11/10/2022 Chelsea Selectboard Special Meeting Minutes (Draft)
Chelsea Town Garage
Selectboard Members present: Levar Cole, Mark Whitney, Bruce Hook, Geoff Clayton, Merrill Whitney
Other Town Employees present: Karen Lathrop, Clerk, Tracy Simon, Emergency Director, Mary Ellen Parkman, Zoning Administrator.
Townspeople present: Linda Kuban, Joan Goodrich, Sheilagh Smith, Janet LaFrancis, Carolyn Boothroyd, Marilyn Lyford, Richard Lyford, Jean Bernier, Cheryl MacNeill, Tim Ward, Dennis Boardman, Elizabeth Boardman, John Fraser, Leyna Hoyt, Richard Mattoon, Kristianne Gayle, Roy Hayward, Ed Coburn, Mark Vermette, Tyler Hook, Damien Hook, Jeremy Hook, Tim LaPlante, Ken DeGrasse, Wayne Ladd, Jen Edson, Robert Button, Alan Lyford, Jilda Pomerantz, Carrie Caouette-Delallo, Diane Mattoon, Hale Mattoon, Jack Johnson, Darren Marcy (WRU Herald), others who did not sign the sign in sheet.
Call Meeting To Order
Cole called the meeting to order at 3:46 PM.
Cole stated everyone would get a chance to speak once as there was a large crowd and then
they could speak again if they so wanted to. He invited Board members to comment first. They declined.
Linda Kuban spoke to concerns in flaws she perceived in the Board’s human resource dept area, lack of training, board over-reach, and the fact that there were no motions made in minutes. She spoke to all that Rick had done for the Town throughout the 29 years he had been Road Foreman.
Cole stated the Board was not using Roberts Rules of Order for their meetings but any money actions or human resource actions that required an executive session were voted on by the Board.
Sheilagh Smith spoke to the letter the Board send to the Road Foreman and said it was a “pretermination” letter and had adverse action wording in it. She went over the four points the Board used in the letter and stated the Board opened the Town to be sued.
Cole stated the in letter they sent gave the Road Foreman an opportunity to meet with the Board to discuss issues. He noted that this meeting was supposed to be for just that, but the Road Foreman resigned before the meeting. He was not terminated.
There was discussion about the items in the letter, use of a truck without Board permission, mowing issue/costs associated, hauling sand for Tunbridge/costs vs money brought in, and permitting for work within the Right of Way not being filed. Persons present felt the Board was overreaching. The Board explained what happened in each incidence. That they were trying to conserve costs as the Gravel and Fuel budget was overspent with still 2 months to go in the year.
There were concerns from citizens about who would plow and salt the roads now that the Road Crew resigned. Mark Whitney stated he knew how to plow and Bruce had run heavy equipment. Other concerns were that it was a conflict of interest. Mark stated he would not be accepting pay so it was not a conflict. Hook stated they were working with TRORC but had not heard anything yet on help from them.
Former Selectboard member, Joan Goodrich stated that even though there were differences with the Road Foreman in the past, the Board always found a way to work together to find a mutual agreement and that the Road Foreman never overspent his budget. She asked if ARPA money could be used to offset the deficit. The Board replied, the Feds kept changing the rules on what it could be spent on. Board would have to look at the rules again. She brought up having a special town meeting to raise more income. Geoff stated the Town had opened a small line of credit.
Concerned citizens wanted to know who would they call with a Road Emergency. The Board replied they would figure that out in the Highway Plan agenda item.
There was more discussion about the truck that the Town had to keep repairing until the Board said enough. It was explained the Truck kept quitting and going to “Limp Mode”. They tried to fix it multiple times and finally told the Road Foreman not to use it. He fixed it anyway and took it out when the Board said not to. Citizens felt that was an overreach of the Board. The Road Foreman should be able to repair his machinery and use it, especially since the Town was down to one Truck.
Many people spoke to the fact that the Road Foreman found solutions to problems and saved the Town money doing so. Many people spoke to 29 years of good service and all he had done for free that he did not get paid for and they felt the Board should not trash that.
There were concerns that the Road Foreman should have been able to run his department without being micro-managed. The Board felt they were trying to be fiscally responsible with the Budget. There were concerns that Rick was harassed by members of the Board. The Board strongly denied that.
Jenn Doyle asked if the Board sought to get a moderator to work between the Board and the Road Foreman and if the Board had anyway of going forward to re-instate the Road Foreman. The Board declined to comment.
Leyna Hoyt stated Rick said he would come back if three Selectboard members resigned. She noted there were personal issues between some Selectboard Members and the Road Foreman and another townsperson. She thought there were conflicts of interest.
Jean Bernier reminded the Selectboard that they worked for the Townspeople and the Townspeople wanted their Road Foreman back. Kristianne Gale said decisions needed to make tonight to ensure travelable roads.
Nick Zigelbaum stated he needed an answer about whether he had to fill in the depression left by putting the water line across the road. He said his grant from the Dept of Agriculture for theWater Quality Improvement project needed to be finished. Zigelbaum stated he had asked the Road Foreman’s permission before proceeding with the project. There was discussion as to why there was no permit. There have not been many of them but a permit should have been filled out. Cole stated it was a Board decision to send a letter to the landowner as no permit had been filed. Karen clarified the letter was sent out. Geoff stated if the owner would sign a letter indemnifying the Town from liability, he would feel better about it. Townspeople stated no one else had ever had to sign one.
