TOWN OF BROOKFIELD 2022 ANNUAL MEETING Draft Minutes
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 21, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. to transact the following business:
Call to Order at 10:05 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.
Lew Stowell, Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) Chair, recognized the current members, Mike Stoddard, Dan Mason, Stuart Edson, and Mike Rutkovsky. PSAC meets on issues concerning the Town and recommends to the Selectboard a course of action. They invite guests i.e. Law Enforcement. Recent issues included traffic through the Village, needles at Hippo Park, walking on roads.
Amy Borgman asked how concerning is the needle situation at Hippo Park. L. Stowell stated they are not sure when the needles appeared, whether it was during the winter or recently. Starr Strong attended the meeting as Health Officer and they are waiting to see if it continues.
John Benson, Selectboard Chair, spoke about having Town Meeting outside in May again. It has been a challenging year with COVID and with the increase to a 5 member board they welcomed Kate Threlkeld and Brenda Flint last July. With Brenda’s life taken too early, Betty Lord stepped in. J. Benson recognized Kasey Peterson moving on and D. Vicki Blanchard stepping in. David Flint moved on after being on the road crew for around 20 years. The Selectboard hired a replacement for a short time but the road crew is back down to 2. Rob Wheatley has pitched in to help. They have advertised but there have been no responses but it is the same in surrounding Towns. If anyone knows anyone that is interested, let us know. Kate Threlkeld has decided not to run again and we are going to miss her. Jeff Kimmel is also not running after 19+ years on the Board. S. Strong, Green-Up Day Coordinator, wasn’t available to report so J. Benson reported that Green-Up Day was successful with 115 green-up bags turned in and 40 cars came through to deposit trash so there were about 100 people participating through-out the day. There were 620 cans recycled for $31 that was contributed to the Conservation Commission. There were only 13 tires picked up.
Charlie Keeler asked what the timeline is for reappraisal completion.
Phyllis Humez, Lister, stated the Lister’s have applied for a 60 day extension through the State because of everything like mud-season and COVID. The notices should go out by July and we just went through office computer issues.
Dennis Boggs asked if we expected taxes to go down and if there was any concern with taxes and the million found from the audit.
No other reports were presented.
Representative P. Jay Hooper spoke about this being his 3rd term and being on the House Education Committee. Rep. Hooper spoke about the Clean Heat Standard not passing with a veto override but feels that they can make a cleaner & stronger bill for the next session. The Education Committee had 3 strong victories with universal school meals for breakfast and lunch; there is a $100 million surplus and they are updating the per pupil spending and considering income based education funding.
Kathleen Newbrough asked if there are still incentives for buying “green” cars and is there a replenishment of the funds. Rep. Hooper said yes. There will be gathering at the Old Town Hall on June 16th at 7:00 p.m. for a Legislative update for those who would like to attend. Rep. Larry Satcowitz introduced himself.
Article 3: To see if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to borrow money in anticipation of revenues.
Motion by Linda Runnion, seconded by C. Keeler.
J. Benson stated that in the last 5-6 years we have not needed to borrow money since collecting taxes twice a year. This is put in as a precaution, in case it is 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 Ted Elzey, seconded by L. Runnion.
Call to vote. Motion carried.
On motion by Perry Kacik seconded by Kym Anderson, the Voters voted to have the first installment for 2022/2023 due Nov. 5, 2022 and second installment due May 6, 2023. Motion carried.
Article 5: To see if the Town will authorize the contribution of $100.00 to support the Child Advocacy Center for Orange County.
Motion by K. Anderson, seconded by Betsy Hale.
L. Runnion asked if there was anyone from Child Advocacy Center in the audience to speak about what they do.
K. Anderson said she isn’t from there but works with them and can comment. The Center works with and helps kids with issues such as trauma or abuse. There has been an escalation in the number of kids with trauma. It is based in Tunbridge and covers all of Orange County and she hoped the voters would support it for such a small amount.
Call to vote. Motion carried.
