Town of Brookfield 2021 Annual Meeting (Approved as amended)
The legal voters of the Town of Brookfield met for the annual Town Meeting, behind the Brookfield Elementary School at 1725 Ridge Road, Saturday, May 22, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. to transact the following business:
Call to Order at 10:15 a.m.
Moderator, Gregory Wight, opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Article 1: To elect all officers as required by law for the ensuing year by Australian ballot. For this purpose, the polls will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Article 2: To hear and act on reports of the Town Officers.
John Benson, Selectboard Chair, spoke in remembrance of 2 Brookfield residents who passed in the last year and were a large part of the community. Sam Dilcer was a Town Auditor for several years and worked diligently to have the Town Report completed for Town Meeting. Ray Peck, born and raised in Brookfield, was the Road Foreman for a number of years.
J. Benson welcomed the new Road Foreman, Tim Higgins. He thanked Rob Wheatley for stepping into the interim Road Foreman position until a new replacement was hired. He recognized Bonnie Fallon for her work as the “Green-Up Lady”, and acknowledged her stepping down. The Conservation Commission has stepped up as the point of contact for Green-up Day. Dan Childs and Stuart Edson were also thanked for their work in helping to get fast speed internet, ECFiber, into Brookfield.
J. Benson continued to thank all the Town Officials for keeping the Town running and Kasey Peterson, Administration Assistant, keeping people informed and setting up Zoom for Selectboard meetings during the pandemic. He acknowledged the great job the Road Crew is doing and that they completed major work on East Hill. The Town is having a town-wide reappraisal done. The Selectboard is working on setting the weight limits on the roads, and posting them. The only agency who enforces the weight limits is the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Dennis LaRocque discussed the progress on the upgrading/rebuilding of the Town Garage. The Committee was able to meet a few times to identify the garage concerns. They found a 4 ½ bay would be the best fit. This would be 4 bays with ½ for an office and conference room. If the Fire Department is included, it would be another 2 ½ bays. They know the Town is not ready to move forward and is looking into more options. He said if anyone is interested in joining the committee, to please contact the Selectboard.
Jeff Kimmel said the delay in the Town Reports were due to illness and the electronic version became available about a week before Town Meeting and the printed version became available Thursday. He plans on sending the remaining copies by mail next week. The Selectboard is looking at improving the process. The Town Report isn’t normally a Selectboard function, but a function of the town auditors. Since S. Dilcer stepped down a few years ago, the Selectboard had to step up. If there is anyone with publishing skills, they would like him/her to step forward to help. An option is to hire someone to create the Town Report. One way to pay for it is to amend the line item in the Town Report adding money to the budget.
Lew Stowell discussed the current situation with the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and said the Selectboard should appoint a committee to continue to monitor the EAB situation. He recommended the Town Forester should be the ad hoc point of contact. Kate Forrer, current Town Forester, stated Jon Jickling is on the ballot to replace her and wanted to confirm that everyone knew about EAB. Currently there is no sign of them in Brookfield but they are showing up in 10 Vermont counties. J. Jickling, a member of the Conservation Commission, stated they are spread by the transport of firewood. They plan on having a monitoring system by setting up 16 traps strategically around town. It is a slow-moving infestation. J. Benson said if you are interested in being a part of the ad hoc committee to contact J. Jickling.
Chris LaMonda, Barre Town EMS, stopped by to say hi and that is was nice to see everyone outside. Some of the issues the EMS faced this year included the ambulance transporting service and the adjustment to income. They have been helping with the Covid-19 testing and vaccines. He stated that they are having a clinic today and Sunday for the vaccines. They had 200 shots available each day. He encouraged anyone with questions to stop by the Barre Town EMS office or call them.
Phyllis Humez, Lister, spoke about reappraisal and their progress. She supports Sean Boyce, Vermont Appraisal Company, in scheduling site visits. It is a 2-year process that started in October. He has visited 350 properties and is focusing on structures. He currently has a few left on the east side of town. He should finish in that area by the end of summer. She sends a letter out to property owners 2 weeks in advance. Please contact her if you have a time restriction or any other concerns.
Tina O’Donnell requested the candidates on the ballot, who were present, be identified for voters’ purposes.
