Bill Rossignol of Holden Engineering presented revised plans for the Old County North bridge. The revisions were a response to various concerns discussed at the November 25 meeting and were designed to reduce both costs and the impact of construction on abutting properties. A temporary ford crossing was eliminated; the guardrail on the temporary pedestrian bridge was redesigned to avoid impinging on a neighbor’s driveway; and a different, “less impacting,” parking area was proposed. Discussions with the Agency of Natural Resources indicate that a permit application will not be required, as no construction is planned to take place in the streambed. The closest activity to that will be “smoothing out” some large standing rocks at the bottom of the bank in order to reduce impediments to the stream’s flow. A brief engineering report, including flood data and documentation of road width and right of way, will be submitted to the ANR. There is still a bit of surveying to be done at the bridge site; final estimates and bid books must be prepared, and the town attorney given “a heads-up on the need for easements,” but the project seems to be well underway.
A discussion of possible applications for community development block grants began slowly, as selectboard chair Edee Edwards noted that two possible projects have been discarded, leaving disaster planning as the board’s remaining suggestion. But Christina Moore told the board that the projects most likely to win approval would involve construction or mitigation; anything deemed to help “return river corridors to green spaces” or otherwise improve “fluvial corridors” would be especially likely to win approval. Moore suggested a number of possibilities, including projects the town already has in hand, like the Old County North bridge. Board members started adding their own suggestions, such as up-to-code guardrails and culverts. Moore noted that fiber infrastructure for the town offices is another good possibility.
“Feasibility,” Moore said, defined as the ability to complete projects in timely fashion, is a major factor considered in awarding the grants. “And Halifax gets big points for feasibility, because all our projects were completed faster, with better paperwork, than anyone else’s.” The town, Moore said, should concentrate on projects that can “go from design to bid to build to closeout in 24-25 months.” Rather than have the board spend a lot of time hashing out various ideas, Moore suggested that she and highway supervisor Bradley Rafus, who, she said, “has a head full of ideas and a crew full of experience,” could get together and come up with a list for the board to choose from. The board agreed that would be the best way to proceed.
Some difficulties have arisen with getting employees’ families signed up with Vermont Health Connect, but the town has an alternative. Employees can be automatically re-enrolled in their current Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan at current rates through January; rates would drop in February to the levels the town would pay through Health Connect. The board voted to take the option.
The board said they are generally happy with Rafus’ proposed winter roads policy, but board members want to work out a way to enforce state laws prohibiting the dumping of snow onto state and town roads before giving final approval.
In other business, the board discussed the possibility of adding the Brooks Library to the list of organizations supported by the town. It would not replace the Whitingham Free Public Library. The measure is being considered for the sake of residents of the Thomas Hill area, who have easier access to Brattleboro than to Whitingham. No action was taken.
And finally, Edwards announced that Halifax has at long last been awarded a state planning grant. The grant will be used to facilitate an update of the town’s zoning regulations.