by using the Equipment Replacement Fund and borrowing from the town’s Land Sales fund like the Fire Department did five years ago.

Town News

Mini-Green Up Day
Join us on December 9th at 9 am in front of the school for a mini green up day. Green trash bags will be provided. This our chance to clean up the roads before the snow falls. Come one and all!! Contact Pat Sullivan with any questions.

All Board Meeting scheduled for Wednesday December 6th at 6pm. Open Meeting Laws by James Barlow, Esquire

Minutes for the comment session for the Town Plan can be found here.

Minutes for the November 16th Selectboard Meeting can be found here.