January 4, 2021
Members Present: ( Via phone or Zoom) Dan Harvey, Matthew Bykowski, Cynthia Browning, Tim Williams, and Todd Wilkins
Members Absent: None
Also Present: (Via phone or Zoom) Town Administrator- Nick Zaiac, Ali Zaiac-Trustee of Public Funds, Steven McClafferty, Chad Harvey, Darren Marcy-Manchester Journal, Denise Monte, and Janet Barry
The meeting was called to order at 7:00, by Mr. Harvey
Additions/Deletions from the Agenda: Ali Zaiac, Trustee of Public Funds was added to the agenda, and Signature Requirements for Town Meeting Articles was deleted.
Public Comments: Steven McClafferty spoke at the meeting because he feels the Highway Department did not do a good job of plowing by his home on School Street during the December 2020 snowstorm. He said it was only warmer temperatures and rain two days later that ended up widening the road, not the way it was plowed. Mr. Zaiac said he will convey the complaint and follow up with the Highway crew. Ms. Monte asked about how people will be able to participate in Town Meeting now that it will be on Zoom and not in person, due to the State rules in the pandemic. Mr. Bykowski said Zoom was chosen because it is familiar to a lot of people who have been using it throughout the pandemic, but that self-study will need to be done by each citizen who is not familiar with the platform. He said that there will be a 15-20-minute leeway for people trying to join. Participates will be able to submit questions to the moderator with a “hand raising” function. Chad Harvey asked if Facebook Live could be used, and Mr. Zaiac is looking into possible simulcast options.
Minutes of the Meeting of Dec.21, 2020. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to accept as presented, the minutes of the Dec. 21, 2020 meeting. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
Town Administrator’s Report: Mr. Zaiac said the Highway trucks are now repaired and up and running. He said that he took some time off on the holiday week, but also did end-of-year grant work. He told the Board there has been a lot of progress with the Water Department Aged Receivables since the letters were sent to delinquent water customers.
Old Business: Trustee of Public Funds: Ali Zaiac, Trustee of Public Funds, said since she was appointed a Trustee, she has all accounts digitized and available online, but suggested the account statements be paperless going forward. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to authorize Ali Zaiac to work with Bank of Bennington to transition Trustee of Public Funds accounts to paperless. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
Red Mountain Property: Mr. Zaiac asked the Board if the comments he made to the Banner to correct information about the Red Mountain Property Trails project was a sufficient response. He said he had also spoken to Town attorney, Joe O’Dea, who saw no reason to take further action. The Board all agreed that no further action to the correction was needed, and would discuss things further in Executive Session.
Water Department: Warrants and Orders: Mr. Harvey moved Water Department ahead in the agenda. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve WD Warrant #1, in the amount of $296.97. Mr. Williams seconded. Motion passed. The Warrant was a retirement account payment to VMERS for Mr. Snow. It was mentioned that the next Water Board meeting will be Tuesday, January 19, 2021. It was mentioned that there have been significant bill reductions since letters went out to delinquent Water customers, and some people are qualifying for utility bill relief due to COVID hardships from the State.
New Business: First Draft of Budget 2021: The Board and Mr. Zaiac had their first discussion of the 2021 Budget that Mr. Zaiac submitted to them. One item of discussion was increasing the amount of the Chairman of the Board’s stipend by $200, for the additional work a Chairman does, as was discussed at the past meeting. He showed the Board that the Town Clerk and Treasurer’s Assistant line was able to be lowered, as well as the Meeting and Mileage line, do to meetings and webinars being held virtually for the foreseeable future. He said there was a new Postage line added, to better differentiate what are actual office supplies, and what is postage expense for Administrative offices. He said the Computer line was lowered, and a tech line for Diligent and Microsoft Office expenses was funded. Trash lines were up to $1200 to reflect what the costs currently have been, and there is a higher ISWAP line due to increased fees. No changes were made to Town Hall fuel oil and electricity lines. He said the COVID Expense line would be $500, and that the Computer Sinking Fund be $2000, per Mr. Bykowski’ s request to update computers at Town Hall. Mr. Zaiac said Workmen’s Comp and Unemployment Insurance had decreased. He said all Appropriations would be level funded with 2020 amounts. In the Highway Department, there is a slight down tick in overtime amounts which slightly decreased the Highway payroll budget. He said the previous administration had the Highway budget well calibrated and not a lot of changes had to be made. Class 2 road repairs will be up $500, and $2000 towards Class 2 & 3 is in budget to have money for professional tree removal and to have money available to match any potential Ash Borer grant money if the State offers the option. He said Class 2 & 3 gravel lines will be increased for Crow Hill Road project. Mr. Zaiac also added money for the long-discussed trailer purchase, which, in an informal agreement with the school, would be allowed to be stored on their property. This would eliminate the need to pay rental fees to move the excavator to job sites. The Hazardous tree line would be $7,500 in order to have a 50% match of funds available for Ash Borer tree removal. One of the biggest added expenses would be $30,000 for the Benedict Crossing Bridge replacement, which would put the Town on a 10-year replacement schedule for the bridge. In the Fire Department the physicals budget line has increased and $5000 added to the Maintenance line to be able to repair aging trucks as needed, seeing a new truck will not be in the 2021 Budget. The Cemetery budget Perpetual Care Line is up to $1500, but without any capital expenses requested this year, like new flag poles from last year, the budget would see a $1000 decrease. In the Park budget, payroll would be level funded, and $5000 being added to the Park Sinking Fund.
The only large increases are for the Benedict Crossing Bridge, and an increase in the full year amount of the Town Administrator’s salary. The Board felt the preliminary budget looks good, with justifications for any added expenses, and thanked Mr. Zaiac for his thoroughness. There will be continued Budget discussions at future meetings. The Board discussed the Town Clerk’s email requesting a 3% pay increase for various roles at Town Hall. Mr. Harvey said that token raises would show appreciation for the effort of the employees, and Mr. Williams said the point was well taken. More discussions will follow at the future meetings. Mr. Bykowski asked Mr. Zaiac to have the draft of the budget in an excel spreadsheet so different models could be easily seen.
Warrants and Orders: Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve Warrant # 1, in the amount of $15,733.26. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously. This included an Appalache Salt payment, memorial stones at the Cemetery, Administration and Highway retirement VMERS, and $4000 to RHR Smith towards the outside audit.
Executive Session: Mr. Bykowski made a motion that premature discussion of a legal and contractual issue would cause the municipality to suffer substantial disadvantage. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to enter into Executive Session for discussion of a legal and contractual issue and to invite Town Administrator, Mr. Zaiac to remain in the virtual room. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed. The Board entered into Executive Session at 8:23PM.
The Board exited Executive Session at 8:51PM with no decisions resulting from the Executive Session, and the meeting was adjourned.
Janet Barry, Recording Secretary
Cc: files, Town Clerk