Mar 072020

Town of Brookfield 2020 Annual Meeting

The legal voters of the Town of Brookfield met for the annual Town Meeting, at the Brookfield Elementary School auditorium at 1725 Ridge Road, Tuesday March 3, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. to transact the following business:

Call to Order at 10:00 a.m.

Moderator, Gregory Wight, opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Lunch will be served supporting the Brookfield School Club with donations.

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, thanked Cory Haggett for his service on the Selectboard.  He also recognized Chuck Barnum for the several offices he has held over the many years he served the Town. Ruth Goodale was also thanked for helping to beautify the different areas in the Village with the flowers she had planted.  She had written a letter to the Board stating she will not be able to continue this and would like to see someone take on the task.

J. Benson asked for those currently or previously holding a position in Town to stand and be recognized. He then asked for those who had served or are serving in the Armed Services to stand and be recognized. He thanked all for their Town and Country services.

J. Benson then discussed the survey that was done for a portion of Stone Road. At Town Meeting 2019, it was approved to hire a survey company to establish the right-of-way and travel portion of a section of Stone Road. American Survey Company was then hired and at a warned Selectboard meeting and at a warned site meeting, the results were presented to the Property owners, the Selectboard, the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept., and the public.  All parties involved are now aware of where the travel lane and ROW are located.

The Board was recently presented a request for a public assemblage permit by Dennis Tatro.  He has done extensive research of the location of the Justin Morgan homestead.  He found it to be at the Brookfield & Randolph Town line near Snow Road.  There will be a dedication of a Historical Marker in May 2020.

The Board was also presented with a request from VT Transportation Board to dedicate a portion of VT Route 14, at the Williamstown side coming into Brookfield, to Major Ira Day. The VT Transportation Board will be holding a public meeting in June and it will be posted on the Town website for those interested in attending.

Braintree no longer has a Zoning Administrator and is interested in having one that would cover Braintree, Randolph, and Brookfield.  Dee Monte stepped down for Brookfield and Mike Fiorillo is now the ZA for Brookfield.

Ray Peck, Road Foreman, has informed the Board that the sand we are purchasing from Larry Hebert in Williamstown will only be available for a few more years before he runs out.  The Board and R. Peck are looking for a reasonable source for sand along with other towns he supplies.

J. Benson mentioned there are several positions available in Town and we never turn down volunteers.

Dan Childs, ECFiber Town Representative, wanted to thank all who have signed up in Brookfield.  There is a raffle for getting the fast speed at a low price if anyone is interested in purchasing tickets.  ECFiber is town owned.

J.Benson thanked D. Childs and Stuart Edson for getting the Town moved up on the list for us to receive it quicker.

Article 3:  To see if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to borrow money in anticipation of revenues.

Motion by Erik Nielson, seconded by Marylou Maeder.

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 D. Childs, seconded by Billie Gosh that the first payment of 2020/2021 property taxes to be due November 7, 2020; the second payment due May 1, 2021.  Motion carried.

Article 5:  To see if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to engage the firm of Vermont Appraisal Company to complete a Town-wide reappraisal of all properties within the Town.  The cost for which shall not exceed $81,000; the funds for which are already in place.

Motion by Linda Runnion, seconded by S. Edson.

Patty Kennedy questioned if this was put out to bid.  S. Edson, with help from Teresa Godfrey, both Listers, said it was put out to all appraisal companies that the Vermont Property Valuation and Review Board approves as appraisers.  Only VT Appraisal Company put in a bid.

Call to vote.  Motion carried.

J. Benson also let the voters know this will be a 2-year process.

Article 6:  To see if the Town will vote to contribute $300.00 to the Randolph Area Mentoring Program (RAMP), a community-based mentoring program serving the communities of Brookfield, Braintree, and Randolph.

Motion by Laura Rochat, seconded by Kym Anderson.

