February 22, 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, Darren Marcy-Manchester Journal, Ali Elwell Zaiac, Jason Greene, Mike King, Vince Thompson, Jay Coonradt, Dr. Michael Welther, Brian Suslak, Larry Poletti, Sarah and Donna Pickering, Sharon Rosenthal, Jay Coonradt, Denise Koller, Thomas Williams, , June and Tony Onorato, Susan Jennings, Darren Jennings, Denise Monte, Bill and Bebe Bullock, Glenn Sherman, Brian Hawley, Don Keelan, Robert Weibel, Gary Harrington, Lee Krulikowski, Stephanie Moffitt Hynds, James Frankel, Kate Aiken, Michael Wood, Gary Harrington, Carol Farley, Don Calder, Kelly Dickie, Kirk Robinson, Roger Hanson, Garret Siegel, and Janet Barry
The meeting was called to order at 7:00PM, by Mr. Harvey
Minutes of the Meeting of Feb. 8, 2021. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to accept as presented, the minutes of the previous meeting, Feb. 8, 2021. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
New Business: Park Softball Update: Mr. Harvey moved up New Business ahead of Public Comments for a park softball update by Mr. Greene. Mr. Greene spoke of the success of his softball league using the park last year. He said they would now like to expand to 2 nights a week co-ed, and perhaps a men’s league on Thursday nights. The Board agreed they support the additional use of the park, but that the school has priority. Mr. Greene said he hoped to start in May, and Mr. Wilkins said May is the heart of the high school softball season. Mr. Greene replied they can work around the high school schedule. It was discussed that fees may have to be adjusted to account for the extra nights additional use of lights. Mr. Greene said he thought perhaps the fee could be $250 for the season for each additional night they use the field. Last season they paid $250. Mr. Bykowski said the Town would need a proof of insurance certificate before the league uses the fields, and that Mr. Zaiac may be able to build a SharePoint or excel calendar for park use that would also be shared with the school to make sure there are no scheduling conflicts. Mr. Greene will see if there is interest in these additional teams.
Public Comments: Red Mountain Trails: Many residents were at the virtual meeting to continue the discussion of the Red Mountain land acquisition for hiking trails, following the Board’s voting to not pursue the project as presented at the last meeting, with a 4 against, 1 in favor vote. Dr. Welther said he was disappointed that the Town voted to stop investigation of the project, and he feels it could be good for the health and well being of the citizens, and also bring in tourists. Mr. Keelan said an acquisition of this size takes a lot of time, and he’d like to see the Select Board assign someone to work with Mr. Pickering and the Committee to see what issues can be mitigated. He said he felt badly how it ended at the last meeting and would like the Select Board to re-open the investigation. Addressing the negative comments about dog waste potentially being left on the trails, he said he has at least 15 dogs walked on his property’s trails a day through the May-November season, and they are maintained beautifully. He said he’d like to see the project move ahead with problems addressed, and that Mr. Pickering has been introduced to a land owner at the other end of the trail that may be interested in providing access. Mr. Bullock said he’d love to get involved and be an agent of change and wholeheartedly supports the project. Ms. Koller, a Wilcox Road resident, spoke again of the emergency vehicles needing the turn around on Wilcox Road, the expense for the Town to maintain the trails, and that the landowner said at the last meeting he would not offer permanent access to the trails. She said she is not trying to stop the public from hiking, but that she moved here for the tranquility and not the increased traffic this would bring, and that the residents of Wilcox Road are against having the project with Wilcox Road access. She said she does not believe the trails will bring revenue to the Town, and businesses would benefit from more cultural events. Mr. Poletti was also back at the meeting, and said that the Town Attorney at last week’s meeting was not in favor of the Town acquiring the property with only a one-year license for access granted by Scott Seidel, the property owner on Wilcox Road, and also that he feels Act 250 was not investigated, and that the terrain was also an issue. He said he defends the Board, and the decision they made based on the data they were provided and the insurmountable obstacles they saw. He said it would also curtail hunting season. Mr. Harvey said the Board’s decision didn’t come lightly and they looked at a lot of different aspects, and this particular parcel of land is problematic, from topography to access, and he does not want taxpayers to fund an unknown liability into the future with the maintenance the trails would require every year, if volunteer help was not always available. He said he sees the steepness as a problem, with only the healthiest people being able to make use of the trails. Mr. Weibel, a Buck Hill Road resident, said he feels hikers will be willing to maintain trails, but thinks that parking is the biggest issue, and also having owners clean up after their dogs. Mr. Wilkins said when the Board voted he did not vote in favor of disapproval of the acquisition, and feels the committee should have been given time to address the concerns of the Wilcox Road residents. Mr. Bykowski said he voted to disapprove of the acquisition