Governing in the age of coronavirus: Town hall closes, voting still open

Selectboard members stayed six feet apart while teleconferencing with the remainder of the board as well as other meeting attendees. Photo by Carrie Spear.

Adjustments to the agenda included a motion to approve closing Town Hall to the public as part of recent activities undertaken to reduce public interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic. After reading an email from Town Treasurer Mary Mead, Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow asked Town Administrator Dean Bloch to draft and post signage outside Town Hall stating that the building is open by appointment only and leaving a phone number for visitors to call. Mead said via email that she and Assistant Town Clerk Christina Boohers would stagger their hours at Town Hall so only one person is there at a time.

In a text exchange after the Selectboard meeting, Krasnow said that the “only reason for public entrance are statutorily mandated reasons (title search, et al.). All other business will be done remotely with online forms or postponement.” The Selectboard also decided to hold all of their meetings virtually for the indefinite future.

According to recommendations from the governor, meetings should include not more than 10 people, which in this case would include election officials.
Though the Selectboard decided at their meeting last week on hours and protocols for keeping Town Hall open, they have since amended their decision based on state recommendations. Town Hall is now closed to the public indefinitely; Town Clerk Mary Mead said that employees are all working from home and that if Charlotters need anything they can call or email and the staff will do their best to help.

Voting on the town budget and funding for the Charlotte Town Trail will still take place at Town Hall on April 7. Mead encouraged voters to participate by absentee ballot and said that polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. “I cannot close the polls, so if people show up in person to vote, they certainly can. My plan would be to only let in a couple people at a time,” Mead said.

Other actions
The Selectboard approved requests by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Kelly Brush Ride to use town highways for bicycle rides in August and September as well as a request to use the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge for guided nature walks in October. Representatives either called in via conference or logged in remotely. After a bit of discussion, the board approved changes to the agricultural leases for the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge and Galbreath property. According to the town administrator’s report, the leases were approved in December but needed to be updated due to changes of the Park Management Plan.

The board approved blanket reappointments of 13 individuals to various committees and boards and to the Planning Commission. After the only interview, the Selectboard approved the appointment of Bill Stuono to the Planning Commission for a two-year term. They also approved former Selectboard member Fritz Tegatz to the West Charlotte Village Wastewater committee for a two-year term.

James Faulkner said, “This is a one-time event because of the situation; next year we will go back to interviews.” Selectboard Vice Chair Frank Tenney responded, “There are other towns that do it this way, it’s not totally out of the realm of what’s commonly done.”

Road Commissioner Jr Lewis briefed the board on several agenda items, including the road-paving plan and request for bids, the repair plan for Monkton Road, and paving aprons at the two covered bridges. While not in the upcoming budget, the board also decided to add paving the entrance to Town Hall to the request for bids to get an idea of the anticipated cost.

The Selectboard approved Mow! Mow! Mow! for town mowing for $26,500, Adam Dantzscher the contract for cemetery mowing at $5,390 and town brush hogging at $5,480.

Krasnow then opened bids for the removal of ash trees. They were as follows: Gregory Smith $19,300, 10 days to complete, Barrett’s Tree Service $24,975, six to seven days to complete (can complete for $20,000 if town handles all traffic control service); Chris’ Lawn Care and Mini Excavating $18,000, no completion time frame given; Teacher’s Tree Service $19,500, five to six days to complete; DJ’s Tree Service and Logging, Inc. $22,500, three days to complete.

The board also read an email from Peter Trono on the subject, which was paraphrased by Louise McCarren: “He doesn’t object to the project, he just thinks we are paying too much.” Krasnow agreed and responded the larger trees would be the focus of this RFP and the smaller trees would be handled by the road commissioner as part of his roadside maintenance. Bid selection is scheduled for the April 13 meeting.

The Selectboard made additional headway on their work plan, reviewed and approved minutes, and, after brief updates, adjourned.

The next regularly scheduled Selectboard meeting is April 13 at 6:00 p.m.