L. Rochat reported this program has been underway for a year. It is a program for grades 4-7. An adult is paired up with a student for the student to have the opportunity to experience new things and to have meaningful relationship with another adult. Currently there are 6 students utilizing the program. If you are interested in participating in RAMP, student or adult, to let her know.  They have received a grant from Mentoring Vermont and need to match the amount.  This money covers background checks and as the Leader, her salary for the program.  When asked about the amount of time required to be a mentor, L. Rochat said it is once a week and about 6-8 hours per month commitment of at least 1 year.

Richard Hayward, Brookfield Elementary School teacher, said they have seen an enormous impact for the students involved. They are in need of mentors.

Call to vote.  Motion carried.

Article 7:  To see if the Town will vote to contribute $250.00 to the Vermont Family Network, to provide services for families of children with special needs.

Motion by K. Anderson, seconded by Ray Mayer.

Jeff Kimmel, Selectboard member, stated information concerning VFN is located on page 52 of the Town Report.  No representative was available to answer questions concerning this request.  It was noted by a voter that this appears to primarily serve Chittenden County per the information.

Call to vote.  Motion failed.

G. Wight turned the meeting over to VT House Representatives Jay Hooper and Peter Reed.

Rep. Reed stated he was from Braintree and was appointed in January by Governor Scott due to the resignation of Rep. Ben Jickling.  He reported the major bills he is involved with are Act 250, the minimum wage increase, to tax & regulate cannabis, Health care improvement and prescription drug prices.  He was previously working as a banker before being appointed.

Rep. Hooper said he represents 5 towns and this is his 4th session.  He has found the Education Committee to be fast paced.  There are 3 bills currently being worked on.  Universal Pre-K, Literacy, and school construction.  They are working on disentangling dual oversite rules.  It is noted that 32% of 5th graders are not proficient readers.  School construction has had a deferred maintenance moratorium since 2007.  It is believed it will cost $565 million for impending building needs.  Beth Pearce, State Treasurer, is going to assess the costs and communicate with other States to see what they have done.   They are also starting to look at a universal after school program.

There were no questions from the voters.

J. Benson suggested the 2 Selectboard candidates, on the Town ballot, introduce themselves.

Steve Schaefer introduced himself as Irene Schaefer’s son and he lives in the log house where the sliding took place during the Ice Harvest. He said he is running for Selectboard because he has found some irregularities and that he is in favor of increasing the Board to a 5-member Board.

Dennis LaRocque said he is a life-long resident of Brookfield, has been one of the Town Auditors for 4 or 5 years.  He has 2 boys in the school system and wants to help the Town.

Article 8:  To approve a 12-month budget for the financial year of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 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 L. Runnion, seconded by K. Anderson.

J. Benson stated there was a correction for the property taxes raised. It should by $311,080 (increasing the proposed budget of $310,980 by $100) to balance the projected expenses. Beth Godin questioned if that was what was noted in the SB meeting minutes of February 24, 2020 and J. Benson said yes.

Call to vote.  Motion carried.

Article 9:  To see if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to approve the construction of a new Town Garage building (or another option as presented and discussed at Town Meeting).  The cost not to exceed $1,075,000 to be financed over a 25 to 30-year period.

Motion by B. Gosh, seconded by Dove Cogen.

J. Benson said that at Town Meeting last year, the voters agreed to have the Board look into garage options and a Request for Quote (RFQ) design. Connor Construction and Black River Design both responded, working together with designs and current construction codes.

The Board attempted to show pictures of the existing garage, the shed, and a sketch of the plans.  Due to the lack of a screen, the slides were not very easy to see presented on the back wall.  The designers measured all the equipment and reviewed any spatial requirements the Town has. Currently the plows have to be removed to fit in the existing garage and diesels are hard to start in the cold.

3 options are:

– Add on existing building-not to exceed 5000 sq. ft. or a sprinkler system would have to be installed due to wood construction.

-2nd bldg. for shed storage and minor renovations to existing garage. Current roof leaks and with VOSHA and VLCT insurance there is no separate room for combustibles among other issues.

– A completely new building.

The amounts range from $600,000-$1 million for the above.  The research includes all metal or wood frames.

