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Selectboard Meeting Minutes, May 9, 2023

Town of Washington

Warned Selectboard Meeting May 9, 2023

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Selectboard members: Fred Blanchard, Sheila Duranleau, AJ Galfetti

Town employees: Nick Benoit, Peter Carbee, Lois Deberville, Harry Roush, Anna Strong

Visitors: Josh Bell, Dwayne Braman, Danielle Foster, Mark Foster, Sam Lash, Alice Poulin, Carol Poulin, Emily Poulin, Reginald Poulin, Mary Savidge, Casey Spencer

  1. Meeting called to order by Chair Duranleau at 6:30 p.m. Additions to the agenda that were not listed: updates from Peter Carbee, plus a letter from a community member. Emily Poulin started the Zoom process for us as part of her community hours for receiving the Debra Sue Blanchard Scholarship award.
  • AJ made motion to accept the March 21, 2023, minutes, 2nd by Fred, ayes carried.

Fred made motion to accept the April 18, 2023, minutes, 2nd by AJ, ayes carried.

  • Visitors:

3.1         Sam Lash from Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC) presented grant opportunities for energy assessments and building grants. (MERP: Municipal Energy Resilient Plan) Part of the program is being designed as it is already being rolled out. Phase 1 is energy assessment of municipal buildings. Applications to be opened this month, up to $500,000 with no match. The energy assessment will be great for using for future projects. Sheila has already completed the application for the $4000 mini-grant. Peter: Two tiers on energy assessment? Sam: Level 2 audit is more intense, and some examples are EV charger placement and other fact finding. In next 10 years there will be a lot of money trickling down, and she encourages all towns to apply for Level 2. Suggests conversation to determine what is most important to the town ex: cooling or warming shelter, back up energy, what do we need as a town. Level 2 option allows for other energy programs. One of the way towns will be prioritized is by energy burdens, and Washington is identified as moderate/high. Washington is automatically eligible for the Municipal Technical Assistant Program due to size, staff members, with 36 total indicators.

3.2         Casey Spencer, Winooski Natural Resource Conservation District (watershed): update on Hands Mill Dam removal and the opportunity to improve water quality by addressing culverts on Woodchuck Hollow Road. Project was at a bit of standstill due to turnover of managers, and Casey is now our project manager. Dam was identified as ‘problem dam’ that state wants to remove as soon as possible. Funding was received for the removal. One of the goals is to establish better trout habitat. Harry Roush is still the town’s point person. Construction phase (removal of the dam) funds will be released as soon as Stone Environmental is done its part. $621,00 funds available to put proposals out for bid requests this summer with project to begin in summer 2024. Archeological assessment will be covered by the funds. Landowners will be contacted who may be impacted by the project.

                Funding is available through US Fish and Wildlife. The district isolated different areas for fish habitat in the Jail Branch, and there’s a perched culvert that doesn’t allow for organisms to pass through because it’s raised above 3”. There is funding to replace for it to improve the fish habitat if the town is on board with it. Casey showed photos of the good culverts and the poor culvert, near Hands Mill Dam and one on Morrie Road. Would have to work with any landowners to see how it would affect them, as well as road traffic. Nick will look into the traffic issue.

                Alice Poulin: we always called it Mill Pond. Officially is known as Hands Mill Dam.

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Sheila: we are very interested in pursuing this project. AJ made motion to pursue the project, 2nd by Fred, ayes carried.

3.3         Other visitors: Lois read the letter by Hannah Dennison. Hannah asked if maybe Washington could co-ordinate with Barre Town to have Barre Town (which has less dirt roads) do road work for us. The board will reply to Hannah.

