Difficulties in achieving a regular quorum and a dearth of residents interested in serving on the boards are the reason for the downsizing. The selectboard also voted to reduce the term of planning appointments to three years and made some adjustments to resynchronize some members’ terms. The term discrepancies arose when the selectboard decided a few years ago to end a policy of having the membership of the planning and zoning boards differ by one member.
The final quarterly report for FY13 was discussed briefly. The highway budget was overspent, as expected. The main factors contributing to the overspending were the need to replace gravel supplies wiped out by Irene and the unexpected need to buy two trucks rather than the one planned for. Board members will review the report and discuss it further at their next regular meeting.
Selectboard chair Edee Edwards spoke briefly and generally about “press coverage concerns,” noting that some local news organizations, rather than sending a reporter to cover the town’s governmental meetings, obtain copies of meeting minutes. They may or may not follow up on items found in the minutes. Edwards said the approach has led to what she called “anomalies,” mistaken statements that have been reported to the selectboard by concerned residents. Edwards urged people to read the minutes posted on the town website in addition to newspaper coverage.
Christina Moore of Storm Petrel, told the board that she is working on closing out the last of the town’s Irene recovery projects. “Halifax is the first town to go through the process,” Moore said, “and I don’t know that they know how they’re going to handle it.” The goal is to have all reimbursements in hand in time to pay off the town’s short-term loan in November. Selectman Lewis Sumner noted that there are still bills to come. The board will press for timely submission of those bills.
Moore than spoke about “arbitrary decisions” made by FEMA on whether to pay for bridge improvements that were required by state standards. A court decision, Moore said, had classed the extra length required for the bridges as “mitigation” for which towns should be reimbursed. “Then,” Moore said, “FEMA decided to split a very fine hair with a scalpel I can’t even see,” and denied funding for the extra length required on the Deer Park Road bridge. The town will appeal that denial.
There was some discussion of a Storm Petrel invoice. Edwards expressed her concern that the total was higher than expected. Moore replied that the extra cost reflects business risks she is taking as she “campaigns to get the last dollars” for the town. The town is also carrying some risk, Edwards observed. Treasurer Patricia Dow told the board that she and Moore have discussed setting up an escrow account that will allow a percentage of Storm Petrel’s fee to be withheld until completion of the work. Board members Sumner and Earl Holtz said they are not concerned about the invoice, and the board voted to accept Moore’s fixed bid for the work.
The board has notified Holden Engineering that it wants the Old County North Road bridge redesigned to a lower weight limit that will still be adequate for fuel and fire trucks. A hydraulic study of the site also needs to be done. The board voted to send a corrected purchase order to Holden, in the amount of $34,540.
In other business, the board voted to approve a permit for conduit location for Sovernet. Because one property owner has refused access, Sovernet must run about 930 feet of its fiber-optic line underground.