HALIFAX- For the next two months, the selectboard will add a 1 pm Monday meeting to the second, fourth, and, if necessary, fifth week of the month. The meetings, expected to be brief, will be dedicated to highway business. After the two-month trial period, the board will decide whether to make the change permanent.
Board chair Edee Edwards pushed hard for the measure. Edwards has previously expressed frustration with current procedures for handling highway business, saying it makes it difficult for her to track expenditures efficiently and expeditiously. The cost of maintaining the town’s many miles of roads is the largest municipal expense by far, and is a major driver of rising taxes.
When her proposal for extra meetings met a lack of enthusiasm, Edwards continued to press for an arrangement that all would find acceptable, asking, “Am I the only one who cares that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with the highways?”
Eventually the board voted unanimously to give the new schedule a try. Some employees greeted the proposal as a chance to regularize miscellaneous meetings. Highway supervisor Bradley Rafus suggested that quarterly reviews could be handled at the Monday meetings. Board secretary Jessica Bruno asked if special meetings could be held in those slots, noting that a constantly changing schedule of meetings is “disruptive to my paid work.” Both suggestions met with board approval.
The board began their night by opening bids for various jobs and materials. Paving on Green River Road was awarded to Lane Construction, low bidder at $147,680. Cersosimo was awarded the contract for sand ($7.50/cubic yard) and for gravel stone ($12/cubic yard); Zaluzny won the contract for ditch stone ($13/cubic yard). All were the low bidders; all were approved by Rafus.
Only one firm bid on replacing and installing guard rails on two bridges, one on Green River Road and one on Branch Road. Edwards said she was “stunned” by the high prices quoted. “We might as well build a new bridge!” she exclaimed. As the total for the two sets of rails came to $143,000, Edwards had a strong point. Action on that purchase was tabled pending further thought and discussion.
George Squiers asked the board to look into repairing the deteriorated edge of Wheeler Road. Flooding, washouts, and a general lowering of the road level over time have become a serious concern, Squiers said. Rafus suggested that a culvert running the span of the three driveway entrances affected is probably needed. The board will hold a site visit on Monday, July 8, at 9 am.
In other business, the board voted to send a letter of intent to apply for a Community Development Block Grant for disaster recovery. Possible projects include debris removal and facilitated community meetings to discuss long-term disaster recovery planning. Edwards suggested that the town needs to consider very carefully whether there are some roadways and bridges that might not be worth publicly maintaining at any cost. Board member Earl Holtz also suggested looking into the possibility of a buy-out of a house that has been stranded since Irene destroyed its private bridge.
The board voted to renew its contract with Storm Petrel, the company handling the paperwork, etc. for the Irene recovery effort. The town’s contract with the Windham County Humane Society was updated to align with the fiscal year and modified to stipulate that the town be notified of any price increase by December, so it can be considered during budgeting.
Board members also authorized the replacement of a repeatedly blocked culvert on Pennel Hill Road (the beavers at work again). Roadside mowing was contracted out at the same price as last year, $1,900. A meeting to discuss the location of the emergency operations center will be held on Thursday, July 11, at 6:30 pm.