Ascutney Fire Station
540 VT-131, Ascutney Vermont
Wednesday November 8, 2017
SPECIAL JOINT MEETING
WEST WEATHERSFIELD VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT
ASCUTNEY VOLUNTEER FIRE ASSOCIATION
Select Board Members Present: Daniel Boyer
C. Peter Cole
Amy Beth Main
Select Board Members Absent: Kelly Murphy
Ed Morris, Town Manager
Josh Dauphin Tim Austin NaToshya Spaulding Annabell Vigneault
Mark Girard Edith Stillson Tracy Dauphin Ernie Shand
Mychael Spaulding Mike Barrup
1. Call to Order
Mrs. Esty called the meeting to order at 6:05 PM.
2. Fire Agreement Discussion
Mrs. Esty stated for the record that this was a joint meeting of the Select Board and the Fire Departments to discuss the fire agreement.
Mrs. Esty began the discussion by explaining the process as it had been established at the first meeting on October 4th.
Josh Dauphin spoke for the WWVFD; Mark Girard represented AVFA.
Mrs. Esty said that this discussion would address only those sections of the agreement that had not been agreed upon at the October 4th meeting.
Definition of “Services” Mr. Girard said the AFVA membership accepts the definition as it is stated in the October 4th draft of the agreement.
Definition of “Service Area” Mr. Girard said the AVFA membership is insistent that the service areas for initial response be clearly defined for both departments similar to the plow trucks and school busses that have clearly defined routes.
Mr. Cole said he saw no need for this to be defined in the contract, that the departments could work it out in their own procedures.
Mr. Dauphin preferred to keep the definition of “Service Area” as “the Town of Weathersfield in its entirety”.
Mr. Girard said, “If the Fire Commission can put it on the agenda to make a first response procedural document and use the same exact wording that is in the contract, then I will go with it.”
Mr. Morris said he had proposed this idea to Mr. Girard as Mr. Morris did not feel this needed to be in the contract. He said he had no problem with the Fire Commission and the departments agreeing on “where the lines should be”. He said when he was in a full time department, there were station initial response districts, but all stations responded “all over”.
Mrs. Esty asked why the boundaries were needed when the two departments have been working so well together and the chain of command is a nation-wide protocol. Mr. Cole felt that discussion was better left to the Fire Commission than to address at this meeting.
It was agreed to retain the definition of “service area” as “the Town of Weathersfield in its entirety” with the understanding that the matter of boundaries would be taken up by the Fire Commission and the two departments.
Sect. 2.4 Emergency Dispatch Services Mrs. Esty read the definition.
Mr. Morris said that the town attorney recommended clarifying the last sentence of the 1st paragraph: Unless decided by a majority vote between the Selectboard and two departments, the Town will contract with the dispatching agency responsible for dispatching the Ascutney Repeater Association. Mr. Morris said his intention was that this meant a total of three votes – one from the Selectboard and one each from the boards of the two departments. The majority would be 2 out of 3 votes.
• we have a contract with Hartford Dispatch.
• The departments are in the repeater association.
• The association owns the repeater on top of the mountain.
• The association is allowing Hartford Dispatch to use that frequency to dispatch.
• So if we have an issue within the town with Hartford Dispatch, there is nothing saying that we, as a town, can't go to Claremont or another dispatch.
• What that means is the rest of the towns that are in the association could still stay in that repeater association
• We are talking about two different groups here
• We have a contract with Hartford for $13,000 (approx.)
• Each department pays $1000 to the association (comes out of the allocation)
• The town has no say within the association – only the two departments – this sentence is confusing.
Mr. Morris said that the town could go with a different dispatch and still be part of the association and still be dispatched through the association. He said this discussion is not about the association.
Mr. Dauphin said there could not be more than one dispatch service dispatching through the repeater.
Mr. Cole suggested, “Dispatching services for the Town of Weathersfield will be determined by majority vote of the Selectboard and the two departments, with each organization having one vote.”
Mr. Dauphin explained that the nine surrounding towns are dispatched using the single frequency of the repeater on Mt. Ascutney. The association allows Hartford Dispatch to tone out all the departments over that one frequency.
Mr. Morris said the discussion had gotten away from the topic of dispatching services. To leave the association, the Town would have to get FCC approval for a new frequency and a great deal more. He did not feel any of that needed to be in the contract. To leave, those details would have to be worked out by all parties ahead of time and agreed to by the majority.
Mr. Girard said AVFA wants to stay with the repeater association unless a 2/3 vote decides to leave.
Mr. Morris suggested, “Dispatching services will be provided through the Ascutney Repeater Association unless determined by a majority vote of the Selectboard and the two departments, with each organization having one vote.”
There are dispatch services available that would not use the Mt. Ascutney repeater, e.g. Hanover could provide services through their towers and all the town would have to do is change the frequency on all of its radios. AVFA wants to stay with the Ascutney Repeater Association because they are financially vested in the repeater on Mt. Ascutney. Mr. Girard added that communication is best through the Ascuntey repeater. Mr. Dauphin disagreed and said that the town could contract with Keene for better service than this one repeater – they have 15 sites that are all simulcast that “you can hear up in Canada”.
Ultimately everyone agreed to the wording offered by Mr. Cole: “Dispatching services for the Town of Weathersfield will be determined by majority vote of the Selectboard and the two departments, with each organization having one vote.”
Section 2.4A: AVFA requested adding another sentence to say, “The Town provides information regarding the resolution of the issues to the departments.” Mr. Morris said he had no objections to that. Everyone agreed.