based on the package and information at hand, and that he would be willing to discuss the project at a future meeting if it was on the agenda. Mr. Jennings said he feels the committee should be allowed time to rectify the concerns. He said he’s been on the Fire Department for over 30 years and has never had to rescue any local using the trails. Mr. Suslak again brought up the impact that social media could have, as he has investigated 10-12 other Northeast areas that have been negatively affected by social media bringing vast amounts of people to their areas. He said Manchester has mammoth parking problems in spite of being allowed to have overload parking at Burr and Burton, and any proposal has to address these issues. Ms. Rosenthal, an experienced hiker, again addressed the issue of how hazardous it is to come down the trails. She said if the project is pursued, perhaps having Pickering Road as an access point would be better than Wilcox Road. Mr. Onorato said the subcommittee of the Renewal Committee has been working on the project since the inception and is still working behind the scenes. Mr. Harvey said he agrees with the other Select Board members that it can be discussed at a future meeting if is an item on the agenda, after Town Meeting, perhaps the last meeting in March. Ms. Browning asked that comments be submitted in writing so the Select Board will have documents to refer to, and then will also be available for verbal comments as well, at the meeting.
Treasurer’s Post Card Mailing: Ms. Jennings asked who paid for the post cards sent from the Treasurer this week, and Mr. Zaiac assured her that a private entity paid for the mailing and not the Town.
Yellow Barn Garden: Mr. Hanson, from the Gardens at the Yellow Barn Committee, was at the meeting to say that gardening season is fast approaching and to remind the Town of their promise to move a spigot at the Yellow Barn for watering. Mr. Harvey said he can email a list of what else the gardeners are looking for from the Town, to Mr. Zaiac, or any Select Board member. Mr. Hanson asked if any money from the Yellow Barn reserve fund could be used for the projects they would like to see done, and Ms. Browning said the funding in the Reserve Account is for the building itself, for preservation and building projects.
Highway Crew Turnover: Mr. Williams asked why it is so hard for the Town to retain road crew members, is it a benefits issue, pay, job atmosphere, and what is the Town doing to do to fix the problem? Mr. Harvey said he thought the foreman they recently hired would be a good fit for the job, and that the difficult winter played a factor in his decision to leave the position. Mr. Wilkins said he conducted an exit interview to see what can be done in the future, and Mr. Zaiac said the Board was addressing vacation time later in the meeting. Mr. Onorato said he’d like to publicly say the crew is doing a great job and hates to see Mr. Siclari leave the Town. Mr. Keelan publicly thanked the Select Board for their service, especially this year, and wished them all good luck at Town Meeting, and wished Mr. Williams good luck in the future.
New Business con’t: Fire Department Discussion: Newly elected Fire Chief, Mike King, and assistant chiefs Vince Thompson and Jay Coonradt, were at the meeting to discuss several issues with the Board and Mr. Zaiac. Mr. King said for his over 20-year service in the Fire Department, there has always been a meeting with the Select Board to discuss the Fire Department budget, and wanted to know why a meeting did not take place this year. Mr. Harvey answered that the Board was trying to level fund things as best as they can this year, and it was his fault as much as anyone’s that a virtual meeting wasn’t scheduled. Mr. King said he’d like to restart the question of the Town taking over Fire Department buildings as had been discussed in the past, and asked if the Town- owned Dietrich Trailer Park, that was once discussed as being an option for a new FD building, was still available. Mr. Harvey said there were title issues that came up with the property that are still pending and that the impression from the FD at the time was that it was not an ideal spot. Mr. King said all three current chiefs are interested in the property as a viable location for a new building. Mr. King asked to know how much money was in the Truck Sinking Fund and said they would like to restart the truck committee, which, he was told, the Fire Department puts together. It was discussed that at a past meeting the FD was asked to present proposals for different truck options for the Board to review. Mr. King said he is having trouble finding information that will be needed in an ISO report due in May, Mr. Wilkins asked him for a list of missing items and he will speak to the former chief for answers. Mr. King said the spring thaw will be coming soon and the FD’s pumps are not good and asked if Emergency Management would be able to assist in pumping basements if needed. Mr. Harvey said he will investigate. Mr. Bykowski said the Board has not seen a life cycle list of things that will need to be replaced, or an asset list, and that this information is important for the Board to make educated decisions regarding the FD Budget, and build an appropriate plan for going forward, and the Town may need to hire a municipal architect to look at properties for the Fire Department. Ms. Browning said it would be useful to schedule a meeting with the Fire Department to discuss the issues. Mr. Harvey said to plan on a Zoom meeting in the near future.
