Selectboard Meeting Minutes 10.25.21



October 25, 2021

Members Present:  Dan Harvey, Matthew Bykowski, Cynthia Browning, Todd Wilkins, (arrived during meeting) and Glenn Sherman

Members Absent:  Mr. Wilkins was absent for beginning portion of the meeting.

Also Present:   (In person, or via Zoom or phone) Town Administrator- Nick Zaiac, Jason Day-Star Wind Turbines, LLC, Linda Carman-Reid, Fire Department members-Mike King, Vince Thompson, Nick Nahodil, and Darren Jennings, John Koller, June and Tony Onorato, Fred and Patrick Pickering, Scott Seidel, Brian Suslak, Larry Poletti,  Sue and  Olavi Wirkki, Darren Marcy-Manchester Journal,  and Janet Barry

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM, by Mr. Harvey.

Public Comments:  Mr. Harvey opened the meeting by saying the agenda items would be moved around slightly while they were waiting for Mr. Wilkins to arrive.  He asked for any public comments unrelated to the agenda items. Ms. Carman-Reid read her letter addressed to the Board and Mr. Zaiac concerning the decision to hire one full time, year-round, Park Department employee and not rehire the current seasonal Park employees. She said the men learned of the decision from social media, rather than being informed by the Town. She said they did not deserve to be treated that way after their many years of service. The letter was left with the Board.

Highways: Sand and Salt Awards:  Salt: The Board reviewed the salt purchase memo supplied by Mr. Zaiac. He proposed reducing the total amount of salt purchased to 800 tons, down from 1200, due to having used less salt even in last year’s bad season, and Mr. Towslee using a beet juice-based solution on the salt to enhance the deicing properties and adjust salt scatter so there is less wasted salt. Mr. Harvey explained the need to purchase from different vendors to be assured availability. American Rock’s price is $73.00 per ton, Apalachee is $85.40 per ton, and Cargill is $77.90 per ton, with Apalachee considered the best salt, followed by Cargill.  Mr. Bykowski made a motion to award the salt contract purchase of 600 tons to Cargill for $77.90 per ton, and 200 tons of salt purchase from Apalachee for $85.40 per ton. Mr. Sherman seconded. Motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Wilkins not present.

Sand: It was discussed that with the recent sand sifter box purchase, and having leftover sand in the stockpile, the total sand purchase will be cut to 2500 tons. Prices are stable from last year. Peckham is $16.50 per ton delivered, Wallingford Crushed Stone is $12.50 per ton delivered, Pike Industries is $7.50, no delivery available. With an internal trucking rate of $9.36, it brings the actual cost to $16.86 per ton. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to award the purchase of 2500 tons of winter sand to Peckham Industries at $16.50 per ton delivered. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Wilkins not present. Mr. Bykowski thanked Mr. Zaiac for including the internal trucking rate, making it easier to compare the actual costs.

New Business: Wind Turbine Letter of Support:  Jason Day, from Star Wind Turbines, LLC, was at the meeting to ask the Board for a letter of support for the proposed installation of 100-foot tower wind turbine system proposed by the Carthusian Foundation of America. He said it will be located on the ridge behind the monastery in Sandgate. He said it has been a years -long, lengthy project to get the permits. There have been full wildlife and environmental studies completed. The project is now in the final stages, and other surrounding towns have already shown their support.  The turbines will not be visible. It was just realized that the property line borders Arlington, thereby needing the letter of support from the Board. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve a Letter of Support for Certificate of Public Good regarding the installation of wind turbines proposed by the Carthusian Foundation of America and Star Wind Turbines, LLC. Mr. Sherman seconded. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to add the date of the letter, 10/25/2021. Mr. Sherman seconded. Motion passed with Mr. Harvey, Mr. Bykowski and Mr. Sherman voting yes, and Ms. Browning voting no. Mr. Wilkins was not present.

Minutes of the Meeting of October 11, 2021. Mr. Sherman made a motion to accept as presented, the minutes of the previous meeting of October 11, 2021. Ms. Browning seconded.  Motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Wilkins not yet in attendance.

