Latest Selectboard Minutes

RENAMING OF OLD COUNTY ROAD
Jon Bohl thought Newkom Road would be an appropriate name since Mr. Newkom lived there for so many years.  The public hearing to rename the easterly side of Old County Road was set for September 20, 2018 at 5:45 p.m.  Notices of the hearing will be posted and sent to the abutters.

TOWN WEBSITE
Chris Warren advised that the State of Vermont has certain requirements for a .gov address and wordpress does not support the state’s requirements.  He believes it is time to move forward and purchase our own domain name.  Jim Stimpson suggested stamfordvermont.org and said it was available.  Other names were discussed such as stamfordvermonttown.org which might give the website a distinction as the town’s site.  The Selectboard would like feedback from our residents with ideas for the town’s website address and a decision will be made at the next meeting.  Please contact a Selectboard member or the town clerk with your suggestions.

CELLULAR/INTERNET SURVEY
Chris Warren received a survey request from the Southern Vermont Economy Project about internet and cellular connectivity.  He is happy to respond to the survey.  They are asking what the state of connectivity is in town, what interests our town has, what future steps we would like to take, etc.  They are gathering information and there is no commitment.

TOBACCO COMPLIANCE TEST
The Selectboard received notice from the State of Vermont that Bilmont’s Country Store has failed a recent tobacco test.

This and more can be found here.

 

Selections from the Selectboard Minutes

SPEEDING ON TOWN ROADS
Mary Lou Wright said several townspeople have voiced concerns on social media of speeding on town roads such as Maltese Road, Basin Road, Robillard Road, East Road and The Lane. Nancy Lesage asked about a Watch for Children sign. Dave Tatro said the Vermont Agency of Transportation discourages those signs, saying they provide a false sense of security. More speed limit signs and perhaps speed bumps were also suggested. The cost of a town constable was also discussed. Jim Stimpson and Bill Levine recommended that people call the state police more frequently with complaints. Mike Denault will contact the Bennington County Sheriff’s office to request more patrol on the side roads as well as to request the speed cart.

PLANNING COMMISSION
The state is offering a municipal planning grant. The grant is between $2,000.00 and $22,000.00 and has a 10% town match. Lori Shepard asked if the Selectboard would like her to pursue the grant to help the Planning Commission’s costs to update the By-laws. The Selectboard was agreeable if the Planning Commission agrees. The next Planning Commission meeting will be September 10, 2018.
2. Dan Potvin felt there was a lot of misinformation given at the last Planning Commission meeting and that people were quoting laws and regulations that do not exist. Roberts Rules and how to run meetings was discussed. Chris Warren said clear guidelines of expectations should be established so people on town boards know what behavior is expected of them. Dan Potvin hopes for a good turnout at the next meeting and feels the more people that participate in the by-law revision, the better.

WEBSITE
Chris Warren and Lori Shepard have been working on the website. Chris Warren called the state about a .gov address but has not heard back. The website should be ready soon.

The full minutes can be found here.

 

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.