Aaron Adler questioned if the cost includes the cost of financing.

J. Benson said no. They looked at the Bond Bank and Northfield Savings which is willing to finance for us at 3-3.5% for 10 years and then see where the market rate is after that.

Additional comments and questions included if there is a ball park figure and with the interest, the cost can double.  The voters would like hand-outs to look at.  The cost of heating, steel vs wood construction and amount of heated space would be tripled, existing building not energy efficient.  The cost didn’t include fixing the existing building that needs better lighting at an estimated cost of $2300-$2500.

J. Benson said as far as we know there are no brown field issues but if they find there are, then we will have to address them then.

Joy Kacik thanked the Board for their information and felt there are too many variables and questions to go forward.

J. Kacik made an amendment to the motion on the floor to request the Selectboard put together 3 options with the pros & cons, cost for financing and to have one or more meeting at least a month prior to next year’s Town Meeting and then amended it to say:

The Selectboard provide the Town with 3 or more options with pros and cons, full cost including financing, and objectives be presented for discussion at a least a month before Town Meeting 2021.

Motion seconded by K. Anderson.

Continued discussion included what the objectives are, the smallest amount approach, renewable energy options, overhead costs, grant opportunities and an energy audit of the current building.  Gabe Freitag would like a committee formed, besides the Selectboard, so they can help with the decision making.

J. Benson said they had discussed with Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC) and there are no current grant opportunities but they usually come with strings attached.

The voters would like to be informed the time and place of the garage information meetings.  There is concern on why we need 2 10-wheel trucks.

Call to vote on amendment. There was a lot of confusion on what the amendments were and the 2 motions are now contradictory. After a lot of needed clarification, the following amendment was then called:

To see if the Town will form a Committee with a minimum of 3 building options, energy efficiency, pros and cons with objectives, grant research, meetings and communication to the Town at least through Front Porch Forum, and the cost including financing and renewable energy options.  An initial meeting will take suggestions from Town Residents.  An informational meeting, at least one month before Town Meeting, will be held.

Motion by J. Kacik, seconded by Jackie Smith-Nielson to amend the original motion. Motion carried.

Motion by Justin Poulin, seconded by Angie Poulin to amend the cap in Article 9 to be $500,000.

Discussion by J. Poulin included setting a limit that is realistic with realistic options. Something that fits our town.

J. Benson said we need some expertise to get the info needed and $25k-$30k gives us options to work with developing and pricing. We have to retain services to get answers.  The 2 companies we have used have not charged anything but by not moving forward, we owe them some amount. There is no written contract.

Motion to amend failed.

After more amendment considerations, confusion, and conversation Article 9 was again in question.

A. Adler made a motion to further amend Article 9 to read:

To See if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to investigate another option as presented and discussed at Town Meeting for the Town Garage Building including forming a Committee with a minimum of 3 building options, energy efficiency, pros and cons with objectives, grant research, meetings and communication to the Town at least through Front Porch Forum, and the cost including financing and renewable energy options.  The cost for the research not to exceed $25,000.

Seconded by E. Nielson. This motion to amend Article 9 passed.

Back to the main motion for vote.  As amended several times, motion carried.

Article 10:  To see if the Town will authorize the Selectboard to enter into a lease/purchase Agreement to replace the Town Highway Department Loader.  The cost, allowing for the trade-in value for the current Loader, not to exceed $140,000 (plus finance charges) to be paid for over a 7-year period.

Motion by E. Nielson, seconded by R. Mayer.

P. Kennedy questioned what was wrong with the current loader.

J. Benson said the loader is a critical piece of equipment. We trade them every so many years and the current one is now paid for and on a 7-year replacement cycle.

R. Hayward questioned if this is a typical time frame and how does it compare to what other Towns do?

Francis Preston asked if we reached out to 3 major manufacturers?

J. Benson replied it is what we have done in the past and it is the same size. Cory Haggett confirmed with R. Peck that we reached out to CAT, J. Deere, and Case for bids.

