Moore told board members that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has stricter standards for bridges than does the Agency of Transportation. In order to get a permit to build replacements for the storm-destroyed bridges, the town must meet the ANR standards. FEMA reimbursement, however, is pegged to AOT standards.
As Moore explained in a written report, the two bridge projects “share a common issue in that VT ANR is requiring a longer bridge than was previously at these sites. FEMA will fund a replacement bridge built to codes and standards.” Those standards, Moore continues, “were drafted by VT AOT and seem to have ignored the requirements of VT ANR. Therefore FEMA is stating that because ANR permitting standards are not noted in the ‘codes and standards,’ then FEMA isn’t required to build bridges to that higher specification.” The state, Moore said, is appealing the FEMA decision, but the appeal may take months, and there is no guarantee the state will win.
The town cannot build the bridges without the ANR permit, so Halifax taxpayers may well have to shoulder the extra costs. For the Deer Park Road Bridge, this means building a 56’ concrete deck bridge in place of the old 49’ wooden deck bridge. The Hale Road bridge, Moore noted, was always too small. Replacing it with an identical span is not only legally impossible, it would make no sense. Nevertheless, that is all FEMA is willing to fund.
Moore suggested that the town, when it signs on to state codes and standards, can add a sentence requiring that “permit standards for all applicable state and federal agencies” must be met. In more technical language, the sentence might read, “Q.50 or minimum of ANR guidance, whichever is greater.” This will not help with the current situation, but could provide protection for the town in the future, even if the state does not resolve the conflict in its agencies’ standards.
Board member Edee Edwards called Moore’s suggestion a “great idea,” but noted that it would obligate the town to follow stricter standards on all future projects. The board will take some time to consider the idea.
On a more positive note, Moore reported that the dispute between the town and state as to the legal status of Weir Road has been “settled in our favor.” Costs for the Weir Road bridge will be reimbursed.
In view of the masses of paperwork that still lie ahead, the board voted to extend Moore’s tenure as project manager for another six months, praising her for her work.
In another item on a full agenda, the board voted to set the rate for this year’s taxes. The homestead rate will be $1.9624, and the nonresident rate will be $1.9944. “You’ll all be hearing from me shortly,” quipped treasurer Patricia Dow.
Bids for gravel and fabric were opened and contracts awarded to the low bidders, Ferguson Waterworks (fabric) and Colrain Sand and Gravel (gravel).
Paul Favreau, who has replaced Kraig LaPorte as commander of the Brattleboro state police barracks, told the board that he has assigned acting Sgt. Travis Belcourt to oversee the agency’s operations in Halifax. Favreau said that an improved manpower situation may allow services additional to the annual $6,000 contract for patrols.
Joan Courser told Favreau that there is a lot of speeding through the village early in the morning and after 6 pm, an observation confirmed by constable Len Derby. Favreau thanked them for the specific information and promised coverage.
Favreau also said he would assign some coverage for an upcoming bike tour. The tour is an annual event; in the past bikers have been known to block traffic, even emergency vehicles.
Moore, who is chief of the Halifax Emergency Service, told Favreau of an occasion when EMS workers had difficulty reaching an injured biker because the rest would not give way.
The board scheduled a special meeting for August 13, at 11 am to deal with several items. They will meet with Holden Engineering in regard to the Old County North bridge; they will open bids for removal and disposal of river debris; and they will meet with the road crew to discuss the ongoing effort to rationalize the work schedule while bringing crew wages up to parity with area towns.
Collector of delinquent taxes Laura Sumner told the board that she has scheduled a tax sale on Friday, August 10, at 3 pm. If the sale takes place, Craig Stone has been appointed to act for the town.
Joan Courser asked for help with a necessary roof repair for the Community Hall.
The Community Club is down to only four working members, Courser said, and has given up holding fundraising events that have failed to raise any money. In the past, some maintenance funds have been voted at Town Meeting, but the current leaks are severe and cannot wait. The matter will be discussed again at the next meeting.