September 25, 2023
Members Present: Dan Harvey, Todd Wilkins, Cynthia Browning, Glenn Sherman, and Jamie Paustian
Members Absent: None
Also Present: Nick Zaiac-Town Administrator, GNAT videographer, Carlene Bacon, Paul Woodard, Lars Lund – FPR State of Vermont, Steve McClafferty, and Brandon Canevari, Ali Elwell Zaiac and Janet Barry (via Zoom)
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM, by Mr. Harvey.
Agenda Addition: None
Minutes of the Meeting of September 11, 2023: Mr. Paustian made a motion to approve the minutes of the meeting of September 11, 2023, as presented. Mr. Sherman seconded the motion. Motion passed.
Public Comments: Paul Woodard was at the meeting to voice his frustration of a burning issue near his residence. He also had written a letter to Select Chair, Dan Harvey, and the Board, and brought photos to the meeting that the Board reviewed. He said his neighbor, Blake Pike, is bringing in materials from commercial jobs to burn at his residence. He is concerned it is a fire and health hazard, and is happening within 40 feet of his property. District Fire Supervisor, Lars Lund, was at the meeting, as well as the Fire Warden, and Select Board member, Jamie Paustian. Mr. Paustian said Mr. Pike was issued a four day burn permit at the end of May 2023. Mr. Lund and Mr. Paustian had viewed the burn site and what they saw that day did not represent a hazard. Carlene Bacon said she had come home from work at 11:30PM and saw burning taking place on Mr. Pike’s property. It was discussed that Mr. Pike has to be on site during the burn, and it is not allowed at night. It was discussed that there is no Town burn ordinance, but it could be a zoning issue that would have to be brought before the Planning Commission. Mr. Lund urged Mr. Paustian to make sure the conditions of multi day permits are followed.
Old Business: Tax Rate Letter: Mr. Harvey thanked Mr. Zaiac, Ms. Browning and Town Auditor, Jenna Peeler, who along with himself, had drafted the letter to be sent to taxpayers, explaining the rate increase. Ms. Browning did a summarization and overview of the letter, that said the tax rate is now correct, and the bills that residents received are the correct amounts they owe for this year. She explained the Select Board has not spent more than the budget amount authorized by voters, and that a year ago the tax rate was too low with incorrect figures, so it had to be increased more this year to make up for the $200,000 deficit. She said the Select Board relies on figures from the Treasurer, but that the error wasn’t caught, and everyone accepts responsibility for their part in the mistake. It was discussed that going forward the Board needs to have the figures and reports from the Listers and Treasurer sooner, to allow for review. Another factor of the rate increase was discussed. The Grand List was lower than expected and is related to the pandemic and the State will have a new system in place next year. Mr. Wilkins suggested presenting figures to the public as soon as they become available next year. Mr. Harvey said the summary of the department budgets was missing from this year’s Town Report. The letter will be posted on the Town’s website, and sent to the Bennington Banner, as well as being mailed to taxpayers. Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve the letter as presented. Mr. Paustian seconded. Motion carried unanimously. Ms. Browning said she regrets the confusion and the Board not getting the letter out sooner, and Mr. Harvey said the tax increase does affect every Board member, as they are also taxpayers. Mr. McClafferty suggested getting monthly or at least quarterly statements from the Treasurer to be aware of errors in a timely manner. Mr. Zaiac said they requested reports but had not received them. It was discussed that the Listers and Treasurer are elected officials. Mr. McClafferty said he will contact the Treasurer for income and budget reports as a taxpayer.
New Business: Winter Sand Purchase: The Board reviewed three winter sand quotes, Pike Industries for $21.35 per ton delivered, Peckham for $12.50 per ton, $17.25 per ton delivered, and Woodard Construction for trucking 2000 tons from Peckham for $7,406, and 1000 tons for $3,703, with all quotes not to exceed 3000 tons. Mr. Wilkins made a motion to accept the quote from Peckham Industries for $12.50 per ton for a total $37,500. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion carried unanimously. Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve the Woodard Construction bid for hauling winter sand, not to exceed $11,109. Ms. Browning seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
Fireworks Permit: Ms. Browing made a motion to approve the fireworks permit for Mack Molding Annual Fireworks Show on 12/15/23 @ 6PM at the Warm Brook Road plant. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously. Mr. Paustian said the fire chief is supposed to sign off on any firework permit.
Liquor License: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve the Request to Cater Permit for Hardy Food Catering LLP, for an event on 10/7/23 at 5610 VT RT 313 Arlington. Mr. Paustian seconded the motion. Motion passed unanimously. Mr. Wilkins asked if the catering company had insurance. Mr. Zaiac will ask that the Town Clerk check for insurance for all new businesses wanting permits.
Back-Up Plow Driver: Mr. Zaiac spoke to the Board about having back-up plow drivers for the season. It was a sense of the Board that this would be beneficial, with a roster of 1-3 people with a CDL that could step in as substitutes if needed. The list will be available for the Board to review at the next meeting, and the pay rate will also be set at that meeting.
Town Administrator Report: Mr. Zaiac said he did not have a lot to highlight. He said conservation items will be on the next agenda. Ms. Browning asked if mailboxes that are in the sight line at a culvert project on River Road could be addressed. Mr. Zaiac said they will be moved tomorrow. Mr. Wilkins said he had been assisting the Highway crew on a minor pothole issue and it is outside the Town portion, and on the landowners’ driveway and the Town will not be fixing the pothole. Mr. Harvey said the tree in the river has been remedied and the tree was so large the crane had trouble lifting it and almost got pulled into the river. Mr. Zaiac said he was pleased with the yield the recent auction of old equipment provided, which was close to $50,000, and he was particularly pleased with the amount the mini excavator received.
WD Warrants and Orders: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve Water Department Warrant #18, dated 9/21/23, in the amount of $3,465.12, with key elements being health insurance premiums for $994, and sample tests from Endyne for $1,345. Mr. Paustian seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
Warrants and Orders: Ms. Browning made a motion to approve Warrant #18, from the General account, dated 9/21/23, in the amount of $23,237.18, with largest elements being health insurance premiums for $6,772, GMP payments for $1,480, Peckham for $1,030, VLCT annual dues for $4,338, and Sycamore Landscaping for $1,300 for storm clean up. Mr. Paustian seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
Executive Session: Ms. Browning made a motion that premature discussion of legal, property, and personnel issues would cause the municipality to suffer substantial disadvantage. Seconded by Mr. Wilkins. Ms. Browning made a motion to enter into Executive Session for discussion of legal, property, and personnel issues and to allow Mr. Zaiac, and Firefighter Darrin Jennings, if available, to remain in the room. Seconded by Mr. Wilkins. The Board enter Executive Session at 8:30PM. The Board exited Executive Session at 8:59PM. No decisions were made as a result of the Executive Session.
All Other Business: None
Mr. Paustian made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion carried. Meeting adjourned at 8:59PM.