Selectboard Meeting Minutes (draft)
January 16, 2024
Present- Kevin Marshia, Kelly Lyford, Leyna Hoyt, William Lyon (until 7 pm) Jesse Kay (virtual)
Others Present, Karen Lathrop, Gayle Durkee, William Krane, Susan Elder Chintana Herrin, Gregg Herrin,
Rosemary Noel, Carrie Caouette Delallo.
- Kevin called the meeting to order at 6:30 PM
- Additions to Agenda
- Grange Exemption Request- Barbara Chambers
- Selectboard Report – Kevin Marshia
- Conflict of Interest Disclosure- None
- Public Comments – Susan Elder asked when the next meeting was and could Forests and Parks be added to it.
- Law Enforcement – Kevin re-capped the prior meetings. The Board recognized the need to get contracts signed as there has been no coverage. They reported they received some feedback from Townspersons and overall, most agreed with both a middle of the road approach with both day and night coverage. There were concerns about what that might look like. The Board stated they could not speak as to what times the coverage would be, but they would have conversations with each Sheriff’s Department as to when they thought crime was occurring. Kevin reiterated the costs of the middle of the ground options the Board was leaning toward. When asked if this would come before the voters, the Board replied that they had three meetings with ample notice for voters to give feedback. They could of course amend it from the floor as it was a budget item, but they were hoping it would not come to that, though maybe they would amend it up if the voters felt it was necessary. They reported contracts needed to be signed as there was no coverage in place and thanks to newspapers it was widely noticed. There was discussion about whether the contracts for law enforcement would preclude money for security cameras and the Board stated they had a line item for that and were going forward with them. There was a discussion about whether they would be a deterrent to crime which the Board felt they would be. The Board noted that this was just the beginning of an ongoing law enforcement conversation and they planned to work going forward with Townspeople on trying to get more proactive than reactive.
Leyna moved to approve a contract with Orange County for 4 hours per week with an annual amount of $12.500.00 and enter into a contract with Windsor County for 10 hours a week for $34,000.00. Jesse seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
Addition – Grange Request for exemption of taxes- Barbara Chambers spoke for the Grange for a tax exemption for the next five years. She stated since the flood, they have no way to create an income. Phyllis Hayward, Lister, helped her with this. She stated the grange was organized in 1907 and had been a functioning grange ever since. Barbara read the request to the Board. She noted there was a proclamation from Governor Scott and noted other Towns had exempted tax for their granges. She noted that in the past it had been designated as an emergency place for the school students to go to. She stated they are community organization based in agriculture and participated in many community-based activities such as the Halloween Trunk or Treat and community-based dinners. Kelly asked for the Statute reference. Kelly asked if they were asking it as an educational entity, to which stated no they were not an educational entity. The Board was favorable. There was a discussion about where it falls on the warning. Kelly noted the Spotlight was on the floor vote side of the meeting. There was discussion among the Board on where it would go. A motion was made while the Town Clerk was out of the room. When the Clerk came back, she stated they should not put her in the motion. There was more discussion on where it goes. Karen agreed they could put it on the Australian Ballot part of the warning if they so wished. She gave some the recent history of how the Town voted. Kevin gave his opinion to put it on the Australian Ballot which while the Town Clerk agreed, she noted she was not a lawyer and could not give any legal counsel.
Jesse moved to add the Grange request for a five year tax exemption to the Australian Ballot on the Warning contingent upon additional research to prove legality to do so. Leyna seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
- Town Treasurer
- Budget Prep- Gayle and the Board went through the Income and Expense side of the Solid Waste budget. There will be a deficit of $86,000.00. Punch Tickets in revenue $85,000 and $20,000 in Recycle Stickers. They set Maintenance at $6,000.00 as they still have to fix the composting toilet ($1823.00) and enclose the oil tank fully. The high cost of the Solid Waste in “23” was due to residents bringing flood trash to the dump. The board noted that though there was still a deficit they were closer to closing the gap.
