HALIFAX- Whitingham selectboard members Gregory Brown, Keith Bronson, and Allan Twitchell attended Tuesday’s meeting to ask the selectboard why Halifax has appealed Whitingham’s decision to discontinue a portion of Aldrich Road.
Halifax Selectboard chair John LaFlamme said he would not comment publicly on the specifics of a matter under appeal and asked the gentlemen from Whitingham if they wished to hold a discussion in executive session. Brown said they would prefer to discuss the matter in public session, understanding that the Halifax board would not respond to some specific points.
“For all the years we’ve been neighbors - I guess it’s been hundreds now - we’ve had very good rapport,” Brown began. “It’s kind of disturbing that all that’s gone now.” Brown said he felt it was “unneighborly to have all of a sudden a knock on the door, ‘Here’s your papers.’”
Brown cited the discontinuance of Jenne Road by the town of Marlboro as a case which had drawn a very different response from Halifax. In that instance, Brown said, the Halifax board had “supported another board doing business within their own borders.” Citing a long history of mutual aid and cooperation, Brown wondered why the Whitingham board was not given the same consideration extended to Marlboro. The two boards, he said, could have sat down and come to agreement on the matter.
Referring to LaFlamme’s remark at a Whitingham meeting on the closure that he hadn’t known “what a headache this is for you,” Brown quipped that what had been “a dull, nagging headache” became “a migraine” after Halifax’s appeal to the state.
“We had a win/win situation set up,” Bronson interjected. “I don’t understand your position.”
“This situation is different (from the Jenne Road case),” said board member Lewis Sumner.
The discussion indicated that Whitingham chose to discontinue the portion of Aldrich Road extending from McMillan Road to the Kuhn’s property line in an effort to accommodate all three of the property owners involved. Kuhn’s property lies in both towns; the other two properties lie within Whitingham. Brown noted that Whitingham’s action has not interfered with Kuhn’s project of subdividing and selling off portions of her property. Twitchell pointed out that leaving the section of Aldrich between the Kuhn line and McMillan would “destroy” the other properties, making it impossible to build on at least one of them.
Further, Brown said, the Whitingham section of Aldrich Road has been unused for so long that the last town record citing it as a road is dated 1904. Whitingham was unaware that it still existed, as were the two property owners who had bought their lots after properly conducted title searches.
Steadfastly refusing to detail Halifax’s reasons for appealing the decision to appeal, LaFlamme assured the Whitingham board that it was not a question of taking Kuhn’s side, and Sumner repeated his statement that extending the discontinuance to the Halifax line would satisfy his objections.
Kuhn originally came before the Halifax board in November 2009 to ask for support. One of her arguments at that time was that, if the only access to the parcels she was creating was from Halifax, then Halifax would bear the burden of providing service to properties taxed by Whitingham.
Brown said that Whitingham would consider discontinuing the road to the town line, as Sumner seemed to suggest. “Whatever is decided,” said Sumner, “I’ll feel the same toward people in Whitingham, just as neighborly. I hope you will too.”
“We’ll try to follow principles over personalities, too,” Brown replied.
In other business, the board voted to sign a five-year lease/purchase agreement for the new loader rather than a seven-year lease. The shorter term allows the town to retire the debt sooner, for a lower total cost.
The board also scheduled a “work session” with the treasurer and the selectboard bookkeeper to discuss “current budget issues.”
“We need to know what’s left in capital funds, what was spent, what’s left for gravel, blacktopping, and other items,” said LaFlamme, adding that a gravel payment is due in July. The meeting will be held at 10 am on June 19. It will not be posted, said LaFlamme, as it is “just a work session ... not an open meeting.”
The board opened bids on paving from Lane Construction and from Warner Bros. A decision on how much. or whether, to pave will be made at the next regular meeting.
Earl Holtz observed that the town is not doing much with its official website. “I strongly urge that we form a working committee,” Holtz said, to find ways to make the site easier to use and to increase its use by the town. Holtz noted that people from outside the town have been making inquiries through the website. Currently, board secretary Phyllis Evanuk must put all materials to be uploaded onto her laptop and then bring it to the town office to upload the items onto the site.
LaFlamme said the site “must be used with caution, or it will crash.” Holtz said if it did crash, it can be brought up again. “I’d rather not chance blowing it up by going too fast,” said LaFlamme. “Trust me, we don’t have to worry about that,” Holtz replied.
Edwards told the board that the broadband committee will be sending petitions for service signed by citizens to the Vermont president of FairPoint and to the president of the parent corporation.
The board then retired to executive session. After that session, members decided to draft a letter to Kristine Boyko asking her to amend a situation on her property. Board members had conducted a site visit in late May. At that time, they confirmed that a berm, constructed as part of efforts to ameliorate the effects of the collapse of the old landfill during the spring 2007 flood, has been excavated by Greg Marguet.
Marguet had complained about the berm at the July 3, 2007 meeting, saying that it blocked run-off from a culvert. At that time, then-board-chair Mitchell Green told Marguet, “The state required us to do it ... to keep water from running down into the brook.” Marguet insisted that “garbage” was blocking the ditch. Green said he understood that “new fill” had been used. Green and Sumner were clear in stating that the state required three feet of material on top of the old ditch. As LaFlamme now explains, the berm creates a “sediment pond,” which helps to keep contaminants from entering Branch Brook.