Selectboard Meeting Minutes 3.22.21



March 22, 2021


Members Present: ( Via phone or Zoom) Dan Harvey, Matthew Bykowski, Cynthia Browning, and Glenn Sherman, Todd Wilkins

Members Absent:  None

Also Present:   (Via phone or Zoom) Town Administrator- Nick Zaiac, Sharon Rosenthal, Darren March-Manchester Journal, David Naaktgeboren, Hooper Pickering, Roger Hansen, Olavvi Wirkki, Jim Henderson, Ron Weber, Tom Williams, Brian Suslak, Peter Hildick-Smith, Anthony Smith, Bebe Bullock, Carol Fairley, Andrea Rojas, Anne Torre, Paula Shulman, Garrett Siegel, Marge Fish, Claire Jacobus, Don Keelan, Pat Cross, Thomas Green, Rob Gaiotti-Dorset Town Manager, Bob Lynch, Eric Marko, Stephanie Moffett Hynds, Don Calder, Denise and Ken Monte, Josh Williams, June Onorato, Kevin Sheldon, Dick Bailey, John Koller, Mary Squire, and Janet Barry

The meeting was called to order at 7:02PM, by Mr. Harvey

Public Comments:  Mr. Harvey began the meeting asking if anyone had public comments NOT related to the Red Mountain Project. There were none.

Old Business:   Red Mountain Project:  Mr. Harvey said the rules of engagement would be to allow one to two minutes for each participant to speak, and to allow approximately twenty minutes for comments. He explained that the Select Board had a timeline in their packet from Town Administrator, Nick Zaiac, that showed an initial meeting about the proposal took place December 11, 2017, emails between then Interim Town Administrator and Select Board Chair, Keith Squires, Town attorney, Joe O’Dea, the Conservation Fund and the committee with Mr. Pickering. A purchase and sales agreement was forwarded to Mr. O’Dea in February 2019, that Mr. O’Dea noted had easement and liability concerns. COVID-19 changed schedules and Bly Hollow LLC agreed to extend the inspection time on the contract deadline to April 13, 2021. In December 2020 the Rec Committee did a fundraiser mailing, and the Banner ran an article. There were also emails and discussions between Mr. Pickering and Mr. Zaiac and many Wilcox Road residents voicing their objections in correspondence and at previous meetings.  At the February 8, 2021 meeting, the Select Board voted 4-1 not to proceed with the project as presented. Mr. Harvey said the timeline and other information that has been presented is public record and available to anyone who is interested, as well as a letter from Trout Unlimited, voicing their environmental concerns, and emails of support from Garret Siegel, Stephanie Moffitt-Hynds and Mardi Crane-Godreau. Mr. Harvey said no one on the Board has any objections to conservation or recreational opportunities, and the Board has spent many, many hours discussing the issues at many meetings, and there are many negative issues to this project. Mr. Harvey asked Mr. Pickering to begin the discussion. Mr. Pickering said he had six people lined up to speak as a presentation of the project and he appreciated the Select Board allowing them to come back to speak of the issues. He said Arlington is the largest town in Bennington County that doesn’t offer outdoor recreation, and he knows there are issues but feels they can be remedied and the property will benefit townspeople for generations to come. He said the Committee wants to work with the Town to acquire the land for conservation and eventually, hiking.  Ron Weber, President of the Arlington Rec Park Committee, and Planning Commission member, said the bulk mailing the Committee did for fundraising raised $82,000, and the Committee had already raised $37,000 from local businesses, and that people donated in honor of family members and with heartfelt thanks even from people now living in other parts of the country, with 223 signatures in support of the project. David Naaktgeboren, from the Rec Park Committee and Arlington Renewal Committee, said this project is not different than how the park was started 50 years ago, when that project faced similar concerns of parking, noise, safety, etc. He feels the Committee can work with the Town and neighbors, and hopes to seek out other access areas. He said it is not uncommon for a project to take several years to complete. Tony Smith said he has experience with people having fishing access from his land and for the most part it’s quiet and the impact to his life has been minimal. People are respectful and his family supports the project and he will allow access to make it happen. Peter Hildick-Smith said he just got involved recently, and that it typically takes five or more years to complete a project like this. He said the Committee is on the 1st step, the acquisition phase, and that there is no cost to the Town to acquire the land.  Marge Fish, a member of the Green Mountain Club Manchester Section, said she rarely has to pick up trash on ten miles of trails even though there can be 100+ people hiking on weekends. She said they are respectful of parking spots and volunteers manage the trails. Mr. Harvey opened the discussion to general public comments for 1-2 minutes per person, and would allow comments until 8PM. Sharon Rosenthal, and experienced hiker, said the topography and accessibility to Flag Rock is hazardous, and if average hikers used the trail it could be a liability issue for the Town, and in the past,  the trail was washed out by the brook for several months until it was repaired with use of an excavator and it could be costly to fix in the future.  John Koller said there was data lacking as to the number of people that will benefit from the trail as opposed to those that will be displaced, such as hunters or ATV operators. Mr. Suslak said he has submitted opposition in writing and submitted articles from New England and other areas around the country, of trails being over capacity due to social media, and said that the increased vehicular traffic can cause petroleum to leach into the ground and into water sources, and spoke of the letter from Trout Unlimited that is concerned with erosion and run off effecting the Battenkill. Tom Williams said he feels the Committee should have had ZBA approval and site plan approval from the Planning Commission, and said there is much work needed to be done in Town from culvert and bridge maintenance, to replacing old fire trucks, that the Town should be spending money on before acquiring this new project. Mr. Hildick-Smith said grant money could fix Flag Rock issues and there is no cost to the Town for acquisition of the land, so it is not taking away from Town resources. Mr. Gaiotti, Town Manager of Dorset, spoke about the four-year process for the trail project in Dorset, that has been completed for five years.  He said they received grant money and worked with the Land Trust. He said there 5-12 cars on weekends, and it is mostly used by neighbors of the trails, and the Dorset community. He said their acquisition did not trigger an Act 250 review in their case. Paula Shulman said it would be wonderful to have Town forest that increases the health and wellness of local youth and the community. Jim Henderson said the forest already owned by the Town is not accessible. Mr. Pickering said there may have been lack of communication between the Board and his committee. The committee felt they needed to work with the Town, and as a volunteer entity they could not be able to obtain approvals on their own, and the first step was finding the money to acquire the property. At this point of the meeting the Board was able to ask questions of Mr. Pickering. Ms. Browning asked about access through Heritage Hill, and Mr. Harvey said there is a fifteen-foot deeded Right of Way through Heritage Hill. Mr. Pickering said they will need to search for additional access points going forward, and they would like to put together a plan to then use to go forward, and said they are asking if the Select Board will work with the committee to obtain easements and gain access points. Mr. Wilkins said there is five million dollars in grant money from the State for projects of this type to upgrade or put in trails, and the State is pushing for more outdoor recreation. Mr. Harvey thanked everyone for their time and efforts, and said there will be more discussions and the Select Board will continue to think about the project.

