Select Board Meeting Minutes 10.23.23



October 23, 2023

Members Present: Todd Wilkins, Cynthia Browning, Jamie Paustian, and Glenn Sherman, via Zoom

Members Absent:   Dan Harvey

Also Present:  Nick Zaiac-Town Administrator, GNAT videographer,  Highway Foreman-Mark Robinson, Jim Henderson-BCRC, Don Keelan, Michael Hernandez-Conservation Fund, Firefighters- James Hawley, Brian Hawley, Keegan Hawley, Eric Marko,  Ryker Kozal, Joe Blum,  and Josh McKenzie, Steve McClafferty, Paul Woodard, Carly Bacon, Marty Oakland, Sally Manikian-The Conservation Fund, Martina Barnes and Tami Schroeder-USFS, Ann Matta, Seth Berger-Trout Unlimited,, Michael Wisniewski-Trout Unlimited, Andrew MacArthur-Trout Unlimited, Jacob Fetterman-Trout Unlimited, Don and Lisa Otey-Battenkill Valley Outfitters, Mike King, and  Courtney Buckley-VT Fish and Wildlife, Doug Lyons-Battenkill Watershed Alliance, and  Janet Barry (via Zoom)

The meeting was called to order at 7:01 PM, by Mr. Wilkins.

Agenda Addition:  Ms. Browning made a motion to add the White Creek Plow Contract and the VLCT Insurance Coverage Option to the agenda. Mr. Paustian seconded the motion. Motion carried with Mr. Harvey absent.

 Minutes of the Meeting of October 10, 2023: Mr. Paustian made a motion to approve the minutes of the meeting of October 10, 2023, as presented. Ms. Browning seconded the motion. Motion passed, with Mr. Harvey absent.

Public Comments:  Paul Woodard had photographs for the Board of his neighbor burning for nine days in July without a permit, as was discussed at a previous meeting.  He said he did contact the Planning Commission as instructed to do and has not heard back from them at this time. Fire Warden, and Select Board Member, Mr. Paustian said no burn permits are to be issued to Mr. Pike at this time and he will check with District Fire Supervisor, Lars Lund, to see if fines can be issued this far past the incident.  Steve McClafferty inquired about the firefighter’s turnout gear order discussed at a previous meeting and was told it had been ordered and will arrive in several weeks. Mike King asked the status of his suspension investigation, which he said was now going on for twenty days. Mr. Wilkins said he and Mr. Harvey are the Fire Department liaisons, and the investigation had not been started yet, due to a significant family emergency for Mr. Harvey. Ms. Browning and Mr. Sherman both agreed they could assist Mr. Wilkins with the investigation if Mr. Harvey is not able to do so by next week.

New Business:   GMNF Murray Hollow Update:  Sally Manikian from The Conservation Fund, and Tami Schroeder and Martina Barnes from the US Forest Service were at the meeting to update the Select Board and answer any questions about the Murray Hollow acquisition by the USFS. Ms. Browning asked if the road access and parking issues had been resolved. Mr. Zaiac said he will help them gather right-of- way and road ownership information, and he has identified a potential funding source to help with the access issue.

River Management Discussion: Mr. Henderson, from BCRC, as well as several members of Trout Unlimited were at the meeting to discuss how to deal with public safety in the river and to plan for future hazards to make sure volunteers as well as river users are not put in needless danger. Mr. Henderson said protocols for large trees falling into the river were first discussed a couple of years ago, and when a massive tree fell in the river this August the protocols worked, and the tree was removed within three days, while saving a portion of the tree to help the river’s environment.  Having a sinking fund created for future river hazards was discussed. Mr. Zaiac suggested a trust fund that is not funded by taxpayers. It was discussed that new signs will be ordered and posted at access spots, and Mr. Henderson said the Red Flag System Mr. Paustian suggested at a previous meeting was a good idea, as an outreach to inform boaters of water that is too high or too shallow. Alcohol use was discussed as one of the hazardous issues with the river. It was discussed that the State regulates the river and  the Town can only do what they are legally allowed to do. Mr. Paustian said he has witnessed as many as 500 boaters in the river on a summer day. Lisa and Don Otey from Battenkill Valley Outfitters said they are very cautious about their rentals and only allow 12 per day and they also educate people about the river levels. The use of drones to survey the river for hazards was discussed, as well as using the internet to post warnings for the public. Mr. Henderson asked Courtney Buckley from VT Fish and Wildlife if warning signs would be allowed on their kiosks, she said while she doesn’t want everyone to use them, she would give Mr. Henderson permission to post warnings of severe hazards and have him take it down once resolved. Having increased law enforcement presence for alcohol control and coordinating with surrounding towns was also discussed. Conversations will continue, and signs will be ordered.