Section 2.5 Hydrants There had been questions regarding the easements on private properties. Mr Morris said he thought this section is worded appropriately. He said he just wrote the easement for the new hydrant on Pikes Peak. If it is not being properly maintained, then the Town will have to do the work anyway and then address the matter with the landowners. Through contract or actual work by the Town, the Town will see to it that hydrants are maintained.
Everyone agreed with the wording in sections A through C as it was presented. Section D was slightly altered to read, “... including but not limited to removal of vegetation growth ...”
Section 3.1 Authority of the Town of Weathersfield AVFA had requested the citation of Vermont law. Mr. Morris said he was unable to find anything specific. He said he felt this refers to the Town's general authority. He said he will continue to look for it.
Section 4.1 Annual Budget; Operating Funds; Appropriation AVFA asked that October be change to November. Everyone agreed to the change.
Section 4.3 Appropriated Operating Funds The section number should be 4.4, not 5.2.
A portion of this section was removed at the previous review because of uncertainty about putting excess funds in a reserve account. Mr. Morris said there are “disagreeing attorneys” on this point. Our Town attorney believes it is acceptable to put excess funds in a reserve account without having to get voter approval first. Many other towns do this as well. Mr. Morris wanted to add the deleted section back in. “Any unexpended funds at the end of the year as long as the general fund is in a surplus situation will be placed in either the fire equipment motorized fire equipment or fire protection and dry hydrant reserve funds at the discretion of the Selectboard.” Everyone agreed.
Section 4.4 Disbursement AVFA requested a change in the last sentence of the first paragraph: “If a payment or reimbursement is denied and either department disagrees,,,” There were no objections.
Section 4.5 Department Fundraising There was confusion about the perspective of this paragraph. Mr. Morris said it is intended to inform taxpayers who attend fundraising events that the fundraiser is to raise money above and beyond the annual appropriation. It is the departments' responsibility to inform the participants. Mr. Morris said that AVFA did it perfectly at their last golf tournament. Mr. Girard then understood and accepted the language as it was written.
AVFA requested a change to the 2nd sentence in the 2nd paragraph: Weathersfield shall make payment for such purchases directly to the Department's creditors or reimburse the Departments.” There were no objections.
It was agreed that both departments need a copy of the Town's current purchasing policy.
Section 5.1 Designation of Agent AVFA requested adding the words or reimbursement to the end of the 1st sentence.
Section 5.2 Direct Provision Mr. Morris said “supplies” applies to anything that the Town offers to provide to the departments for cost efficiency purposes.
It was agreed to remove the words vehicle maintenance.
Section 5.3 Maintenance of Vehicles Everyone accepted the language of 5.3(A) as written.
Mr. Cole asked to changed the word submitted to remitted in section 5.3(B).
Mr. Girard asked where the 25% funds (in 5.3B) would be deposited. As the ordinance reads now, it goes into the reserve. The Selectboard has sole discretion to move it from there if the maintenance line is exceeded.
Mr. Girard asked to change the first part of the sentence to read, “To offset the cost of maintenance of department-owned trucks, ... The HazMat Ordinance says 25% offsets the cost of maintaining the town-owned trucks. AVFA reads this to mean that 50% will be set aside for town-owned trucks. It was agreed that the HazMat Ordinance should be rewritten to avoid this confusion.
Everyone agreed to the language in 5.3(C) as written. It is agreed that the title “Highway Superintendent” is the correct title and shall be used throughout.
Section 5.3(D) was change slightly to read, “The Department shall ensure that all vehicles, apparatus, and equipment in their possession are properly maintained in good working order, and any issues needing to be addressed are reported to the Highway Superintendent.”
AVFA asked to add the following: The Department will not be held accountable to third-party vendors for vehicle maintenance due to the delay in maintenance or payment by the Town.” Mr. Morris felt this was a mute point since the Town is paying for maintenance and any such calls received by the Departments by any such vendors can simply refer them to the Town Office. It was agreed that this section wasn't necessary.
Mr. Dauphin clarified that if a truck is referred to the Highway Superintendent for repairs and the truck sits unrepaired for two weeks, it is not the fault of the department – they have met their obligation by referring it to the Town for repair. The departments, however, remain responsible for ensuring the equipment is kept in good working order.
AVFA requested removing the last sentence from Article 7.1 and Article 7.2 because they aren't necessary with the language in Article 7.3. Everyone agreed.
Article 8 Insurance Mr. Cole asked to reword this section as “The Town of Weathersfield, at its sole discretion, will provide full comprehensive insurance coverage. If a department desires to be insured at a higher level of coverage, the Town will provide that coverage and the Department shall be responsible for the added cost.”
Mr. Morris said the Town will provide what it feels is adequate coverage. He said if the departments feel it is isn't adequate, then it will be their responsibility to get more. Mr. Cole said it could be done by adding riders to the policy rather than having the departments get additional policies. Mr. Morris ultimately agreed.
Section 9.1 Term It was agreed to remove on July 1, 2017.
The 2nd sentence in the section was altered to read, “If a replacement contract is not signed by June 30, 2020 it will be considered automatically renewed for a 1-year term unless a letter of cancellation has been submitted, as defined in section 9.2, or contract negotiations have been initiated by either department or the Town, in which case the current contract will remain in effect until the new contract is signed.”
AVFA requested adding a section that would define breach of contract, however, after considerable discussion, it was mutually agreed that this would not be necessary.
This ended the discussion on the agreement. Everyone was satisfied with the final language.
The final agreement will be ready for signature at the Selectboard meeting on November 20th.
Motion: To adjourn the meeting
Made by: Mr. Cole Second: Mr. Boyer
Vote: Unanimous in favor
The meeting adjourned at 7:25 PM