Braintree Selectboard Meeting
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Present via Remote Conference Calling:
Megan O’Toole, Selectboard Chair Thomas Cooch, Resident
Charles McMeekin, Selectboard Member Sandy Cooch, Resident
Daniel Burson, Selectboard Member Tim Caulfield, Emergency Management Director
Keegan Haupt, Selectboard Member
Present at Town Office:
Loren Bent, Selectboard Member Jessica Brassard, Town Clerk/Treasurer
Janice R. Russell, Administrative Assistant
Ms. O’Toole called the meeting to order by phone at 6 pm. A roll call was done to confirm what Selectboard members and citizens were in attendance via teleconferencing. Ms. O’Toole then explained that the COVID-19 self-distancing practices were the reasoning behind the move to remote teleconferencing.
The Board reviewed the agenda and there were changes as follows: Ms. O’Toole added to the COVID-19 listed under New Business the Highway Crew and their hours, status of the operations at the Town Office and working flexibilities, remote meeting protocols and the Purchase and Use of Laptops for Town Office employees and Selectboard Members. Ms. Russell stated that Adam Lang of Lost Nation ATV Club stated he was not prepared to review the ATV Ordinance at this time and requested he be removed from the meeting agenda. He then asked for a copy of the current ATV Ordinance to be sent to him in preparation of attending the next Selectboard Meeting, which Ms. Russell has done.
Keegan Haupt stated he had a citizen call inquiring if property taxes were still due at the current deadline and if late charges were still going to be added during this period of self-isolation due to the COVID-19 virus. Ms. Brassard stated that yes due to statutes the taxes are still due on the current deadline and that yes late charges will still be added. Any citizen who was unable to get their taxes paid by the deadline can request a Board of Abatement meeting to plead the case of and voice the reasons why late charges should be removed.
On motion of Ms. O’Toole, seconded by Mr. Bent, the Board unanimously approved the minutes from March 4, 2020.
- Thomas Cooch – as a member of several Town Commissions he appreciates and thanked Ms. O’Toole and the Selectboard for the quick actions of the board regarding doing remote conference calling meetings for Selectboard and Commissions’ Meetings. Ms. O’Toole informed Mr. Cooch that the conference call company is also able to do webinars, videoconferencing etc.
- Highway Report – Ms. O’Toole read the brief Highway Report and noted that the Town Highway Foreman is working on several road grants. There were no other questions or concerns regarding the report.
- Old business
- Hiring of a Zoning Administrator – Mr. McMeekin is in contact with a possible candidate for the Zoning Administrator position and will keep the Selectboard updated on the status of the candidate. Ms. Brassard reminded the Selectboard that as of March 1st the previous Zoning Administrator was no longer assisting with Zoning By-Law questions and that Ms. Brassard has been fielding questions. She is able to answer the simple questions but was diverting the more in-depth questions to the Planning Commission Chairperson, Joan Richmond-Hall.
- New business
- Green Mountain Power (GMP) – Request for Climate Plan Input survey – Ms. O’Toole volunteered to take a closer look at the survey and will try to make a recommendation at the next Selectboard Meeting of what the Town of Braintree wants to submit to GMP. Mr. Bent stated he knows that GMP has done a partial shutdown of their office.
- COVID-19 – Ms. O’Toole questioned the other members and Office Staff on receipt of e-mails from the State’s Emergency Operation Center; upon receiving negative replies stated she would begin forwarding the e-mails. Ms. O’Toole encouraged all Selectboard Members and Mr. Caulfield, if they were available on Wednesday, March 18th, at 3 p.m., to participate in a COVID-19 Regional Coordination roundtable call/webinar being coordinated by Linda Anderson from Capstone Community Action.
Ms. Brassard informed the Selectboard that she has followed the action of many surrounding towns and moved the due date of Dog Licenses to April 30th. This information has been placed in The Herald, on the Town Office, on the Town’s Website and Facebook Page.
A brief discussion occurred and a decision was made that the Braintree Town Office will be closed to the Public until April 6th for the health and safety of the town employees. The announcement of the closure will be placed on the Town Office, the Bulletin Boards, the Town’s Website and Facebook page and Front Porch Forum.
Tim Caulfield, Emergency Management Director, clarified his input from three weeks ago that the COVID-19 pandemic is a health officer issue with the Emergency Management Team following up with any support the Health Officer may need. Ms. O’Toole stated that at this time the Town of Braintree is deferring to the guidelines presented by the Vermont Emergency Operation Center but the Selectboard will defer to the Emergency Action Team for any communication issues that may arise.
Ms. O’Toole provided the information on the remote meeting setup and how she created a Google Calendar for the use of the Town Commissions to schedule their meetings use of the teleconferencing number.
A discussion resulted from Jeff Masterson’s request in his Highway Report to allow the Highway Crew to remain at home during the COVID-19 shutdown of the schools unless the crew needs to be called in for weather or emergency issues. At point is the question of whether absences will be voluntary or mandatory and how payment of the missing hours would be paid. Ms. O’Toole will clarify with Mr. Masterson on the voluntary or mandatory issue and report back to the other members in an Emergency Meeting.
Ms. O’Toole brought up the subject for discussion of the purchasing of laptop computers for Braintree Town employees and Selectboard Members to enable more flexibility during times of crisis, illness and the necessity of needing a computer and internet access during elections being held at the Town Hall. Ms. O’Toole will contact VT Computing to get further information on the purchasing of laptops. Ms. Russell will contact ECFiber regarding internet access at the Braintree Town Hall.
- Purchase New Mower – Mr. Burson led the discussion on the purchase of a New Mower and that the cost of the new mower has risen to $19,000.00 but the Town only budgeted $17,000.00 for next year. Mr. Masterson has located a used mower for $15,000 but it requires an immediate purchase. Brassard was asked if there is money in the Vehicle/Equipment Fund for this purchase and there is. The money will be replenished in the next budget year.
On motion of Mr. Bent, seconded by Mr. Burson, the Board unanimously approved the use of the $15,000.00 to purchase the used mower.
Payment orders – Mr. Burson will arrive in the Town Office at 8:30 a.m. to approve the payment orders.
On motion of Mr. Bent, seconded by Mr. McMeekin, the Board unanimously adjourned the meeting at 6:59 p.m.