Board grapples with plow truck loss
by Margo Avakian
Jan 10, 2013 | 2463 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Halifax- The selectboard held its first meeting of the New Year before a packed house of residents eager to discuss both the possible relocation of the town’s emergency operations center and a fire that destroyed one of the town’s plow trucks.

The truck caught fire when a hydraulic line ruptured as the driver was working on Jacksonville Stage Road. Highway supervisor Bradley Rafus reported that the truck is a total loss. “We met with the adjuster this afternoon,” Rafus said. “We have no numbers yet on reimbursement.” Rafus told board members that he has located two possible replacement trucks, both new and both “set up with the type of equipment we use.” One dealer has offered to lend - not rent - a truck to the town to fill the gap. That truck is “lighter than what we would normally buy,” Rafus said, but the offer could be a lifesaver while the town waits for the new truck. Buying a new truck now will wreak havoc on the board’s equipment replacement schedule, and will necessitate yet another budget meeting.

Greg Marguet asked whether it is possible to have a private citizen do part of the plowing work for the rest of the winter. Rafus said yes, it could be done, but since “we need to replace the truck anyway, why pay extra” to hire someone else to do the work.

After learning that a passenger was in the truck with the crew member, the board instituted a policy forbidding passengers without board permission. Board member Earl Holtz said that the crew has been made aware of the new policy, but that it has not yet been put in writing, as the board wants to make sure it hits all the right legal notes. Holtz said that the Vermont League of Cities and Towns does not have a template available, but co-EMD Justin Berry told him that Wilmington has such a policy.

Holtz went on to say that the road crew has asked whether a “good Samaritan” exception will be part of the policy if, for example, a driver encounters someone “stuck by the side of the road at 1 am in below-zero weather.” For the time being it will not, but the board will consider ways to deal properly with that sort of emergency. John LaFlamme suggested that the driver could, in that situation, “reach dispatch with his radio.” Holtz replied that “the radio didn’t work in the hollow where the fire took place.” Berry said that mobile repeaters can be placed in the trucks to improve radio transmission. Berry will look into the cost of repeaters and get back to the board.

Vice chair Edee Edwards told the assembled townspeople that the board had just learned that another town truck had struck the car of an EMS member who was responding to the truck fire. Board members were unhappy that they were not told right away about the passenger or the damage to a private vehicle. “It would be better,” Holtz said, with visible restraint, “to get all the information on an incident at once.”

The board also began formally discussing the desirability of moving the emergency operations center from the firehouse to the town offices. Board chair Lewis Sumner said he doesn’t think the office has sufficient room for the extra files and equipment.

Holtz mentioned that the Irene post-mortem committee recommended making the EOC mobile to “move it to the most viable place” in any given emergency. Wayne Courser noted that a new radio and antenna were recently installed at the firehouse.

Linda Lyon asked whether a systematic evaluation has been done of exactly what features, equipment, etc. are needed. Not yet, said Edwards, but the board does intend to develop as complete a plan as possible. Edwards made it clear that she wants a permanent relocation “because of flood considerations, and said that she considers the town office more than adequate in regard to heating, ventilation, useable space, and a lower noise level. “It’s much more suitable” for extended use, Edwards concluded. Courser said that recently acquired earphones would mean less noise from the radio, but Edwards pointed out that noise from the air compressor made it difficult to hear what was being said.

Margaret Bartenhagen agreed that an alternate site must be available; she also agreed with Lyon that “the missing piece is, what are you looking for?” Edwards said she would like to explore the possibility of a “virtual EOC” in case not everyone could reach the physical operations center.

LaFlamme suggested that there is no need for the selectboard and emergency personnel to work out of the same location, as they serve different functions. The EOC, he said, is concerned with preserving public safety and private property, while the selectboard is in charge of directing the road crew, purchases, and public information. Edwards noted that the dangers and damage from Irene were almost entirely road-related, so that the separation of functions cited by LaFlamme might be more theoretical than actual.

The board charged co-EMDs Sumner and Berry with developing an assessment of needs and possibilities, to be presented at February’s first selectboard meeting. Several people offered to assist Berry and Sumner, and Nicholas Bartenhagen requested periodic reports on the progress of the planning.

In other business, the board officially awarded the Hale Road bridge contract to Renaud Brothers. Edwards announced that the town has received FEMA approval for building the bridge as an “improved project,” but under terms that will raise the town’s share of the costs from about $2,000 to over $11,000.

Project manager Christina Moore advised appealing the extra cost, noting that the town’s appeal would eventually be folded into the state’s appeal process.

The board voted to follow Moore’s advice.

The board than voted to accept SVE’s bid for the Hale Road bridge oversight contract.
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