Article 3: To see if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to borrow money in anticipation of revenues.
Motion by Erik Nielsen, seconded by Ray Mayer.
J. Benson said this is a safe-guard that was needed before changing tax collection to twice yearly, and adjusting to a fiscal year date. This is kept as an article in case we have an emergency and it allows us to request money if needed.
Call to vote. Motion carried.
Article 4: To see if the Town will vote to have all taxes paid into the Treasury as provided by law in two installments, and if so, to set the dates.
Motion by Mike Stoddard, seconded by Dave Sanville that the first payment of 2021/2022 property taxes be due November 6th, 2021; the second payment due May 7th, 2022.
Discussion included sending out a tax bill for each installment, 2 copies, and emailing copies. No decision was made to change the current method of mailing tax bills.
Call to vote. Motion carried.
Article 5: To approve a 12-month budget for the financial year of July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 to meet the expenses and liabilities of the Town General Fund and to authorize the Selectboard to set a tax rate sufficient to provide the same.
Motion by Rachel Rose, seconded by M. Stoddard.
Aaron Adler questioned the several large balances in the budget. J. Benson confirmed there was money from the State being used for the current town-wide reappraisal with no increase in taxes. There was money received from a FEMA grant for a West Street road reconstruction that is set aside. The Town covers the initial cost, and grants go back into the budget as revenue. We started the equipment fund which we tapped into for the grader.
Teresa Godfrey, Treasurer, stated any balances left at the end of the fiscal year for the general and highway funds are credited towards taxes in the following year. Last year the credit was $95,000.
Charlie Keeler made the motion to amend the budget by $2000 for the Town Report to be contracted out and D. Childs seconded.
Called to vote on amendment. Motion carried.
After no more discussion, original article with amendment was voted on. Motion carried.
Article 6: To see if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to purchase a new Town dump truck, the cost not to exceed $198,000, and to be financed over a three-year period of 2021-2024.
J. Benson said he needed to amend the amount needed by $2500 due to pricing increase from vendors since the quote in December. The Town owns 3 dump trucks and trades one every three years (so the truck is 9 years old at trade-in). This maintains the reliability of the fleet. The new amount needed would then become $200,500.
Motion by Holly Dustin, seconded by Linda Runnion, to amend the amount by $2500.
R. Rose asked if the equipment fund could be used but J. Benson said that fund is usually used when other issues come into play. They have 3 quotes and they vary slightly. The quote includes finance fees and all the truck needs to be ready to run, i.e., plow and salt spreader hook-ups and radio installation.
Motion by Kelly Smith, seconded by R. Rose to amend that $2500 be taken from the equipment fund.
Called the question. Motion failed.
Called to vote as amended, adding $2500 to purchase price. Motion carried.
When asked about a 10-wheeler, J. Benson said it is a straight dump truck, trading in the 6-wheeler, for $205,000. To delay a year would push the schedule out, causing a ripple effect. The cost could increase in the year.
Called the question. Motion carried.
Article 7: To approve a 12-month budget for the financial year of July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 to meet the expenses and liabilities of the Town Highway Fund and to authorize the Selectboard to set a tax rate sufficient to provide the same.
Motion by M.Stoddard, seconded by Marylou Maeder.
The cost of the new truck is already included in the budget. It is not an addition to the budget.
Jack Zebora asked about Eagle Peak Road needing to be wider and J. Benson explained the cost of rebuilding sections of road, Mother Nature, and planning which roads need most attention. We have a three person road crew with one part-time person to fill in when there is illness or vacation time taken. Northfield paved all their roads, and maintaining them is more costly than dirt roads. The Road Crew tries to repair a couple of “mud bog” areas in the roads a year unless we are hit by a major storm.
Dennis Boggs asked if there is a 5 year plan identifying these spots.
J. Benson said the Road Crew knows which spots need more attention, and they let the Board know.
Called the question. Motion carried.
Article 8 A: To see if the Town of Brookfield will vote to have 5 members on the Selectboard by floor vote at Town Meeting on May 22, 2021 (17 V.S.A. 2650(b)(1)).
Patty Kennedy stated this question was proposed last year, and that more members could spread the workload.
