November 6, 2023
Members Present: Dan Harvey, Todd Wilkins, Cynthia Browning, Jamie Paustian, and Glenn Sherman
Members Absent: None
Also Present: Nick Zaiac-Town Administrator, GNAT videographer, Ali Elwell-Zaiac, John Koller-Arlington Rescue Squad, Firefighters- Darrin Jennings, Brian Hawley, Keegan Hawley, Eric Marko, Ryker Kozal, Joe Blum, Josh McKenzie, Lewis Douglas, Tony Onorato, Mike King, Roger Hason, Buzz Kanter, Steve McClafferty, Paul Woodard, Carly Bacon, Marty Irion, Seline Skoug, Caroline Gutbier, Chelsea Thompson, June Onorato, and Janet Barry (via Zoom)
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM, by Mr. Harvey.
Agenda Addition: Mr. Wilkins made a motion to add a budget line overrun to the agenda. Mr. Sherman seconded the motion. Motion carried.
Minutes of the Meeting of October 23, 2023: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve the minutes of the meeting of October 23, 2023, as presented. Mr. Paustian seconded the motion. Motion carried.
Public Comments: Darrin Jennings spoke to the Board and read a letter he then presented to be included in the minutes, regarding his opinion about Mike King’s suspension from the Arlington Fire Department. “ Hi. Most of you know me, but for those who don’t, my name is Darrin Jennings. I have been a member of the Arlington Fire Department since April of 1991. I am here tonight to voice my opinion. We have had a few members coming to meetings voicing their displeasure about the Town Select Board, hiring our new chief, and making it sound like it was the whole department. Well, to let people know that is not the opinion of everyone on the Department. There are members in favor of this. The membership was told at the beginning of the year that this was happening. But certain things happened in the department that people didn’t like, so now they want to complain about it. When none of them signed up for the committee. As I have been told, that the way I do things is the old way of doing it. Well in my opinion, this is the perfect time to start doing things a new way. It is also my opinion that if people want to quit because of this, they did not join the Fire Department for the right reason. I joined the department to help the community and not to say I am a firefighter. I know that this will not be popular with people, but it is hard to sit back and see what is going on. It is unfortunate that things have taken this path. I could keep going but I will end it here. Thank you.” Mike King inquired about the status of his investigation. Mr. Harvey apologized for the delay, that was due to a major family emergency, and that Mr. Wilkins has been extremely busy with State Police investigations. He said they will be conducting interviews with fire department members Wednesday and Thursday and expect a decision by the next Select Board meeting. Mr. Onorato inquired about how the chief suspension, investigation, and the Board appointing a chief going forward would affect the upcoming Fire Department elections, that will be held on December 19, 2023. Mr. Harvey said the plan is to have the Department know the outcome of the investigation before then and Mr. Wilkins said they are to proceed with their elections as scheduled.
Mr. Hanson said he would like to raise bees at the Yellow Barn property and wanted to know if there were any rules or regulations that would have to be met. Ms. Browning said there are not regulations governing raising bees, but it would be good to have signage to say hives are on the property for those who may have bee allergies. Mr. Hanson said a beekeeping group will come to help set up the hives. He also inquired if the gardeners could have a say in any future renovations at the Yellow Barn. Ms. Browning said some carpentry and exterior painting will be the next repairs to be completed. Mr. Hanson said he would like to have a better entrance at the door closest to RT 313, because it is a big step down, and better storage. Ms. Browning said an overview of what is being stored would be beneficial to evaluate what the Highway and Water Departments require for space. Mr. Zaiac will assist with the evaluation. Mr. Hanson said he appreciates what the Town, and Highway Foreman, Mark Robinson, has done to help the gardeners.
John Koller, treasurer for the Arlington Rescue Squad, came to the meeting to inform the Board the Squad will be asking for an increase in appropriation money for 2024. He said it is extremely hard to find help, and EMT’s spend several thousand dollars of their own money for training. He said they will also be needing a new ambulance, that could cost approximately $450,000, and insurance and fuel costs continue to rise. He said Medicaid and Medicare only pay 30% of the cost for each patient transported. If things stay on this trajectory they could be out of business in 5-6 years. They are in the process of meeting the requirements for an increase in appropriation money.
Paul Woodard returned to the meeting to say he has not heard from the Zoning Board yet, regarding his neighbor’s burning that he has talked to the Board about at recent meetings. He has also not heard from the Land Use Administrator yet. Mr. Zaiac said he will see that the Land Use Administrator responds to his email this week.