Chad Hewit and Gayle explained the Childcare Credit Tax to the Board. Employers are now required to statutorily collect the tax starting in July to support more positions in the childcare area. Chad stated it was a 44% payroll tax, but the Board could pass on some of that cost to the employee or Town would pay it all (33% Town/11% Employees). Chad noted the Board had to decide on it. After some discussion, the Board decided to pay for it all this year as it is only a half year, and they would revisit it again in the next budget.
The Board, Gayle and Chad discussed the Highway surplus which Gayle recommended putting towards income. The State accelerated their Highway payment this last year due to flooding and the need for Towns to have money to fix their infrastructure. Usually, Towns have a quarterly payment a year and there were six in “23” so only two payments would be made this. Chad and Gayle recommend placing the surplus ($65,000) in the income side of Highway. Kevin noted the budget was keeping the FEMA piece separate as it would be reimbursed eventually. Reimbursement funds would be 87.5%. There was discussion on the Town match of 12.5 %. Chad stated the State accelerated the payments and you usually get four payments and Town received six payments in “23”. The”24” fiscal year there would only be two payments. Kevin noted they were holding out the FEMA piece separate, and they had been using some ARPA money to help with the ongoing expense. Kevin stated the Town would not be fully reimbursed, Town has a 12.5% match and some of our volunteer hours. Chad stated most of the hours would come out of Rick and crew labor and machinery use.
Gayle noted diesel prices were going up, so she raised the line item for I to $65,000.00. The Board had a discussion on work that was usually done annually but was not done due to the extra flooding and what the actual cost of diesel was. The board left it at $65,000.00.
There was a discussion on raising taxes on FEMA expenses. Chad advised against doing it as FEMA is a reimbursed expense as unbudgeted revenue. Kevin noted there would be large upcoming expenses for FEMA related projects in the next two years, but the Town had a grant awarded to the Town for an engineering study on Maple Avenue that the Town match would be 20%. He noted they had put Maple Avenue bridge in for a FEMA project but as of tonight, they think it would be a stretch, but the matching fund was there for the grant prior to any FEMA projects. Kevin noted” if” Town had $2,000,000.00 in projects then they would need $150,000 raised for their match and the $75,000 was a start to raising that money. Chad recommended they put that cost in the highway Matching Fund so if they do not get to it all in “24”, it would just roll into the next year. Kevin asked Gayle to increase the Highway matching fund to $100,000. Karen questioned whether the amount could be changed for the line item. Gayle stated they had lowered it in previous years. Kevin felt it was still up to residents to vote for it. Chad stated the Town Garage Bond payment was still in the General Fund area of the budget and he advised Gayle to shuffle the debt from the General Fund to Highway for transparency so voters could see which department the money was spent on, and they did that with the insurance as well. He stated it would not change the ending balances, just showed where the money was spent.
Gayle noted the total Highway Budget was $936,056 and total highway budget to by taxes was $1,124,054. She noted the bottom-line changes as they make changes to line items. Revenue was only budgeted at $956,056. Question on whether we can use ARPA money be used to offset some of the $100,00 in the matching fund. There was a question on whether it was voted on. There was discussion on whether to use some of it and was it already voted. The Board said they thought they had voted it at an earlier meeting. Gayle to look it up. The Total ARPA fund was $377,000.00 minus the bonuses last year.
The Board and Gayle spoke to the percent change in the budget. Chad stated the budget was 12% increase from last year with the $100,000 in there. Chad stated it comes out to .09 cents municipal tax increase from last year. Discussion on how to present this to the residents at the Town Meeting. Kevin explained he presents it at town meeting as taxes on a 100,000-house appraisal and a 250,000-house appraisal for voters to relate to it. It would be a $236 increase. Kevin gave a breakdown of the large ticket budget. Leyna felt like ARPA money should be used for some of it as there are items in the budget which were listed in the first meeting on ARPA. Jesse felt voters would be unhappy that they would not have a say in the ARPA usage. Kelly agreed with that. Leyna stated facts have changed since the first conversation on ARPA and she was not suggesting using it all. Gayle stated Town should be using the money to keep taxes down instead of spending it on anything lavish. Jesse felt some should be kept for the community groups. Leyna felt lower taxes would help many residents. Kevin agreed some of the items were on the list.