  • Financials:

4.1          Treasurer’s report           Anna said that as of last week the town has access to all bank accounts and Quick Books. We are not in the hot seat financially; we are out of being under water. We don’t have deep pockets, but everything that has gotten backed up has been deposited. Her goal is to have a written report ready within a few weeks. Carol kept a great number of records that have been wonderful. While the books are looking great, Anna does not have an official written statement but says things look great. She is still learning the ropes, for instance some payments for recording fees need to be divided up several different ways. She has a very demanding full-time job and hopes to be able to spend more time working on the books. Sheila acknowledged the work that Anna has done given her full time job. Anna plans to meet with Sullivan Powers & Co. to be sure their reports match. Anna’s goal is to have a print out by the next board meeting. Nick would like to know the road budget asap as it costs @ $400 every time he fills up the grader, which is every day. Mary Savidge asked how many hours Anna works, Anna said contracted up to 28 hours per week. Was there anyone else who came forward to fill the role? Answer is no. Anna is confident she can do the job. Sheila again acknowledged the work done by Anna, Harry, Scott and Lois, they were thanked by the board

4.2         Delinquent Tax Collector’s report: Sheila read the report filed by Scott Blanchard. His master sheet shows $250,510 still to be collected. He has collected $133,254.00, and the next steps for him is to reach out for a final warning before moving to tax sales. He will be at the June meeting to discuss moving forward with tax sales. Billy asked what that involves, Sheila said he is welcome to come to the June meeting to learn. Anna explained what she learned.

4.3         Road Foreman’s report: Nick Benoit, road foreman: unable to grade with the great amount of rain we’ve had lately. Using the loader to smooth during mud season. Several roads needed attention desperately, grader was broken and he had Milton Cat working on it all day today. Plan is to get things smooth, not worrying about crowning but make them all passable. Nick has Cat repair guy look at other equipment while he was here to avoid separate service calls. $6200 for an upright piston that had gotten bent, over time metal will wear off inside the piston if not fixed. (Piston for float function) Nick said chloride truck (1991) is not inspected and not in great shape, took to McLeod’s and will get a repair cost estimate. Wants to put the chloride tank in the back of the 2011 while waiting. Time consuming but not money consuming. Has to order chloride, need new chainsaws to replace battery ones where the cost is more for the batteries than for the saws. Sheila asked for a list of what Nick wants. Mary Savidge: sounds micromanaging if he has to ask for items instead of using his budget, and board responded that town is over budget for road crew expenses. Still need to know budget vs actuals. Nick: I’ve only just taken over this position and still learning the ropes, and dialing things in to stay on track. AJ: didn’t have guidance from former road foreman so have to wait till next fiscal year (July 2023). Once on track, these will be dealt with between foreman and his supervisor, these issues won’t have to come to come before the board.

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Nick: on replacing a truck, within next month wants town to agree on purchase and sale to get a first quarter bill spot, otherwise have to wait two years. Quote from Charlebois is $283, 310. With all accessories town will need, this is 10-wheeler with wings, plow (Western Star), includes device that acts as grader on truck so don’t have to also run a grader to smooth out. If town agrees to a purchase and sale, we would receive the truck between June-August 2024. AJ: what did we budget for with money putting away for a new truck? Nick: we don’t have the trade in amount yet. Sheila will put issue on June agenda. Previous board started budgeting for a new truck as the 7-year warranty would be done. AJ asked Nick to get the original price of the 2017 so they can figure out trade-in value. Nick would like a 6-wheel drive, price is about $10,000 less but can’t put the mow board on it.  He will be at the municipal show tomorrow and will look into hook trucks-would have a bunch of different bodies to use and when truck is gone the town keeps all the bodies. Sand body, rock body, flat bed. He will bring all information and his recommendations to the June meeting. Sheila commented on Nick’s knowledge and work as foreman.

Sheila: any objection to moving 6.5 to this slot, mud season review and ideas for infrastructure improvements. No one objected.