Steve McClafferty asked if the Town had gotten a credit card yet, as had been discussed at past meetings. Mr. Zaiac said he had submitted four applications to financial organizations and had been denied. He said the Town does not offer financial organizations a large profit margin because bills are paid every month and balances are not carried. He then asked if a personal credit card was being used to pay any Town bills. Ms. Elwell-Zaiac said she and Mr. Zaiac’s credit card was being used to pay the Town’s phone bill, since the PayPal card had lapsed, and that it has been extremely stressful to allow this payment, as well as any other times a credit card is needed for purchases, to be on their personal card. Mr. McClafferty said the Board needs to talk about any reimbursements that Town employees receive.
New Business: Appointments; Energy Committee: The Board discussed the resignation of Mary Ann Carlson from the Energy Committee, and Anita Joan Nash being able to fill the vacated seat. Ms. Browning made a motion to accept the resignation of Mary Ann Carlson, with thanks, and to appoint Anita Joan Nash as replacement on the Town Energy Committee. Mr. Sherman seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
Personnel Policy; Holiday Clarification: Mr. Zaiac had presented the Board with a proposal to update the Personnel Policy to allow the Highway crew to have the Thursday as their paid holiday if the actual holiday falls on a Friday, when they work 4 day weeks and have Fridays off in the summer. After some discussion the item was tabled until a future meeting, when Mr. Zaiac can draft different options of what the State and the Town of Bennington offer their employees that work 4 day/40 hour work weeks. Ms. Browning made a motion to table the personnel policy decision until a future date. Mr. Wilkins seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
ARPA Funds, Sense of the Board for Water Department Spending: Mr. Zaiac asked for a sense of the Board for ARPA spending in the Water Department that was discussed at the Water Board meeting last week, due to two members being absent at that meeting. It was the sense of the Board that having clean water is vital to the Town and a good use of ARPA funds, and to allow Mr. Zaiac to draft a RFP for hydrogeology and engineering studies about keeping Red Moutian as a back up water source, that was discussed at the Water Department meeting. Mr. McClafferty asked for a copy of ARPA funding information the Town originally received. Mr. Zaiac said the paperwork is available. Mr. Wikins said he would like to see information on what ARPA funds have been spent so far. Mr. Zaiac said he will have a summary of what has been spent and pieces to come at the next meeting on December 4, 2023. Decisions on where to spend the money must be completed by December 2024.
Highways: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve the line overrun of 12-7-30-430.00, the garage maintenance line, by $12,500., for the garage construction that was approved at a past meeting. Mr. Wilkins seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
Ms. Browning said a sign is tipping on Benedict Crossing, Mr. Zaiac will have the Highway crew repair it.
Town Administrator Report: Mr. Zaiac said a highlight of his report was that there had been a really successful Emergency Management meeting with representatives from Rupert, Sunderland and Sandgate also attending.
WD Warrants and Orders: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve Water Department Warrant #21, dated 11/3/2023, in the amount of $258.30, with payments for supplies and water testing. Mr. Wilkins seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
Warrants and Orders: Mr. Browning made a motion to approve Warrant #A23-5, in the amount of $3,000, to RHR Smith for payment on audit work. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously. Ms. Browning made a motion to approve Warrant #21, from the General account, dated 11/2/2023 in the amount of $44,181.00, with largest elements being the Town garage work to Clyde Baker for $12,500, Bennington Tire for Fire Department and Highway tires for $5,300, diesel for $3,437, and Peckham for winter sand and gravel for $9,376.21. Mr. Paustian seconded. Motion passed unanimously. Ms. Browning inquired about having the ingredients supplied for the tick spray used by Home Turf, on the Park trails. Mr. Zaiac will get the information.
The 11/20/23 meeting will concentrate on financials, and the 12/4/23 meeting will have the Energy Committee presentation and budget discussions.
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. Sherman. Ms. Browning made a motion to enter into Executive Session for discussion of personnel and legal issues and to allow Mr. Zaiac to remain in the room. Seconded by Mr. Sherman. The Board entered Executive Session at 7:58PM. The Board exited Executive Session at 8:27PM. No decisions were reached as a result of the Executive Session.
All Other Business: None
Mr. Wilkins made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Paustian seconded. Motion carried. Meeting adjourned at 8:28PM.