The following items were discussed and/or acted upon at Monday night’s meeting:
A. Cavendish Historical Society: Margo Caulfield, Coordinator of the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) brought to the Select Board’s attention the need to address how the town is funding CHS, since the organization is responsible for $500,000 worth of town property (Museum building and Stone Church). At the March town meeting, the town approved tax abatements for the Black River Health Center (BRHC) and Fletcher Farms, plus added a Recreation Department. CHS receives a line item budget of $1,800 plus insurance, to maintain a half million dollars of town property.
Rich Svec, town manager, will review the original lease agreement between the town and CHS, which was signed in the 1970’s. As Caulfield noted, there was a larger residential population and fewer organizations back then, making it easier to recruit volunteers and funds. Last year alone, between in-kind contributions and expenditures, CHS spent over $4,000 on repairs and restoration of the Stone Church. They currently are waiting to hear about a $10,000 grant for repairing the belfry of the Stone Church.
B. Education Funding: The SB reviewed a copy of the “Resolution for Sustainable Education Funding Reform in Vermont," which states Vermont can achieve a sustainable Education future:
· Create a more diverse education funding system, sharing the costs equally between all our tax resources (income, sales, rooms & meals, and property taxes)
· Simplify the education funding system so it can be understood by the average taxpayer.
Continued reliance on the education property tax will have a material impact on local government's ability to provide vital services (police, fire, roads etc.) to residents.
Therefore be it resolved that Vermont Towns & School Districts support capping Education Property Tax rates at FY2015 levels for the next 2 years, to allow the Legislature to make the necessary funding reforms that will sustain our Education system into the future. (It is not the intent of this resolution to cap overall education spending).
Representative Mark Huntley was on hand to discuss this resolution. His opinion, as well as that of town manager, Rich Svec, is that small towns will be adversely impacted by the resolution. Huntley noted that property owners are demanding that the legislature do something about the high costs of property taxes for education (VT pays 20% more than the national average). One way or the other, this will be a high priority for the upcoming session.
The SB took no action on the resolution.
C. Trustee of Public Funds: Diane McNamara submitted a letter of resignation from this position, which was accepted with reluctance by the board. Jane Pixley submitted a letter to fill the vacancy, which was approved.
D. Broadband Access: The town’s letter to TDS describing the issues many residents are having with their Internet service, has yet to be sent. However, various residents have contacted both TDS and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA). Note that the Internet is an unregulated service, and therefore there is no legal authority in the state. TDS has responded to some of the inquiries by basically saying they are aware of the problem, they have no plans to upgrade, and users can drop their Internet service without a penalty. A report on Cavendish’s issues with Internet is available at The Dish.
Because there are serious issues with connectivity for both Internet and cell service, it was recommended that the SB establish a Telecommunications Committee as these are key for businesses, home purchases etc. SB member Wendy Reiger, speaking as an individual and not a member of the board, noted that when you move to places like Cavendish, you have to accept trade offs and basically it is unrealistic to expect the type of communications services in a city to be available in a rural town like Cavendish.
The SB did not act on the recommendation of a Telecommunications Committee.
E. Cavendish Local Basic Emergency Operation Plan (LEOP): The plan was approved, adopted and signed by the SB. Due to confidential information this document is not available to the public, but a similar document, minus such information, will be available at a later date.
• ERP (Ecosystem Restoration Program) Grant: The town has received an extension on the grant, as there have been difficulties with the three parcels of land the town plans to purchase and manage as part of flood control.
• Solar Project: The town has signed a contract with Prudent Living, who has helped the town in being awarded a $12,500 grant from the Energy Development Fund. The sandy soil will require additional expenditures to put in the posts for the solar panels. This could add an additional $24,000 to costs, but there is plenty of wiggle room in the $450,000 proposed budget with amply return on investment. Prudent Living is scheduled to have the project operational by Dec. 31, 2014.
• Bridge # 37 (Davis Rd): A contract was signed on 10-13-14 with J.P.Sicard, Inc. of Barton VT. Work will begin on Nov. 3 and will be done in two phases. The old bridge will be removed and the site prepared before the end of the 2014 construction season. Concrete and bridge completion will take place as soon as possible in the spring. There will be some road closures.
• Municipal Water: Tighe and Bond, been hired to write the town’s comprehensive Operations and Maintenance Manual and to do the permitting of well #2. The media in the iron removal filtration vessel needed to be changed. This was required sooner than anticipated because of the naturally occurring high iron content in well #1. With well #2 coming on line, this should help reduce the total water iron content.
• Highway: There is sufficient sand and salt in place in the event of an early snow/ice event. Equipment is in good shape and the town is ready for the winter season ahead.
H. Recreation Dept.: Soccer season is winding down and basketball season is not far off. There is on-going discussion about a skate board park at Greven Field. Rec. director, Terry O'Brien, is looking into a low cost ice skating rink at Greven during the winter months.