                Dwayne Braman, 4 miles out on West Corinth Road. Already had conversation with Nick, and he’s cautiously optimistic that things will get better. Roads last 2 years have not been acceptable. The use of roads today can’t be changed, many families have more than one vehicle. He feels neglect has been one of the biggest problems, needs to be addressed before it happened not after. He suggests big stone, knows it’s hard to grade, people have to throw stones off the road. The road is about 10 feet wider now because of the previous grading, puts wind row too close to edge of road and loses the material. Thinks town lost hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of material that ended up in the ditches. How to deal with kids mudding up the roads…talking with them, get license plate numbers, tell them need to stop. Talk to lawyer and local law enforcement. Explain they are destroying property, making Nick’s job harder. Two weeks in last two years he and wife couldn’t get off property. Would it be helpful to hire previous employee as consultant, he was here a year only and was excellent. Town can use Dwayne’s land to stockpile material, he’ll do what he can to help. Sheila thanked him for being solution focused and positive.

                Mary Savidge, South Washington: Welcomed Nick. Advocating a little bit same as Mr. Braman, being pro-active. Every time they called, road crew did show up, but feels need stone where mud was scraped. They got their spring grading in July. Is there a list of roads that get done first? Volunteered to help highway department, paperwork, etc, she has administrative skills. Surrounding towns are spending more money than Washington on roads.

                Nick: part of the deal of getting to South Washington is when roads are bad, he can’t get up there, and can’t always have permission from Chelsea to go on their roads as those are posted. Chelsea won’t want us beating on their roads. Mary would like to talk to Nick at later date. Nick has received several very nasty messages on his phone. Mary offered to talk to those folks on his behalf, saying that’s not acceptable. Sheila said that’s unacceptable and town officials and employees do not need to subject themselves to that kind of conversation. Nick is more than happy to listen to folks’ concerns. Mary said Hannah’s letter may be worth considering. Anna: a resident showed up on Green Up Day and screamed hateful things at the road crew, then left without engaging in conversation. Very disheartening. Nick handled it well she said.

                4.4 Funding the town through FY23, budget vs actuals: we don’t have any figures at this time.

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4.5 School payment: we haven’t received the bill, and Chad (Sullivan Powers & Co) wants to review it before it’s paid to be sure all numbers match up.

  • Old Business

5.1          Road and bridge standards compliance, was done by board

5.2         Environmental conservation permit: to let state know we’re discharging water, Anna pulled it up on the computer, will forward to the board

5.3         Audit: Sherry Beede and Chrissy Moran have offered to help audit when trained.

5.4         Tree warden: Josh Bell volunteered for this un-paid state mandated position, AJ made motion to accept Josh, 2nd by Fred. (In part: enforcing all laws relating to shade trees and posting public notice to remove shade trees from municipal property)

5.5         ATV ordinance: no petitions were submitted, so the town one becomes effective on May 28, 2023.

5.6         Draft employee personnel policies: will be discussed and decided on for June meeting

5.7         Formal procedure for meetings: AJ submitted to board, will change meeting notice to post office rather than library due to library’s restricted hours. Public participation be limited to up to 5 minutes per person to speak, then when everyone has spoken, can go back for up to another 5 minutes per person. Mary: is agenda posted online. Posted on window, post office, store, Facebook page, and on new website. (washingtonvt.org) Fred made motion to accept rules and procedures with changes mentioned, 2nd by AJ, ayes carried.

5.8         Update on CV Fiber hub location-Fred will work with someone he knows about maybe putting this at Carpenter Park in the woods, near the one used by the phone company. He’s trying to convince the fire department to have it at the station, but that would involve the town giving up some land permanently. Concerns about vandalism if at Carpenter Park, but Karen Kotecki (representing the company) had told Sheila they have had no incidences of anyone bothering their equipment. Some citizens have expressed concerns about the hub possibly emitting harmful effects, and Sheila will call Karen and invite her to the June meeting. Karen will look at different town locations.

5.9         Update on adding virtual meeting options for community: Emily Poulin set us up on Zoom. Zoom advertised that we would only get 40 minutes per time on the free plan, otherwise is $150 per year. Peter: You can sign in again after the 40 minutes and it’ll go for another 40 minutes, this can be repeated.