Chad recommended using the Restoration Fund for the digitization as that is what it was for. Karen noted they were planning to use part ARPA/Restoration fund. So, there would not be a need to raise taxes for this item.
The board discussed using $20,000 ARPA fund for both Town Garage and Town Hall Security and add it to revenue and half of Digitization $7,100. The board was in favor, but Jesse noted that law enforcement would need to be fully funded in the future by taxes. Use of ARPA funds $53,100 for everything but Highway and $8,000 under Highway.
Chad said water and sewer always gets lost in the shuffle. The $87,000.00 shortfall for last year and there will be an anticipated shortfall of $57,000.00 for this year is concerning. $88,000 hit hurts. You need to use revenue to breakeven on the $58,000.00.
There are only three ways to fix it:
- Cut expenses.
- Raise the rates.
- Subsidize it from the General Fund.
There was Board discussion about the deficit. They acknowledged that the salaries were low for past employees. Revenues have been stagnant. Sludge Management has increased. The Contract was larger than Nolan’s Salary, there were more expensive testing now. Kelly noted we have been running at a deficit for years. Gayle said the checkbook had a good balance, but Town had been running a deficit. The board knew they had to do something, but with all the flooding woes they had not raised the rates.
Kevin asked if they had time to work on it. Chad stated if the Board was going to subsidize it through the general fund Gayle would need the numbers tonight for budget. There was discussion on whether they could use the sinking funds. Gayle could not find anything in the records that specified what it was for. Discussion on whether a legal opinion was needed. The water’s sinking fund was $195,000 and the Sewer was $161,000. The board does not think using the ARPA fund for this would be right. Chad felt the Board could make the decision on use of the sinking funds. Kevin stated that was good to know and they could use the sinking fund while we had a conversation.
Chad stated the Water Fund owes the General Fund almost $100,000 dollars. Chad explained how that done. Kevin stated we have a $160,000.00 deficit in water and sewer over multiple years. The Board is in favor of using the sinking funds until they can have a meeting on it. Gayle recommended using the sinking fund but do not use it all, take the 58,000 out for the upcoming debt, and raise water/sewer rates. The Board thanked Chad for his help.
Finishing the budget, Gayle stated the bottom-line number $1,071,903 total taxes of which 6.9%. increase over last year. Gayle stated there was a carry forward balance of $100.000.00 on the revenue side. Gayle also noted that it would be more expensive to drop the Zoning Administrator phone, they changed the website line item for the website to $295. No change to Orange County Superior Court line item.
Jesse moved to approve the budget of $1,600,000) of which $1,071,903 to be raised by taxes for the 2024 budget. Leyna seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
- Line of Credit- Gayle took out a 350,000 line of credit at 6% interest rate. The board requested Gayle send the Resolution to them so they could have a chance to read it prior to making a motion. Gayle said she did not mind. The board wanted it on the next agenda. There was a discussion whether to continue with the meeting or recess to another time. Karen was in favor of getting the meeting warning finished. All the Board decided to continue.
- Certificate of Highway Mileage- Kevin read the mileage email from the State of Vermont. There is an increase of .01 miles for Taylor Hill Road and.7 miles of Cemetery Road remapped. Will slightly increase our Town Highway Aid.
Leyna moved to approve the certificate of town highway mileage with adjustments made. Jesse seconded the motion. All in favor, motion passed.
The Herald reporter wished to contact Gayle and Board about items in the meeting and about the water/sewer.
