Board will ask voters to drop town report mailing
by Margo Avakian
Dec 23, 2013 | 6106 views | 0 0 comments | 107 107 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in Vernon. Halifax officials are concerned about how the plant will disseminate information during emergency drills, which is scheduled to be shut down in 2014.
The Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in Vernon. Halifax officials are concerned about how the plant will disseminate information during emergency drills, which is scheduled to be shut down in 2014.
HALIFAX- Should Halifax continue to send out full annual town reports to all its voters? Or should it adopt an abbreviated form, including only the legally required elements, such as the warning and the auditors’ report? That was the question that opened Wednesday’s snow-delayed selectboard meeting. It was a question for the future; full reports will be sent as usual for the March 2014 Town Meeting. But the warning will probably contain an article asking voters to decide what, if any, changes should be made. That article, said board chair Edee Edwards, was recommended by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

Much of the discussion centered on postage savings; at $2.50 per copy, it costs a substantial amount to send the report to every voter. A shorter report would also reduce printing costs somewhat. Nonresident property owners, noted board member Lewis Sumner, can request that a copy be sent, but absent that request, the town is not legally obligated to send reports to them. But Edwards said the VLCT seemed to take a more expansive view of the town’s obligations, including non-resident owners.

“A lot of (reports) go straight into the recycling box at the post office,” Sumner said. One way to avoid that would be to ask people who want it to request their report be mailed, while keeping copies available at the town office for others to pick up. As John LaFlamme pointed out, no money would be saved on printing costs that way at first, as there is no way to know how many copies would be wanted. But the saving in mailing costs would be significant.

LaFlamme, who serves with Ross Barnet as co-emergency management director, presented the board with two letters he proposes sending out. The first, directed to all emergency operations staff, contained an evaluation of the town’s performance in the last Yankee drill; the date of the next drill, February 26, 2014; and announces an opportunity to participate in a “table-top exercise” designed around an as yet unspecified non-radiological emergency in January.

The second letter proposed by LaFlamme would go to all property owners, requesting information on any special needs and resources that emergency workers should be aware of when the next emergency strikes. LaFlamme said that the information would be confidential. In the past, LaFlamme has been told, such information has been “kept in a locked file cabinet” by Vermont Yankee, released only to those with a need to know.

“It can’t be,” said Halifax EMS chief Christina Moore. In an emergency, the information would be shared with the dispatch center in Keene; in some circumstances, it might be broadcast over emergency channels. Barnet agreed that such information must be shared among emergency agencies and that confidentiality could not be assured.

LaFlamme wants the information because it will help ensure that assistance gets to those who need it as quickly as possible. “My goal,” he said, “is to have this circulated before Town Meeting.” That would allow the fullest possible public discussion of the issue. Board member Earl Holtz asked, “Whom do we ask what our obligations (re confidentiality) are?” That sort of question must be answered before the board will give LaFlamme the go-ahead.

The board withdrew to executive session in midmeeting in order to give the co-EMDs “feedback.” When they returned to open session, Holtz was appointed as the board’s liaison to the EMDs.

On the matter of the town’s proposed winter roads policy, Holtz reported that he “reviewed three or four policies from other Vermont towns.” All are quite similar to the policy drafted by highway supervisor Bradley Rafus. He recommended two small modifications, a note stating that Class 4 roads are not plowed, and citation of the specific state statute prohibiting the dumping of snow onto plowed roads. Edwards asked that a note be added stating that VT Route 112 is plowed by the state, not by the town.

Discussion of the personnel policy update centered on comp time. Halifax has not offered comp time in the past, so details of how it would work in practice are still being hammered out. It was the road crew members, Edwards said, who brought up the possibility of an option to take comp time instead of overtime pay. An employee might request the comp time option, or the town might offer it for what Holtz called “discretionary jobs,” or, as Edwards noted, at the end of “a really, really hard winter,” when the town has dipped deep into its highway budget. No action on the policy will be taken until the town’s attorney has reviewed it.

Board secretary Jessica Bruno, who also serves on the broadband committee, presented a proposal to hold a contest to choose a town logo. Edwards was not enthusiastic, for the same reasons she cited at the 2013 Town Meeting. An official logo might have to be painted on all the town’s highway equipment, and might increase printing expenses for town paperwork. Edwards sees no benefit to be gained from the cost. Bruno is most interested in getting a logo for the town website; the board gave her permission to come up with an unofficial logo for that purpose.

In other business, Holtz reported that FairPoint does have fiber cable strung across the street from the town office. “No electronics on it,” he said, “just cable.” A FairPoint rep will get back to Holtz with information on the cost of implementing service from that line.

Although Sovernet strung a fiber line to the school building in which the town’s offices are located, the town itself would have to pay Sovernet $600 per month to tap into that line. There is now, said Holtz, the potential for “two separate vendors for the town and the school. That sounds like competition to me.”

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