Article 6: To approve a 12-month budget for the financial year of July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 to meet the expenses and liabilities of the Town General Fund and authorize the Selectboard to set a tax rate sufficient to provide the same.
Motion by L. Runnion, seconded by B. Hale.
Call for discussion and there was none.
Call to vote. Motion carried.
Article 7: To approve a 12-month budget for the financial year of July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 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 A. Borgman, seconded by Joy Kacik.
Susan Shea asked about the budget for bridges, located on page 21 of the Town Report, if there was a plan for ones to be replaced.
J. Benson stated there wasn’t a plan to replace bridges but inspections had been done by the State requested by Tim Higgins, Road Foreman. There are concerns with 4 smaller bridges; Parker Road, Lower Maloney, Witts Bridge, and Eagle Peak. S. Shea asked if West Brookfield residents could give input and be updated concerning the Eagle Peak Road Bridge. She would like to have it maintain the current character for the neighborhood.
Bonnie Fallon stated the road sign on Lamson Pond Road was stolen and needs to be replaced.
J. Benson replied that every year a number of signs are taken and the road crew has tried several different things to prevent this. PSAC did a complete inventory and listed missing yield, stop, and street signs. The State requirements include the size of the signs along with the sign post needs to break off if it is hit.
Beth Flint questioned why the increase in Highway wages went up only $3,000 last year but increased $25,000 this year.
J. Benson explained the wages are going up and several other Towns are also looking for road crews. We have to be competitive for hiring. The last 4 candidates they interviewed were asking for more than the current crew is making per hour.
After no more discussion, there was a call to vote. Motion carried.
Article 8: To see if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to expend excess revenues from the July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 financial year in the following manner: Purchase and installation of radio repeaters for the Town Highway and Fire Department at the Brookfield Elementary School, approx. 10%; Fracking of the well at the Town Office and installation of a well at the Town Garage, approx. 16%; Brookfield’s portion of the upgrade to the Dispatch Center radio equipment, approx. 8%; cold Climate Heat Pump System for Town Office & Library, approx. 6%; Roadway improvements, approx. 20 %; First phase of Road Side Swale stabilization work as required under the State General Permit, approx. 20%; Reduction in revenues to be raised by taxes in 2022-2023 financial year, 20%; for a total of $250,000.
Motion by L. Runnion, seconded by Marylou Maeder.
J. Kacik asked for an explanation of each of the above recommendations.
J. Benson said that when they were getting the budget together in December, the Auditor said there was $250,000 unencumbered funds from the previous year. The Selectboard discussed how it would be best spent.
- The radio repeaters help with truck to truck and fire truck to dispatch communications. Currently there are a number of dead spots and if the Town is plowing and a truck gets stuck, it might take a while to get help. The system picks up from 1 truck to the repeater to the 2nd truck. It magnifies the signal.
- About 4-5 years ago the well at the office was not doing very well and because the office doesn’t get used as a normal household, it was able to recover between the dry spells. It was recommended that we have hydrofracking done to “open” the veins of water. The Town Garage water is not potable so they use bottled water. We should have potable water at the garage.
- The Dispatch Center radio equipment is jointly owned with Randolph. The equipment is getting old and has been repaired but replacement is needed. 1/4 of the cost would be covered by Brookfield.
- The installation of a heat pump is due to the price of fuel going up and we want to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas. An option is heat pump split using oil during the middle of winter. We could also use AC if needed.
- Additional money into highway improvements would be used on Eagle Peak for this year.
- The State passed a law a number of years ago concerning run-off erosion on the side of roads. Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC) identified roads needing swale and it will take a number of years to complete.
- Put some towards the tax burden for this coming year.
The reason the numbers are in percent is because we couldn’t get a firm cost until we are ready to sign.
J. Kacik asked, with the issue with the radios, is there a system that would address the dead spots.
J. Benson said an analysis of radio coverage would most likely be more than needed. They would have to approach land owners and install a tower with a small building to house equipment. Currently they send someone from the site to where they have signal to pass information to dispatch and back.