Call to vote.  Motion carried with a few nays.

Article 11: To approve a 12-month budget for the financial year of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 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 B. Gosh, seconded by A. Poulin.

J. Benson stated there was a correction for the property taxes raised. It should be $628,332 (increasing the proposed budget of $605,232 by $23,100) to balance the projected expenses.

J. Benson read a letter the Board had received from a UPS driver commending the Brookfield Town Road Crew and the roads are the best maintained roads he has been driving in the 33 years as a UPS driver. They are not a typical road crew.

Call to vote.  Motion carried.

Article 12:  To see if the Town will vote to have 5 members on the Selectboard by floor vote at Town Meeting. (17VSA Sec. 2650(b)(1)).

Motion by E. Nielson, seconded by M. Maeder.

J. Benson stated the Selectboard will do what the voters want. The petitioner never came to the Board. The Board had to step up to take care of the cemeteries when the Commission dissolved.  They have been doing the Town Report that used to be done by the Auditors. When the Board does pick up what others used to do, it is an administrative issue.  We don’t need a Town Manager.  We have increased the Administrative Assistant hours.

James Godfrey, petition originator, said he moved here at 16 and was in the Navy for 30 years.  I have tried to get problems resolved and didn’t get anywhere.  I started the petition because I feel it isn’t an administrative problem but a leadership problem.

John Klar questioned the Board on what reasons they resist 5 members.  There would be more people for a quorum.

J. Benson said they have functioned at 3 since before he was voted on the Board. It is rare there isn’t a quorum.

M. Maeder stated that as a mother of 3, decision making is hard and it’s 2 against 1. The number 5 would make a difference.

Richard Pecor has been to different meetings and several times there were only 2 at the meeting.

Martina Rutkovsky stated as a former Board member, you have to have the integrity of the people managing the tasks.

P. Kennedy pointed out that Selectboard members have other lives and it wouldn’t be as critical to miss a meeting if there were 5 members. It would help with the work load.

Call to vote.  With a hand count 35 yes and 39 no.  Motion failed.

S. Schaefer requested a paper ballot count. Papers were dispersed to write yes for 5, no for remaining at 3 members on the Selectboard.

Article 13:  To transact any other proper business.

Senator Mark MacDonald spoke briefly about the energy issues and heating homes.

Bonnie Fallon spoke about Green Up day being on May 2nd this year.  She would like help and would like someone to take over as the leader.

The results of the paper ballot were 37 yes votes and 48 no votes.  Motion for 5 member Selectboard failed.

Sam Dilcer and Steve Allen discussed the Mason’s Lodge impact on the Community.  They help promote Little League and the Fish Fry, which provides the Girl & Boy Scouts with money and the Scouts did an excellent job helping with the Fish Fry.

J. Benson asked the remaining voters if they would like to still receive a printed copy of the Town Report in the mail because only a few towns still mail them. Most have it electronically on their website and the reports available at different pick-up locations.

J. Benson began discussing setting weight limits on Town roads. The Town needs to hold information meetings for direction. The Selectboard has been approached about truck traffic and agriculture. We have to find out what authority we have for setting the weight limits.  The DMV is the sole State agency for setting weight limits by Statute at 24,000 lbs.  This only covers up to a UPS size truck.  The Town can disburse overweight permits.  We can’t discriminate between vendors.  The DMV is the only agency to enforce the weight limits.  Lew Stowell has done a lot of research and gets different information frequently.  Brookfield has a number of bridges that are below the 24,000 lb. limit and they need to be approved at a Board meeting for a lower weight then posted as such.

When we post the roads during mud season, it needs to be recorded on the DMV website.

(Because this forum was not warned as a decision-making conversation, there could be no decision on whether to continue researching whether to post legal load limits on Brookfield town roads. -Recorder notation)

On motion by E. Nielson, seconded by M. Maeder, the meeting was adjourned at 1:45 p.m.

Motion carried

Respectfully submitted:  Teresa Godfrey, Town Clerk