- Health Center Building – Tabled
- Town Meeting Warning – after some discussion of finishing the meeting another night and whether all the appropriations had submitted, they edited the total for appropriations, Kevin read the warning adding Article 2 for the Grange.
Leyna moved to approve the warning as read for Town Meeting with edits. Kelly seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
The Board felt they should finish the agenda, as they were all present.
- Semiquincentenniel – Kelly moved to adopt the Anniversary Resolution for 25-year Semiquincentenniel from the State. Jesse seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
Addition –Kevin updated the Board on the Selectboard report. Kelly had minor edits. Kevin to finalize and submit.
- Bylaw Modernization – Kevin stated the Board needs to authorize a motion to authorize Kevin to sign both the contract with the state for the grant for the by–law modernization process and the agreement with TRORC.
Leyna moved to give Kevin authority to sign the contract with the State of Vermont and agreement TRORC on the Board’s behalf. Jesse seconded the motion. All in favor, the motion passed.
Discussion about the need for two separate motions as contract as the State of Vermont contract needed to be signed prior to signing the agreement with TRORC.
Leyna amended to move to approve the contract with the state for by law modernization with Kevin authorized to sign. Jesse seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
Leyna amended to move to the authorize Kevin to sign Two Rivers Ottauqueechee agreement. Jesse seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
- Dubois and King Contract – Board had a lengthy discussion on whether there was miscommunication. Leyna stated she did not want to sign it. Kelly stated she felt there were some miscommunications on both parts. Leyna, stated the contractor overran a contract and did not notify the Town. She called and when she found out, she instructed them to stop. Their contract stated up to $10,000.00 and they were up to $13,000.00 when they were instructed to stop. They did not submit the correct pictures. She felt they were not professional. Kevin summarized some of the letter. There was Board discussion on what part was the miscommunication. Dubois & King thought they were working on two sites, but there were seventeen. It was not a firm # in contract. She felt when Dubois & King sat down at the meeting, they never saw it as a red flag about the scope of work and they should have. Kevin noted that there was miscommunication about the level of experience of the person being assigned to the contract. Kevin wanted a more qualified engineer to consult on the project, he never asked for two persons. Leyna stated the photos did not match the roads. If they had done the work well and finished it, she would not mind signing the amended contract. Kelly still felt there was a misunderstanding on the # of sites. Kelly noted Rick did not go around with them. Kelly felt it should have been Rick. Leyna stated she went to every site with them because they said that was all they needed, and Rick was concerned with opening roads, so he was busy. Kelly would like to have a conversation with them about splitting the cost of the amended amount as they own some of the miscommunication on their part. Leyna wanted to look at the video of the meeting before voting on it and would like to go over the photos with Rick to see if they labeled them correctly. Kevin noted they should ask Kasey, as she might have an answer. Leyna stated Rick and her would have to go over the pictures. Jesse the Board should review the work with Kasey to see if she received all the work. Jesse felt there could have been miscommunication but thought they should split the costs due to miscommunication. Leyna requested signing off on it until she could do the research to find the answers to the questions. The Board tabled it to the next meeting. Kelly stated she hoped no one thought they were being criticized as that was not what she was doing. Kevin stated they were all operating on an emergency basis and made choices based on the day having never gone through something like the flooding. Needs to be on the next agenda.
- Approve Minutes- Leyna moved to approve the minutes from the January 2, 2024 meeting. Keely seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed. The board thanked Karen for her minutes.
- Approve Orders- Leyna moved to approve orders. Kelly seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
- Executive Session- Kelly moved to enter into executive session at 10.16 pm with just the Board for Personnel. Leyna seconded the motion. All were in favor. Motion passed.
Jessie moved to exit executive session at 11.05 p.m. Kelly seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.
Board discussed Town Administrator Position with no action taken.
- Adjourn- Leyna moved to adjourn at 11.09 p.m. Kelley seconded the motion. All were in favor, motion passed.