Yellow Barn Gardens Agreement:  Roger Hanson, from the Gardens at Yellow Barn Committee, said he has been working with Mr. Zaiac and is comfortable with the new agreement between the Town and the committee. Mr. Zaiac said he feels it is a mutually beneficial agreement. Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve the Yellow Barn Garden Club Agreement dated March 22, 2021. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously.

Highways:   Trailer Purchase:  Mr. Zaiac supplied the Board with three bids for trailers for hauling the mini excavator to job locations, which were the three best options found after an extensive search.  It was discussed that Highway Foreman, Mark Towslee, leaned towards the tilt trailer from JC Tractor in Hoosick Falls NY.  Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve the purchase of the tilt trailer from JC Tractor in Hoosick Falls NY for $6,691.00. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously.

New Business:  Liquor License:  Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve a 2ns Class Liquor License for Dollar General Store # 14270, from May 1, 2021 – April 2022. Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously.

Rec Park Job Posting: The Board and Mr. Zaiac discussed whether to continue with the same Park crew for the upcoming season or place a job posting to hire new employees. Both current employees have said they would be willing to come back to work this season and Mr. Woodard said he would do all weed whacking jobs himself.  Mr. Zaiac said he felt it was best to retain the current crew for one more year and to start the reorganization process earlier next year, and the Board agreed that was best.

Audit RFP: Mr. Zaiac and the Board discussed the Audit RFP, and how it may be best to break down different pieces of auditing and have different companies handle certain areas of the audit.  After some discussion it was decided that Mr. Zaiac will talk to the different companies to see which is best suited for each task, and have a reformatted version of the RFP at the next meeting.

Revised Vendor Ordinance: Mr. Zaiac presented the Board with a revised vendor ordinance he designed to address problems in the antiquated current ordinance. He also proposed having a fee of $50 involved with each permit.  It was decided that Mr. Zaiac will revise the language in this draft of the ordinance, and have the $50 fee written into the ordinance, and to table further discussion until the next meeting. Ms. Browning made a motion to table the discussion of the new draft of the Mobile Vendor Ordinance until the next meeting. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously.

Minutes of the Meeting of March 8, 2021. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to accept as presented, the minutes of the previous meeting, March 8, 2021. Mr. Sherman seconded.  Motion passed, with Mr. Wilkins abstaining because he was unable to attend that meeting.

WD Warrants and Orders: Mr. Bykowski made a motion to approve WD#6 in the amount of $2791.03. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Most notable payment was to GMP. Motion passed unanimously.

 Warrants and Orders:  Mr. Wilkins made a motion to approve Warrant # 6, General Fund, in the amount of $28,362.11.  Ms. Browning seconded. Motion passed unanimously.

Town Administrator Report:  Mr. Zaiac entered into record his Town Administrator Report. He said it is mud season and 200 tons of gravel have been used on Town roads, but everything was holding up well, and there have been days without any highway complaints. He said Jessica Roberts has been doing a great job in the Land Use Office. He said he has been doing community work, and working on Highway grants. He said the Park net will be up soon, and Trout Unlimited will be at a future meeting.

Mr. Wilkins made a motion to adjourn. Mr. Bykowski seconded. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 8:59PM

Respectfully submitted,

Janet Barry, Recording Secretary

Cc: files, Town Clerk

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