Water Department: Warrants and Orders:  Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve Warrant#WD-20, in the amount of $2,688.37, with highlights being Blue Cross premium and Brook Field generator maintenance contract. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Wilkins not yet in attendance.

 Warrants and Orders: Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve Warrant #20-11, from the CRF, to Paulson Wood Products for $2,935, for covered bridge wood redecking. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Wilkins not yet in attendance.

Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve Warrant #20, in the amount of $50,630.10, with highlights being Bennington County tax payment being over $10,000, NEMRC fees being over $6,000, Blue Cross premium being over $6,000, and Reynolds Fire for FD truck maintenance being $6,611. Mr. Sherman seconded. Motion passed unanimously with Mr. Wilkins not yet present.

Old Business:  Red Mountain Final Decision: Mr. Wilkins arrived at the meeting.  Mr. Zaiac had a presentation on the Red Mountain project, to summarize where the project ended up, and to help the Board come to a final decision of whether or not to move forward with the project. The presentation was followed by final public comments on the project, virtually and in person.   Mr. Zaiac said access had been the most important piece, with access east from Tory Lane, and secondary access from the north. The Wilcox Road access had been eliminated. He had a slide with the financials on it, with the $99,945 the total available for purchase, less the VLT fees of $15,636, estimated closing costs of $10,000, $12,000 estimated for erosion control costs. There would approximately $17,309 left in the sinking fund.  The request for a discount on the land was denied by the seller, who felt they had already offered enough discounts. He said resident feedback had been 50/50 throughout the project, and that all accesses are steep, at 1,800-2,300 feet. There would be start up costs such as GPS maps, and signage, and wages for the Highway crew to complete some needed work. Policing the property would be an ongoing commitment. There could be the need for maintenance money from the taxpayers in the future.

Mr. Poletti read a portion of the statement he had mailed the Board and Mr. Zaiac. He said he was not aware that the sixteen conditions required for the grant money had been met. He said he feels he cannot be sure funds will be there when needed, to acquire and maintain the property. Mr. Koller said he feels it is unwise to enter into the project without knowing the future expenses. Mr. Seidel said he doesn’t see how it is sustainable long term, there are too many unknowns, and that there have not been engineering experts to review and advise on the costs. He feels the Town has other more important projects to pursue. Mr. Suslak agreed with many of the statements previously voiced and said he is also concerned with the growing trend of graffiti and vandalism on trails that is happening nationwide. He feels the money would be better used to enhance areas more people would be able to benefit from, like the park. He said he felt Mr. Wilkins should recuse himself from the decision vote, due to his relationship to the Pickering family. Fred and Patrick Pickering mentioned their concern about erosion that could occur. Ms. Browning said erosion is a big problem and she feels the Town does not have the resources needed for the issue.

Executive Session:  Mr. Bykowski made a motion that premature discussion of a contractual and legal issue would cause the municipality to suffer substantial disadvantage. Seconded by Ms. Browning. Motion carried. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to enter into Executive Session for discussion of a contractual and legal issue and to allow Mr. Zaiac to remain in the room. Mr. Sherman seconded. Motion carried.  The Board entered into Executive Session at 8:01PM. The Board came out of Executive Session at 8:19PM. As a result of the Executive Session, Ms. Browning made a motion to approve of the Red Mountain purchase. Mr. Wilkins seconded.