A. Adler, retired lawyer, looked up the Statute and found a technical concern. The warning is supposed to state the term as one, or two years.
J. Benson said no one in the group supporting 5 members came and talked to them or the Admin. Asst. about what the Board objectives are. One statement in the flier states that two could work outside the Board, which is technically correct but Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) doesn’t feel that is good practice. It should be in an open forum. As far as the possibility of too many unanimous votes isn’t a bad tribute. The philosophy is that an item comes to the Board, they discuss it, and for the good of the Community show cohesiveness. They take a kitchen table approach.
Amy Ingrassia questioned their communication skills. As a Representative for the White River Valley Ambulance (WRVA), she has asked the Board several times for the written agreement between the Board and WRVA but never received it. There was an issue on Eagle Peak Road that took four years to fix it.
D. Boggs felt some ideas were often dismissed, and that there is a lack of openness. More members means more diversity and a wider group of people to pull from. The trend in Vermont is to go to 5-member boards. Brookfield and Tunbridge, in the local area, are 3-member, but Randolph, Chelsea, and Braintree all have 5 members. A quorum is 2 with a 3 member Board and 3 with a 5 member Board. More minds solve more problems.
Call the vote. Motion carried.
A request was made to “divide the house”. The ayes stood; Perry Kacik and A. Ingrassia counted and compared the count. 68 ayes. The nays stood, were also counted, and the counts compared. 27 nays.
B: If the above passed, per Brookfield Town Meeting standards, set the date of a Special Election by Australian ballot, not less than 60 days from this vote for adding 2 new Selectboard Members. Anyone interested in being elected will need to submit a “Candidate Consent” form to the Town Clerk 30 days from the date of this vote (17 V.S.A. 2650(b)(2)(A)). Special Election date will be determined by the actual Town Meeting 2021 adjusted date.
Motion by Alishia Drury, seconded by Jon Binhammer.
It was stated that there needs to be clarification of 1 or 2-year terms. The method of voting will be the same, as absentee or in person.
T. O’Donnell would like the results of this current election posted on Front Porch Forum and have those running for office put something on FPF so we know for whom we are voting.
Motion by D. Boggs, seconded by William White, to amend the motion to be for 2-year terms.
The stipulation is to be confirmed with the Secretary of State’s office and VLCT for the proper method of voting.
Motion by K. Smith, seconded by A. Drury, to have the vote on Saturday, July 24th, with the Consent of Candidate forms due to the Town Clerk by June 21st.
C: To see if the voters of Brookfield will increase the budget by $1,200 for the 2 additional Selectboard Member stipend, if section A of this article is approved.
Motion by Linda Garrett, seconded by R. Mayer.
With no discussion, motion carried.
Senator Mark McDonald stopped by to share in the gathering, and appreciated the fact that we were not all in Hollywood Squares TV screens.
Article 9: To transact any other proper business.
S. Edson wanted to comment that as an elected official, a Lister, he has dealt with ire of unhappy citizens and he voted to go to 5 members, but wanted to give the Selectboard a thank you for all the work they do.
A. Drury said that while visiting the Floating Bridge, her family realized that the 5-sided bench in the park is in need of repairs. If someone would find the wood, they would be willing to do the repairs and paint. (Notation by recorder: Al Wilker, original builder of the bench, presented A. Drury with some money as a contribution to help purchase wood.)
Amy Borgman, Library Trustee with a lot of other wonderful members, wanted to let everyone know about the 2 little Libraries in Town. One is across from the Old Town Hall and the other is in West Brookfield.
Starr Strong, a member of the Conservation Commission, said they have taken up B. Fallon’s position for Green-up Day, and hopes support and enthusiasm for Green-up Day will continue. The members are planning on sorting returnable and recyclables differently in the future.
Tim Schroeder commented that the East Hill, Farnsworth Lane, and Woods Road signs are all missing. By messing up the bolts, the culprits wrap a chain around the signs and pull the post out. The Public Safety Advisory Committee did a complete inventory a few years ago, more signs have been ordered.
J. Benson thanked the school for the use of the tent.
Motion by R. Mayer, seconded by Vance Smith, the meeting adjourned at 12:49 p.m.
Respectfully submitted: Teresa Godfrey, Town Clerk