December 7, 2020
Members Present: ( Via phone or 8×8) Dan Harvey, Matthew Bykowski, Cynthia Browning, Tim Williams, and Todd Wilkins
Members Absent: None
Also Present: (Via phone or 8×8) Town Administrator- Nick Zaiac, Town Clerk – Robin Wilcox, Karen Jernigan, Denise Monte, and Janet Barry
The meeting was called to order at 7:02, by Mr. Harvey
Public Comments: None
Minutes of the Meeting of Nov. 23, 2020. Mr. Williams made a motion to accept as presented, the minutes of the Nov. 23, 2020 meeting. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
New Business: Delinquent Taxes: Mr. Zaiac spoke to the Board on behalf of Delinquent Tax Collector, Linda Crosby, who sent regrets, but was unable to attend the meeting. Ms. Crosby had supplied a Delinquent Tax Report for the Board, which they reviewed. It showed the delinquent amount for 2020 to be $204,730.96, including interest and penalties owed, as of the meeting date. It was discussed that the amount is higher than other years, because tax sales, which would typically be held in the summer, were suspended for 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Board agreed the need for a tax sale must be forefront for summer 2021.
Community Solar Discussion: Karen Jernigan spoke at the meeting about Community Solar projects that could be done in Arlington. She said in Bennington there is a site on the roof at 160 Ben Mont Avenue that is being used by residential and business customers. The subscribers buy their own share and get credit for energy use from Green Mountain Power. Having an offsite, shared location is beneficial for the consumer because they do not have to pay for installation, nor have the room on their own properties for installation of the solar panels.
She also said the benefits are having a lessor carbon footprint. One suggestion she had for municipalities was installing car port charging stations that use solar energy. While the Board did not have questions of Ms. Jernigan at the meeting, she said would be available for questions by phone or email.
Town Meeting Signature Requirements and Voting Method: The Board, Town Clerk, Robin Wilcox, and Mr. Zaiac discussed the possibility of waiving signature requirements to put an article on the ballot for Town Meeting, which is allowable by the State in 2021 due to the pandemic. Mr. Zaiac supplied the Board with information from the League of Cities and Towns for their guidance on the issue. He said the State is more or less suggesting an offsite location for Town Meeting, with votes by Australian Ballot. It was discussed that Australian Ballot has informational sessions that allow residents to make knowledgeable decisions. Mr. Bykowski said he has bi-weekly meetings with 300 plus participants, and he has found Zoom to be less troublesome to use than the 8X8 platform which works better for small meetings. He said more people are now familiar with Zoom since they have had to utilize it in the pandemic. Mr. Bykowski also suggested having Mr. Zaiac purchase a Pro Zoom account for the Town for $150, which can be used at Select Board meetings, and have dry run meetings before Town Meeting Day to get comfortable using Zoom. He also said perhaps there is someone from the school who might be able to help with Zoom webinars because the school system has had to utilize it throughout the pandemic. The Board supported Mr. Bykowski’ s suggestions. Ms. Browning said she feels Town Moderator, John Whalen, should be brought into the planning process for Town Meeting Day. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to move Town Meeting to voting by Australian Ballot for March 2021. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed. They then discussed the possibility of suspending increases for existing non profits that receive an Appropriation, and not accepting new requests for 2021. It was discussed the Legislature has waived signature requirements for candidates because of the COVID restrictions. The Board ultimately decided to think about these issues and revisit it at the next meeting. Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve purchasing Zoom Pro software. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed.
Highway Back Up Staffing Discussion: The recent scare of a highway crew member possibly being exposed to COVID-19 brought to light the situation of how closely the crew works together and the need for back up staffing. Even though the person ended up testing negative, Mr. Zaiac explained his recommendation to have 3 -5 individuals available for back up road crew if needed. He suggested having Highway Foreman, Todd Siclari, and himself do screenings of candidates, and having the paperwork and drug testing completed so they would be ready if the need arises. They also discussed whether the substitutes should be compensated at the same rate as the person they would be replacing or a substitute rate. Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Bykowski said that using a higher substitute rate entices individuals to be willing to work at short notice, and compensates for them not receiving any of the benefits of permanent Town Highway workers. Mr. Harvey suggested checking into what other towns are doing in these situations. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to authorize Mr. Zaiac and Mr. Siclari to implement a plan for bringing in alternate drivers. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed.
Borrowed Money: The Board discussed a letter from the Treasurer about the money borrowed from the Reserve Funds in 2020, with $100,000 borrowed on March 25th, and $125,000 borrowed on June 30th. The letter states the amounts are going to be reimbursed, with interest, on Dec. 9, 2020, with $100,276,78 being reimbursed to the CRF Grader Account, and $125,184.23 being reimbursed to the CRF Fire Truck Account. Also, on Dec. 9, 2020, transfers for Voted Articles 11-20 from the March Town Warrant will be done, totaling $178,000 total.
Old Business: Benedict Crossing Bridge- Further Discussion: Ms. Browning asked that the bridge be put on the agenda for further discussion. She said she feels the need to replace or repair the bridge is very important because after Hurricane Irene, roadways to the other bridges were closed and the covered bridge was damaged and Benedict Crossing Bridge was the only usable bridge. The question of the bridge being on a Historical Register had been brought up at a previous meeting. Mr. Zaiac said that after researching the question, to the best of his knowledge the bridge is not on any Historical Registers. Mr. Zaiac said he is pursuing Federal money based on the bridge being considered a significant route of evacuation. The possibility of obtaining the bridge repair money by going out to bond, and be voted on by taxpayers, was also discussed again, and that other important road repair projects that will need to be done soon could be grouped with the bridge bond. Mr. Zaiac said that the contractor who gave him the estimates said they will only know the full extent of the damage to the bridge once the work begins.
Town Administrator’s Report: Mr. Zaiac said the bulk of the work these past two weeks have been grant work and COVID work. He said some of the highway crew had used some vacation days, and Town Hall has moved to a COVID footing by being closed except by appointment only. He said for the most part the only people who are working from Town Hall on a daily basis are Administrative Assistant, Janet Barry, and the Listers, on staggered schedules. Mr. Zaiac, and Town Clerk Robin Wilcox have been trying to limit days working from Town Hall and doing work from home whenever possible, all this in an effort to limit exposure. He said he will be working with Jerry Woodard to install benches at the park. He also said a COVID grant will be coming in the next few weeks, and he will be looking into the possibility of more State COVID grant money becoming available in 2021.
Land Use Administrator: Mr. Zaiac told the Board he recommends having one Select Board member and one person from the Planning Commission do screenings for candidates for Land Use Administrator, in hopes of having one to two candidates to put before the Board in early 2021. He said he has several good candidates, and the Board agreed with the subcommittee screenings proposal. Mr. Zaiac said he will be meeting with all department heads soon, to discuss next year’s budget, and that the Board can do preliminary budge discussions at the next meeting.
Water Department: Warrants and Orders: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve WD Warrant #24, in the amount of $2,518.19. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed.
Warrants and Orders: Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve General Warrant #26, in the amount of $11,002.79. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed. Highlights include $2900.00 for Cemetery mowing and clean ups, and retirement VMERS in the amount of $1400.00
Other Business: Ms. Browning said she has a draft of a letter for the newspaper about the possibility of the Treasurer position becoming a hired position, as was discussed at a past meeting. She will circulate it to the Board for their ideas.
Executive Session: None
Mr. Bykowski made a motion to adjourn. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 8:25 PM
Janet Barry, Recording Secretary
Cc: files, Town Clerk