LaFlamme, who has served on the board for six years, called that service “an honor ... the most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever done, second only to raising my kids.”
“Stepping down,” LaFlamme said, “has been a very long and hard decision to make.” He added that the reason included “The amount of time required to properly serve the town takes me away from how I earn a living too much.”
Fellow board members Lewis Sumner and Edee Edwards both expressed appreciation for LaFlamme’s work on the board.
LaFlamme’s record of community service predates his term on the board by many years; he joined the town’s volunteer fire department 15 years ago. He emphasized that his “desire to serve has not changed,” and offered his name to the next board “for consideration for appointment (as) emergency management director.”
Moving on to regular business, LaFlamme reported on his meeting with John Alexander, district administrator for VTrans, regarding the feasibility of temporary bridges to replace those rendered impassible by Tropical Storm Irene. Real relief for residents of Deer Park Road may be possible, LaFlamme said; Alexander judged that a one-lane temporary bridge could be located just upstream of the current, damaged bridge. The temporary structure would be located within the town right of way, so no permissions from property owners would be required. It could be left in place while the new permanent bridge is under construction. All of this must still be confirmed by a site inspection by a bridge maintenance manager.
The cost of the temporary bridge would be $175 per month in rent, plus the cost of installation and removal. LaFlamme was told by Alexander that the town can hire either a contractor or the state to install the bridge, and that the charge from the state would be approximately half of a private contractor’s charge. The board voted to begin the process by submitting an application for approval.
The Hale Road bridge, LaFlamme said, can be made passable without a temporary bridge. Alexander suggested that filling in the eroded spaces at the sides of the bridge would be an acceptable temporary solution. LaFlamme explained that an arch bridge does not fail if its sides are supported. If the town goes that route, the bridge would
probably be posted for 10,000 to 12,000 pounds; it would require monthly monitoring to check on whether the side walls are moving.
Any failure, Alexander indicated, would be gradual and detectable, allowing the town to close the bridge again if necessary. It would likely be necessary to close it during mud season.
Earl Holtz asked if any vehicles other than the town’s trucks would be exempt from the weight restriction. “Farm vehicles,” LaFlamme replied, “and fuel oil delivery trucks.” Edwards expressed some concerns regarding safety and town liability. She will call Alex Portalupe, who deals with FEMA projects for the state, in hopes of getting confirmation on the weight limit and the acceptability of back-filling.
Temporary replacement of the Reed Hill bridge is not feasible; it will remain closed until the new bridge is built.
Purchasing officer Joseph Tamburrino told the board that the surveys for hydrologic studies at the bridge sites have been done, and that core samples will be taken next week. Highway supervisor Bradley Rafus will be asked to clear obstructions to the sites to allow the core sampling to take place.
Taking up the subject of hazard mitigation grants, LaFlamme reported that Christina Moore, project manager for the flood recovery efforts, will not be able to take on writing those grants. Edwards noted that hiring someone else to do it would not be a reimbursable expense.
Mitchell Green observed that some towns have a full-time person preparing their grant applications; he sees no way, he said, that the town can compete. Tamburrino said that professional grant writers charge as much as $100 an hour. All agreed that Halifax cannot afford that level of expense. Cara Cheyette said that if the board decides to look for lower-priced help in preparing grants, she would be interested in taking the job on.
Cheyette, a member of the planning commission, spoke to the board about a document she has prepared for the commission summarizing the provisions and consequences of the proposed flood zone regulations and explaining the commission’s reasons for proposing them. The commission had originally hoped to include the document in the town report, Cheyette said, but that may not be legally acceptable. Cheyette is in the process of confirming that with the secretary of state.
The board agreed that the appropriate venue for the document is the informational meeting held one week before Town Meeting. Sumner pointed out that it is now permissible to discuss some ballot matters at Town Meeting itself.
In other business, Tamburrino told the board that Rafus wants to get quotes for asphalt repaving of flood-damaged roads. Tamburrino voiced the hope that a better price might be obtained by locking in a bid six to eight months in advance.
“They won’t do that,” declared Sumner.
LaFlamme confirmed that asphalt prices follow the price of crude oil and are thus too volatile to allow for advance pricing. Edwards brought up the possibility of including regular maintenance paving in the bid. Tamburrino agreed that it could be included, with the charges kept separate. The board voted to have Tamburrino send out requests
The board also voted to approve renewal of the liquor license for Avigliano Catering at Honora Winery.