Town Meeting; Set Rules of Discussion: Ali Zaiac was at the virtual meeting to discuss this year’s Town Meeting format. She had sent a document to the Board with information, and said the VT League of Cities and Towns wants to point out that it should not be called “Town Meeting”, but rather it is Australian Ballot Information Session this year. She has been working with Moderator, Mr. Whalen, and wanted to know if the Board is on the same page as to how the meeting will work. Questions will go to Ms. Zaiac and she will text Mr. Whalen, and VLCT suggests one or two people should run screens. Ms. Zaiac does 10-20 webinars a year in her profession, for large amounts of people, and is very comfortable doing this meeting. She said Friday night she and Mr. Zaiac will host a personal Zoom room, not connected to the Town, and Sunday, 2/28/21, will be a tech check, which all presenters are invited to attend, and a link will be made available to relevant parties. Mr. Bykowski said he appreciated Ms. Zaiac taking the time to attend the VLCT webinar on Australian Ballot, and the Board thanked her for all her help.
Food Scrap Drop Off at Landfill: Mr. Zaiac and the Board discussed being part of a contract making a food scrap option at the landfill a permanent piece of ISWAP, just like recycling, and the costs involved with the decision. Mr. Wilkins made a motion for Arlington to become part of the Food Scrap Collection in conjunction with the ISWAP contract. Mr. Bykowski seconded. The vote was 4-1, with Mr. Bykowski opposed. After a discussion it was decided that the Board wishes to have Mr. Zaiac present the new ISWAP contract to the Board so they can see the language before voting on it.
Vacation Policy for Town Employees: The Board reviewed a new vacation policy Mr. Zaiac drafted for the Town. Mr. Bykowski said he felt policies were in alignment with other businesses and municipalities and offers compensation in an industry standard way. Ms. Browning said the new policy reflects flexibility and she appreciates the research Mr. Zaiac did. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to adopt an updated vacation policy as presented, as of today’s date of February 22, 2021. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously.
Highways: New Truck: Mr. Zaiac said he has quotes on new trucks but they are not appropriately comparable and he will also work with whoever is hired at tonight’s meeting, so they are comfortable with the decision, and any further discussions on the truck purchase were tabled.
Executive Session: Mr. Bykowski made a motion that premature discussion of a personnel issue would cause the municipality to suffer substantial disadvantage. Seconded by Ms. Browning. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to enter into Executive Session for a discussion of a personnel issue and to allow Mr. Zaiac to remain in the virtual room. Seconded by Mr. Wilkins. The Board entered into Executive Session at 9:09PM. The Board came out of Executive Session at 9:33pm. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to hire new Road Foreman, Mark Townslee and to authorize Mr. Zaiac to finalize negotiations of salary and benefits. Mr. Williams seconded. Motion carried unanimously.
Report of the Town Administrator: Mr. Zaiac entered his report into the record and said he has been working with the Rescue Squad on a Terrorism Avoidance Grant, and there are many security benefits that could come from the grant. He has also been working on the Australian Ballot Information Session.
WD Warrants and Orders: Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve WD#4 in the amount of $3,097.50. Mr. Bykowski seconded. Motion passed. Highlights are the GMP bill and health insurance premium.
Warrants and Orders: Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve Reappraisal Warrant # R21-2, in the amount of $5,200 to NEMRC for assessment services. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed. Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve Warrant # 4, General Fund, in the amount of $28,711.15. Highlights include salt, sand and GMP bills. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed.
Other Business: Mr. Williams asked Mr. Zaiac how the supply of salt and sand for the season is holding up. Mr. Zaiac said the Town came into the season with reserves and also has been mixing stone with salt to help handle ice. Mr. Bykowski reminded Mr. Zaiac that the Verizon Connect equipment will have to be removed from the now disabled F550 Highway truck and reinstalled on the new vehicle when acquired.
Mr. Bykowski made a motion to adjourn. Mr. Browning seconded. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 9:42PM
Janet Barry, Recording Secretary
Cc: files, Town Clerk