Carolyn Boothroyd suggested the Board call VLCT as they were a good resource and thanked Levar Cole for getting back to her about the meeting.
Mary Ellen Parkman, Zoning Adminstrator, stated she understood the frustration, felt there was a level missed and there was miscommunication going on. She thinks a permit should signed off on. She supported keeping the Road Foreman.
Many of the same concerns were heard multiple time from the same people. No confidence in the Board, Townspeople wanted their Road Foreman back, the Board was placing the health, welfare and safety of the townspeople in jeopardy with winter so close and not having a Road Foreman.
Sheilagh Smith stated the timing of this was very unfortunate as this was happening as our Road
Foreman was covering for our Wastewater Foreman, so the Town is in double jeopardy. There was a brief discussion on how the Wastewater Plant was being operated and the costs associated. She also wanted to know if the Board would be considering raises in pay to keep our hard-working personnel. She noted that the Road Foreman pay here was less than in other Towns by far. Cole stated the Road Foreman had reduced the line item in the budget for payroll when he presented his budget and the Board was not reducing payroll and were looking at all payroll’s since there was an 8.25% increase in the cost of living going up.
Helen Heslop thought that the Board should use Roberts Rules of Order going forward.
The Board was asked what they thought the outcome of sending the Road Foreman this letter. The Board stated they hoped to sit down and hash through all the problems at the meeting they had planned for tonight. Unfortunately, he quit first. Board felt they were going by the personnel policy in place and Cole explained the steps of the personnel policy while stating it does need to be re-written as it was very old and needed to be updated. He felt they were doing their jobs in good faith. Many felt the Board did not due its due diligence and documentation.
Townspeople wanted to know what the highway plan was going to be going forward and if re-instating the Road Foreman was part of it. Some believed the Board did not want to work with Rick and were not going to step down and asked the Board if they would step down. The Board stated no one was resigning as of tonight. There were many complaints about this from the Townspeople.
Bruce Hook stated he had called TRORC but had not received any answer from them. There was
discussion on who would plow and where would Townspeople be able to find the information out. Mark Whitney stated he could plow and Bruce could run loader. More discussion on Conflict of Interest. As more Townspeople came and left the Board had to give out information they had already gone over in the meeting earlier. The Townspeople made it known they wanted the Selectboard members resign.
Board stated it was not resigning at this meeting though they said there might be wrong on both sides of the argument. The Board reiterated it was coming to the meeting to have a discussion with the Road Foreman. That had been what they hoped to do.
The Board again tried to explain the reasons for the items listed in the letter and said the permit was the last straw but there were many items that had happened to bring the Board to writing the letter. Merrill Whitney stated the Board was trying to save money. They told Road Foreman to stop any extra work that used fuel and he did what he wanted anyway. Another example was that the Road Foreman wanted to buy brake cans for $500 + dollars /2 brake cans when the same kind could be bought for about $50 per brake can. Mark Whitney explained they thought that could be considered fraud. The Board noted it accepted money from Federal and State and they were subject to audits at any time. Work on roads had to be up to certain standards that they sign off on to get the money. Mark expressed his concern that also could be construed as fraud. Kristianne Gale stated if they had documented receipts that would be hard to prove. Maybe embezzlement but not fraud
Diane Mattoon, retired Town Clerk asked if the Board if Town had a budget limit. Cole stated the Town has a purchase policy that employees had to adhere to.
There were several pleas from Townspeople for some Board members to resign in order to get the Road Foreman back.
Jack Johnson, retired Selectboard member said the letter could have been drafted better an offered to help between the Board and the Road Foreman.
Kevin Marshia was concerned that there was not enough documentation and that it did not show up in past meeting minutes.
Damien Hook spoke to the fact that the Road Foreman should have known a permit was necessary and the landowner as well. He stated all people should be held accountable for their actions and he thought the Road Foreman was essentially holding the Board hostage. He stated attacking the Board was not okay. He stated he believed everyone needs to work together.
Bruce Hook stated that some people were there to speak and not to try to fix the problems. Mark
Whitney said he was not resigning and thought it would set a bad precedent. No Board member elected to resign.
Joan Goodrich wanted to get the Interim Highway Plan nailed down.
John Welch offered to help when he could. He does have a new job though. He stated the salt was ordered and someone need to be there the 16th or 17th
It was decided that the contact person and number would be Bruce Hook. He would contact Merrill Whitney as Mark’s cell phone has spotty reception and the home phone was unreliable. Tracy Simon, Emergency Director would be contact if an emergency came up.
Mark moved to accept the interim highway plan as written. Bruce seconded the motion. Merrill had gone at that point so it was voted on by Geoff, Bruce, Mark and Levar in the affirmative. The motion passed.
Meeting adjourned by motion of Bruce Hook seconded by Geoff Clayton. All votes were affirmative and the motion passed. The meeting adjourned at 8:34