Aaron Adler, in the case of the cold climate heat pump, asked if we were looking at “green star” heat pumps and if Efficiency VT or Green Mountain Power had incentives.
J. Benson said yes but we need approval first then we can have one installed. We would contact Efficiency VT to see if there was anything available.
Ginny Brees asked about the tax portion of the money being set aside.
Teresa Godfrey, Treasurer, answered that with the balance left from 2020-2021 was in excess of $378,000 and we credited $128,000 towards the 2021-2022 tax year but didn’t want to apply it all unless the voters wanted us to. It affects escrow accounts. The 20% was not part of the $128,000 already credited towards taxes.
D. Boggs asked if there was money set aside for working on the Town website.
J. Benson said the Board discussed at the last meeting to make it more user friendly and planned to talk to the provider so if anyone has input to let the Board know. They would like to have folders for different parts of Town committees.
D. Boggs questioned if it is part of this funding.
J. Benson said it would be out of the ARPA funds.
D. Boggs stated it really needs to be a tool to outbound information to let everyone know what is going on similarly to Front Porch Forum. We could use 1% of the $250,000.
A. Borgman agreed communication needs improvement and in using ARPA money.
Chris White suggested using “Mailchimp” and that it is free to create an account and everyone could sign up for it.
G. Wight said we can’t discuss more without an amendment.
L. Runnion called the question, 2nd by M. Maeder.
G. Wight re-read the article.
Call to vote. Motion carried.
Article 9: To transact any other proper business.
Dan Mason, State Environmental Officer, wanted to let the residents know that the State has ARPA money available for owner occupied homes that have a failed water/wastewater system. It is based on different income brackets. Most of the money this year has been allocated though. He gave his work email for anyone who might need assistance. Dan.firstname.lastname@example.org.
T. Elzey raised the concern that the “stump dump” is no longer available for residents to bring yard debris.
J. Benson said the road crew approached the Selectboard a while ago with concern of lack of space and recommended a gate be put up.
T. Elzey said the mowing at Hippo Park left tree brush that needs to be cleaned up and J. Benson said the Town will clean up that debris.
J. Benson discussed how ARPA funds are coming in and there were no rules on how to spend. The 1st allocation of $200,000 has come in but they haven’t been able to get on line to report how they intend to use it so they sent a letter to the Senators and Representatives that the portal will not accept their log-in.
The Selectboard has discussed how to use the money: updating the town website, storm water management, and shore up the shed at the town garage. Until we can file the paperwork, we are stuck.
Jack Zebora asked about what happened to the plan that was discussed 2 years ago for presenting to the town options for a new garage. Now we are spending for a new shed. The road crew needs to put the grader in the garage to be able to start it in the winter. Where are we with the garage?
J. Benson said there was a committee set up and met on a regular basis and identified the needs. They went to work with options and had a meeting at the garage then COVID hit. When they met with the committee the price tag was over $1.2 million and that was a year and half ago. Now it is over $1.5 million. The Selectboard is trying to affect the immediate concerns with the shed.
J. Zebora asked if the Fire Department was part of the $1.2 million.
J. Benson said not part of it but asked what could be done. They are not pursuing a garage at this time due to cost.
Amy Ingrassia recommended they re-measure for the equipment to be worked on vs the vehicles. The equipment is not going to fit in the shed.
Perry Kacik, Historical Society, wanted to recognize the contributions Bonnie Fallon has made to the Community. She has relocation plans and will be moving. He recognized her dedication to being a poll officer, working with the Historical Society, and Green-Up Day. She is always cheerful and a welcoming smile. She always has challenging questions. He wished her God-Speed with her next journey.
T. Godfrey announced that she and her husband will be moving after her terms are up next March 2023. S. Edson will be stepping down as a Lister when town-wide reappraisal is complete. So we would really like to get someone trained to take both Lister positions for an easier transition when we step down. If anyone is interested in the position, please let us know.
Motion by M. Stoddard, seconded by L. Runnion, the meeting adjourned at 11:50 p.m.
Respectfully submitted: Teresa Godfrey, Town Clerk