The meeting began with Rep. John Gannon who addressed the issues of the PFOAs found in the old town landfill, education, and Act 250. He assured residents that these issues are being discussed in Montpelier.
Under Article 7, voters defeated the elimination of mailing postcards advising voters when the annual town report is available. Chair auditor Sarah Barnett said the cost of printing and mailing postcards amounts to approximately $300.
“It seems to me that $300 is a pretty low price to pay for encouraging democracy in the town,” Rochelle Ackerman said. Craig Wells pointed out that not everyone in Halifax has reliable access to the internet, so receiving the postcards in the mail is helpful.
Article 8 addressed changing the way the town would vote on the size of the selectboard, from voice or floor vote to Australian ballot. Cheyette, who proposed the article, said a lot of people aren’t able to attend Town Meeting and therefore do not get the opportunity to vote.
“A lot of people can’t or don’t come to Town Meeting, for health, kids, work, whatever it is,” Cheyette said. “I think that just like zoning is something we decide by Australian ballot, the size of the board ought to be decided by Australian ballot. All this means is that it just changes the way we decide.”
Ackerman agreed that Australian ballot is a better way to vote on this issue. “Because we are such a small community, I think it’s just too sensitive an issue to leave to a floor vote where everyone is public in their vote,” Ackerman said.
The article was passed after being voted on by paper ballot, which was proposed by Lewis Sumner.
Ray White proposed an amendment to Article 10 changing the sum of $7,000 for recycling service to the town for fiscal year 2018 to be per year, “with the longest contract possible at that set price.” White expressed concern that if the rate wasn’t fixed for an extended number of years, contracted costs could go up.
With Windham Solid Waste Management ending its recycling services on June 30, the issue of what that means for the town of Halifax still has unanswered questions.
“In terms of the amendment, I appreciate the intent of that,” Wells said. “I’m a little nervous about that though because often sometimes negotiating for a fixed price for multiple years means you have to commit to that two- or three-year term with that business. I think there are a lot of questions about what’s going to happen in terms of recycling in the whole area, and this could change in a year or two. I would rather place my trust in the selectboard in terms of negotiating the best rate.”
The amendment to Article 10 was defeated, and voters passed the original sum of $7,000 for FY 2018 for recycling service to the town.
Under Article 11, residents discussed appropriating a sum of $5,000 to support a summer celebration of community life in the town. Town Clerk Patty Dow said the planning is still in the preliminary phases, but this amount would cover anything needed for the event, such as a band, paper products, or any products used for fundraising.
Cheyette proposed an amendment changing the sum of $5,000 to $500. “I’m troubled by the money,” Cheyette said. “I wonder if we could do something with a much more modest amount and then we go from there, and we try to get donations and chip in.”
“I think it’s really important to understand that this is not just to be used for that year,” Peggy Rafus said. “It’s going to be in an account and saved for future years. So if we don’t use it all at one time, then it’s kind of a learning lesson to see how much we would use.”
The amendment was defeated, and a second amendment was proposed reducing the sum from $5,000 to $2,500. With the voice vote being so close, residents voted by show of hands and the amendment was defeated. Voters then passed the original sum of $5,000 for the summer celebration.
Under Article 5, the town passed selectboard and highway expenditures of $1,374,562.
Under Article 2 of the Halifax town school district meeting, Homer “Chum” Sumner made an amendment to reduce the budget by $30,000, from $1,486,738 to $1,456,738. Sumner said a preliminary estimate of $50,000 was put into the budget for a new roof on the gym, but after getting a quote for the project, only $20,000 will be needed. Voters passed the amendment and the article, approving the budget of $1,456,738.