Tree Work Award: Trees needing to be cut at Evergreen Cemetery and Old West Road was discussed. The cemetery quotes were $1,900 from Blake Pike and $3,320 from Greater Heights. Ms. Browning made a motion to award the Evergreen Cemetery tree job to Blake Pike for $1,900. Mr. Paustian seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously with Mr. Harvey absent. Quotes for Old West Road were $2,800 from Blake Pike and $4,100 from Greater Heights. Mr. Zaiac said they are gigantic trees, close to wires. Ms. Browning made a motion to award the Old West Road tree job to Blake Pike, for $2,800. Mr. Paustian seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously with Mr. Harvey absent.

VLCT Insurance Option: The Board and Mr. Zaiac reviewed a new option to increase the amount of coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists that has just recently been offered. Option A is what the Town has currently, $250,000 per occurrence, and Option B is $10,000,000 per occurrence. A price for Option B was not yet offered by VLCT. Ms. Browning made a motion to stay with the $250,000 per occurrence as depicted by VLCT and to authorize Mr. Zaiac to sign for that decision, and to obtain additional information on the other option when available. Mr. Paustian seconded. Motion passed unanimously with Mr. Harvey absent. 

Highways:  Back Up Plow Drivers: Mr. Zaiac said the decisions for back up plow drivers should be moved to Executive Session.

White Creek Plow Agreement:  The Board reviewed the contract with White Creek New York to plow and maintain Black Hole Hollow, which is easier for them to access. Ms. Browning made a motion to accept the agreement with White Creek NY, as presented in the contract dated 11/1/23, with $120 for each plowing trip and $120 for each sanding trip.  Mr. Paustian seconded. Motion carried unanimously with Mr. Harvey absent. 

Old Business:  Ash Borer Grant:    Mr. Zaiac asked for a sense of the Board to pursue changing the scope of the Ash Borer Grant talked about at a previous meeting to now focus on having the twenty large Ash trees along Buck Hill Road removed, and possibly offering the landowners trees for replanting or having some replanting done at the school, to fulfill the replanting requirements.  The Board agreed with the change.

Town Administrator Report: Mr. Zaiac presented the Board with his bi-weekly report. Ms. Browning asked for clarification on replacing the old black top at the entrance to the Town Hall driveway. The land is owned by the Community House, and Mr. Zaiac is waiting to hear if the organization approves of the repairs. Mr. Zaiac said the Planning Commission would like any input the Board may have as to their future endeavors. The walking tour that took place last week with State and local leaders concerning the potential for affordable housing in East Arlington was discussed.

WD Warrants and Orders:  Mr. Paustian made a motion to approve Water Department Warrant #20, in the amount of $23,556.83, with biggest payments being to Otter Creek for the feasibility study, for $20,715.   Ms. Browning seconded. The motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Harvey absent.

Warrants and Orders:   Mr. Paustian made a motion to approve Warrant # C23-8, from the CRF Fund, in the amount of $3,180.17, to MSK for the bridge study. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Harvey being absent. Mr. Paustian made a motion to approve Warrant #A23-4, in the amount of $5,500, to RHR Smith for payment on audit work. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Harvey being absent.  Mr. Paustian made a motion to approve Warrant #20, from the General account, in the amount of $38,702.40, with largest elements being annual firehouse rental, Bennington County tax payment for $12,934.45, and Peckham  winter sand for $6,059.80.  Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Harvey absent.

Executive Session:  Ms. Browning made a motion that premature discussion of legal and personnel issues would cause the municipality to suffer substantial disadvantage. Seconded by Mr. Paustian. Ms. Browning made a motion to enter into Executive Session for discussion of personnel and legal issues and to allow Mr. Zaiac, and Highway Foreman Mark Robinson to remain in the room. Seconded by Mr. Paustian. The Board entered Executive Session at 9:15PM. The Board exited Executive Session at 9:55PM. As a result of the Executive Session, Mr. Paustian made a motion to approve of hiring Ed Pike, Josh Criss and Brian Hawley as back-up snowplow drivers for $24.00 per hour, with four hour minimum for the season. Ms. Browning seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously, with Mr. Harvey being absent.

All Other Business:  None

Ms. Browning made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Paustian seconded. Motion carried. Meeting adjourned at 9:56PM.

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