5.10       Buswell archeological review. Harry met with Kathy at the house, took photographs, Kathy has to write her report and she’s also the one who did the premiere streambed review.

5.11       DISA-Lois will review

5.12       Revised animal ordinance will be on June agenda. Sheila will ask Rob Lowe to submit invoices.

5.13       Donovan site visit (by AJ and Fred): Fred got measurement of 12 feet rock to rock, would like to move the rocks back. No set width on class 4 road, it’s whatever the board decides. Sheila: why is that not acceptable in your opinion (12 feet). Fred: logging trucks would be very close on both sides. AJ: when you stand back and look it’s the narrowest part of the road. Transitions from well maintained to not so well maintained. Billy Donovan: the original complain is I narrowed it less than 12 feet, but Fred just said it’s 12 feet wide. Points by Billy: road has not been narrowed, that AJ made determination when there was still 3 feet of snow on the ground, it’s not where the road transitions rather it’s improved all the way up, logging trucks have been going through for years, the stone wall that is there is reconstructed one-already was a stone wall there, he has heard many reasons why

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the rocks should be moved and he believes the original complaint should be the guiding principle (i.e.; road is less than 12 feet wide), and the Sno-Cat has no trouble getting through. Sheila: we understand things come up and we are not bound by the original complaint. Billy: some other areas of road are 9 feet wide, there’s no standard of being 12 feet. Debate back and forth about whether town has the right to widen the roads (has it been approved to become class 3?), Billy states he’s been given inaccurate information, not up to public official to harass him about a “fictious” road project. He read from the town zoning ordinance regarding setbacks, says no other guiding principle on it. (page 4) States walls and fences are exempted, says he pointed that out. Sheila asked if this is really a problem. Nick as road foreman would like to have a say in it, will go up and check it out for himself. AJ upset that Billy did not ask permission to put things in the right of way. Everyone agreed that Nick should look at all of Woodchuck Hollow and make an objective determination.

  • New Business

6.1         Vacant Road crew position: Fred: we have budgeted a 20 hour a week position until next budget (July 1). Nick: 100% need a 3-man crew. Needs a 3rd competent road grader. Josh Bell: if town is willing to work with creative schedule, he’d like to apply as a temporary part-time  grader. He is an experienced grader operator. Motion made by AJ to bring Josh on as temporary help, 2nd by Fred, ayes carried.

Billy asked if there’s a way to recover the material graded into the ditches, Nick said yes.

6.2         Bid opening for town truck: Late bids cannot be fairly considered. One bid was handed in by the stated due date and time. That successful bid was $301.00 made by Eric Johnson. Lois will contact him with a one-week time period for truck removal from the town hall parking lot.

6.3         Town highway Class 2 Roadway Program grant application: town is approved for this by the state, Fred is point person.

6.4         Better Roads Cat D grant award: point person is Fred, no historical trees on the site so good to go. Anna: this is a low match program.

6.6         Local Hazard Mitigation Plan: Sheila ready to sign off on it, need Nick Bresette to sign it as the only (former) board member who has taken the ICS courses (Incident Command courses).

6.7          Liquor and tobacco licenses: AJ made motion to accept the licenses for the Washington Village Store, 2nd by Fred, ayes carried.

6.8         ARPA reporting: Peter and Harry had gone through the reporting process with help from VLCT, was accepted. July 2024 is when funds need to be earmarked, March of 2026 needs to be spent.

6.9         Road crew uniforms/internet at town garage and fire station: Nick needs internet at the garage and there’s no cell service there. He does have a land line. Sheila made motion to get internet at garage and fire station, 2nd by Fred, ayes carried. AJ: do we have an IT person? Town does not. Peter suggested contacting Ormsby’s to discuss computers and IT support. Harry said town has worked with Computer Barn before, they were willing to come out when Carol’s computer crashed, miniscule price for their work. We already have a quote for two computer systems from Computer Barn, one was already approved for purchase FY 23. Anna said Computer Barn sells refurbished and under warranty computers. Lois will get quotes from Ormsby’s and Computer Barn.

