Board Discusses Snow Plowing, ARPA Funds
by Gazette Staff
GREENSBORO – At the February 8 regular meeting, members of the Greensboro Select Board discussed topics ranging from plowing snow during winter storms, emergency medical services, and allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
The first meeting topic was Liz Steel’s comments on the town website. Liz said that while she appreciated the improvements made to the town website, she questioned why the town meeting warning wasn’t available there. Town Clerk Kim Greaves said that as soon as she receives the electronic version from the printers, she’ll upload it to the website.
Next, Fire Chief Dave Brochu’s report was reviewed by the board. All fire trucks were recently inspected at Hill Group Garage and only minor repairs were required. The furnace at the fire house needed work, but repairs were completed prior to the recent cold snap. Greensboro Fire Department members re-elected Brochu as chief during their last meeting, and he submitted his name to the board for approval at the March select board meeting.
Roads were the next agenda item. Laura Hill submitted a letter to the town expressing concern about impassable snow drifts during a recent snowstorm with dangerous wind chills. She had to go out to care for animals, as well as travel to her job as an evening caregiver, and she and others got stuck in the drifts. Laura added that emergency services wouldn’t have been able to get through had they needed to.
Board chair Peter Romans said that the situation was exceptional, with drifting going on all night, and the road crew does the best it can, given manpower and budget. While it is a priority to make the roads as safe as possible for the majority of drivers, there will be times when some roads may be impassable. It’s not practical or cost effective to have a road crew member out all night clearing drifts every few hours. Romans added that the town’s personnel policy requires road crew members to take a break after working a certain number of hours, which may have played a part in the gap in plowing coverage that evening. However, he said the town could have done better in this situation, and the board will work on solutions such as investing in high-quality snow fence.
Board member Tracy Collier felt that the town could have done better and said she is in support of having passable roads no matter what it takes, and wondered if there’s extant town policy that would clarify plowing procedures. If a road isn’t passable, Tracy felt that signage should be put out to alert residents. She added that the morning after the drifting, the road crew spent a number of hours clearing drifts with the bucket loader. In effect, costs saved by not plowing the drifts were spent the next day on clearing them.
Board member Ellen Celnik noted that in mud season there are some roads that aren’t passable, and residents accept that as a temporary, seasonal inconvenience.
A number of those present thanked BP & Sons for their diligent and responsive driveway plowing this winter.
Next was a discussion of two letters received from Glover EMS (GEMS), one detailing their intention to bill the town for certain calls when they’re covering for Hardwick Rescue (HR), the other soliciting the town to sign a year-long contract for ambulance services.
Michael Lew-Smith, representing HR said HR was shocked by the letters, and is hoping this is simply a big misunderstanding. He said squads typically work out such issues among themselves, and questioned why the Town of Greensboro was brought into this. Lew-Smith said that HR intended to send a letter to the Greensboro Select Board in response to the GEMS letters, but for some reason it never got sent.
Lew-Smith said HR has a contract with Greensboro to provide rescue services, and that HR will continue to provide this service. HR responded to 92% of calls received, which shouldn’t raise any red flags about coverage issues. He said that HR has had staffing issues at times, but things are improving.
Adam Heuslein, Chief of GEMS, said the two letters were sent because GEMS found themselves going out on a significant number of calls for HR. These weren’t mutual aid calls, which GEMS wouldn’t consider billing for, but were calls due to either HR being out on other calls, or HR lacking sufficient staffing to provide coverage. Chief Heuslein said the problem is when HR doesn’t have a full crew it must rely on other area squads for coverage. When rescue calls in the area start increasing, often in springtime, GEMS has found itself responding to numerous calls for HR, while not being notified to expect this. Chief Heuslein said GEMS is responsible for the towns that contract with them and covering for HR in this way takes a toll on the system as a whole. Other towns’ taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing Greensboro calls, he said.
Both Lew-Smith and Chief Heuslein agreed to work towards better communication between the squads, and made it clear that despite the issues discussed, there wouldn’t be any interruption of services.
Town Clerk Kim Greaves said that the town report should be out next week. Everything is set for town meeting at Highland Center for the Arts and Greaves asked everyone to help spread the word about the 9 a.m. start time.
On the topic of ARPA funding, NEK Broadband submitted a request to increase its ARPA allocation. The select board previously approved spending $24,000 of ARPA funds on the NEK Broadband proposal, as recommended by the ARPA Committee. Mike Metcalf explained that the actual amount of ARPA funding needed was $32,000, which would leverage $63,000 in other funding to get the first broadband build-out under way on Shadow Lake Road. While this first phase will only serve 17 residences, it gets things moving and is expected to speed up the build-out throughout the rest of town.
Board member Collier said that she is in full support of the project, adding that the board had intended to provide the necessary ARPA funds for the broadband project and hadn’t realized the $24,000 request was not the amount required. After discussion, the board approved allocating the additional $8,000 in ARPA funds to NEK Broadband.
Under ongoing business, Romans reported that he met with architects Coe & Coe about the new town garage. Preliminary drawings of the site and buildings have been created, and he asked board members to comment about building configurations and locations on the lot. Inflation in the construction industry is staggering, Romans said, and noted that Glover’s garage, which is somewhat smaller than the proposed Greensboro garage, was built a few years ago for around $650,000. The new Greensboro garage, along with other structures and site work, may cost upwards of $1.5 million.
On the topic of hiring a grant writer, board member Ellen Clenik said that in order to get applicants, the town needs to be clear about the time commitment the job entails, as well as how much it pays. One grant writer she talked to charges $60 per hour. While the job will evolve once someone is hired and begins work, initial job parameters are needed, she said.
Romans has talked to Craftsbury Select Board co-chair Bruce Urie, who said the town is also looking for a grant writer and that perhaps the two towns could share a person.