Each member discussed the proposed purchase before the vote. Ms. Browning thanked Mr. Zaiac for all his work on the project. She said she realizes the project was important to many people and that is why the Board continued to pursue the purchase. She is concerned about having viable access points, but her biggest concern is the uncertainty about resources, repairs, and continued monitoring of the property in the future. She also wanted to point out that the money that was raised by different committees for the purchase was completely separate from Town money and under the controls of the groups that raised the funds. Mr. Wilkins said he believes the Town would be the best stewards of the property, and it could be purchased by private owners who would then control the property.
While he is concerned with the expenses that would be associated with the potential legal hoops that still need to be dealt with to obtain proper easements, he feels the project is worth continuing. Mr. Bykowski said he echoed many of Ms. Browning’s concerns. He feels the Town would be a good steward of the land, but is concerned with the overall long-term financials of the project and cost concerns over easements. Mr. Sherman said he agrees with Todd, that someone will buy the property and the Town would be the best stewards, but is on the fence because of the long-term costs and maintenance. Mr. Harvey said he did not feel the Board was able to meet the purchasing thresholds they set for themselves for the project, and uncertainty revolves around the costs. He said he also has a hard time with the project, knowing that only a small percentage of residents would be able to make use of the trails, and he represents all the residents.  The Board did a role call, with their votes being: Ms. Browning a no vote, Mr. Wilkins a yes vote, Mr. Bykowski a no vote, Mr. Sherman a yes vote, and Mr. Harvey a no vote. Motion fails. Ms. Browning also wanted to address the suggestion that Mr. Wilkins should recuse himself from the voting because of a familial relationship with some of the landowners. She said in a small town there may be instances of Board members having relatives involved with an issue, but unless there is a specific, individual, financial benefit, she doesn’t feel there is a conflict of interest. Mr. Wilkins said in his professional life he has been called upon to make unfavorable decisions where family is concerned, and he did not recuse himself from the vote because he does not feel there is a conflict of interest.

Old Business Part 2:  Fire Department Discussion Part 2:   Mr. Zaiac had a presentation for the Board and Fire Department members, answering some questions from the last meeting. He said it was confirmed with VLCT that internal certification of junior fire fighters is not viable and the training needs to be done from professional trainers. Concerning compensation, he said had talked to the Manchester Town Administrator about the point system they use for their fire fighters, and was told it is needlessly complicated. Mr. Zaiac said it may be better to increase the fire fighters’ stipends across the Board, and a 20% increase would cost $2600. Regionalization of the Fire Department had been briefly discussed at the last meeting. Mr. Zaiac provided the Board with a link to a recently produced study by the same firm that did the Arlington study, and said he would like a sense of the Board if he should talk to neighboring towns, and purse the regionalization study. The possibility of compensating for training was discussed at the last meeting and Ms. Browning said she feels that is important to consider. Mr. Zaiac said there is a training grant from VLCT that the Town is eligible for that he will pursue. Concerning the Dietrich property, and need for a new firehouse, he said he had been in contact with BCRC, who suggested applying for a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant in mid-January that would be helpful with the process of building a new firehouse.  It was discussed that the Fire Company could transfer the firehouses to the Town, and E. Arlington Fire House could be sold to fund the new building.  Chief King said he is concerned Town ownership of the buildings may mean new rules and restrictions the firemen would have to follow. Mr. Bykowski said there may be rules for the firehouses, the same as any Town owned property, for insurance purposes. Mr. Jennings said he is not on board with all of the Board members after the issues that came up with the recent new fire truck purchase. It was discussed that the firemen make a list of all their wants and needs in a new building, and that these wants and needs will be made clear to the architects. It was discussed that there will also be State requirements that have to be met in a firehouse. It was agreed that the firemen’s input is important, and it is a generational opportunity to be able to build a new firehouse. It was discussed that having a study completed would determine if the Dietrich property is the best place to build a new firehouse, or if there are better options. The option of having a tiered transfer of the existing firehouses was discussed, as well as the possibility that the Town could have to spend money to bring the buildings up to code, if they were to take over ownership. Ms. Browning said she feels it is important to focus on a new firehouse. It was discussed that a firehouse sinking fund could be voted on at Town Meeting in March.  Mr. Zaiac will get in touch with other towns that built new firehouses to see who designed them, and will write the FEMA grant in December and review it with BCRC and submit it in January.

Town Administrator Report:  Mr. Zaiac submitted his report to the Board for their review.

Other Business:  The Board signed a letter of appreciation for the work the Gardens at Yellow Barn Farm group did this summer, that made it such a success.

Executive Session:  Mr. Bykowski made a motion that premature discussion of a legal issue would cause the municipality to suffer substantial disadvantage. Seconded by Ms. Browning. Motion carried. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to enter into Executive Session for the discussion of a legal issue. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion carried. The Board entered Executive Session at 9:27PM. The Board exited Executive Session at 9:32PM with no decision rendered as the result of the Executive Session.

Mr. Bykowski made a motion to adjourn. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 9:33 PM

Respectfully submitted,

Janet Barry, Recording Secretary

Cc: files, Town Clerk

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