Nick: uniforms needed in this town of work, easy to ruin clothes, presents town better at trade shows and going for parts. He will get quotes. Fred said town used to get uniforms but they weren’t being worn. It’ll be in the personnel policy that uniforms are to be worn. Anna asked about footwear. AJ said town has to provide boot allowance if policy requires steel boots.

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AJ made motion that town goes ahead looking into computers, internet and uniforms, 2nd by Sheila, ayes carried.

6.11       McDonald road bid proposal: Nick: town can set up its own signs package  (road closed, etc.), will ask for culverts to be dropped directly at the work site, re: topsoiling should be done by whoever has the excavator to do so, AJ said we can rent one, not going to entail much work. Nick: hire someone to haul the bigger stones to avoid tearing up our truck bodies. Nick would like to be included in final inspection. Fred made motion to accept proposal with changes, 2nd by AJ, ayes carried. Nick would like a mandatory pre-bid meeting. Need to get bid proposals as soon as possible.

6.12       Gillespies fuel cap is $3.62, expires July 31. 2023: this is informational only. Harry: Chris Locarno is the one who gets the fuel prices for us. Nick to contact Chris.

6.13       When do we issue funds for town officers/service agencies approved at town meeting: Anna:after July 1, 2023

6.14       Appoint representatives to the Governing Board of the CV Telecommunications District: motion made to approve the appointments of Erika Butler as representative, Sandy Edmonds as First Alternate, Volney Gordon as Second Alternate. Fred made motion to accept, 2nd by AJ, ayes carried.

6.15       Tax exemption certificate: Reynolds & Son needs new certificate, Anna will fill out, Lois will email to them.

6.16       Tax bills: Harry explained the purpose of the tax papers from Eastern Sales,Sheila made motion to order the new tax bills, 2nd by AJ, ayes carried. Harry: tax papers will be printed July 4 weekend.

6.17       Town lawn care service cost increase: letter from Jerf stating a slight increase, motion to accept by Fred, 2nd by AJ, ayes carried.

6.18       Sweeping: Nick got quotes on road sweeping prior to getting the road lines painted which is a state requirement. We can rent a sweeper out of White River Junction; he’s guessing would take us 2 days. Cost would be $822.44 not including fuel to run it, fuel to go get it, and time by town crew. $1654.44 is Nick’s estimate. Kyle Bellavance is willing to come in to do the aprons and West Corinth Road for $1560, plus main drag at an additional $390.00. They have a closed broom system that would collect the dirt, not just sweep it off. AJ made motion to accept Bellavance’s quote, 2nd by Sheila, ayes carried.

6.19       Other new business: Peter Carbee: would like town plan discussion on next agenda.  We have availability to act on grant for highway safety improvement program. Due 6/16/23, $5000-30,000 with no match. VTRANS grant. Examples: breakaway warning signs, curb signs, intersection signs, edge line markings, removing objects to widen the clear zone such as brush/trees as long as doesn’t involve an environmental assessment. This is free money for the town. May 16 there is a meeting on it, Peter will either get information to us or he will attend the meeting and report back. Nick will look into the grants. Also, head of RPC will reach out to board re: other grants, 80/20. (Grant provides 80% of the $, town matches at 20%)

Anna asked if we have a workable town plan. Peter says we do but plan is supposed to look ahead years, but ours expired and they are not planning documents, they are state of the state (more of a ‘here’s where we are today’).  Peter said we need to have participation by town residents. In the fall we can apply for up to $20,000, maybe bring in an outside consultant. Will be a tremendous amount of work.

Sheila has list of highway grants to look at, Nick will do so.

  • Next regular meeting June 6, 2023, 6:30 pm at the town hall.

AJ made motion to adjourn at 9:22 pm, 2nd by Fred, ayes carried.

Respectfully submitted, Lois Deberville, Town Clerk