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The Commons
Town and Village

Newfane briefs

Originally published in The Commons issue #408 (Wednesday, May 17, 2017).

Recycling Committee forms

NEWFANE—NEWFANE — With the coming removal of the recycling bins outside the Town Offices, the Selectboard has been trying to figure out if they want to replace them. But they’re not doing it alone.

The Windham Solid Waste Management District’s Board of Supervisors voted earlier this year to close the Materials Recovery Facility at the end of the fiscal year. With no District-owned place for the recyclables to go and get sorted, across the county, the roll-off bins not in transfer stations will disappear after June 30.

Johanna Gardner, who until recently was the town’s representative to the District, helped form a recycling committee at Town Meeting. At the May 1 regular Selectboard meeting, the Board unanimously voted — minus the absent Gary Delius — to appoint Gardner, resident Tristam Johnson, and Board member Mike Fitzpatrick to the committee.

Gardner expressed some concern with having Fitzpatrick on the committee, because he will likely submit a bid on a future recycling collection site. Fitzpatrick agreed to recuse himself from voting should that occur.

Members of the Selectboard and Administrator Shannon Meckle are still working on the committee’s official charge, but until then, committee members can begin researching pricing on equipment and hauling fees. Once the committee comes up with proposals, it will submit them to the Selectboard for their consideration.

But with the bins going away after June 30, the committee and the Selectboard must move quickly.

“This is like one of those puzzles where you have 5,000 pieces and 10 minutes to solve it,” said Selectboard Chair Carol Hatcher. “It’s a very difficult task."

Open & Accepting Town Committee update

NEWFANE — Ken Estey, who, at Town Meeting, proposed establishing an Open & Accepting Town resolution, reported on the associated committee’s progress at the May 1 regular Selectboard meeting.

In late-April, the committee met and had their organizational meeting — and appointed Estey as chairperson. They set their next meeting time: 5:30 p.m. on May 24 at the Town Offices. Future meetings will happen in June, July, September, and October, Estey said. In November, committee members will present their findings to the Selectboard.

All of the Open & Accepting Town Committee meetings are open, Estey said, and “members of the public are absolutely invited to make comment” at the meetings, or by contacting the Selectboard or Administrator Shannon Meckle at the Town Offices.

“We need as much input from as many people as possible about our work. This is the work of the town,” Estey said.

Some topics committee members are working on, Estey said, are the difference between refugees and immigrants; refugees and their settlement; the fair and impartial policing policy; and the question of what other towns pursuing similar activities are doing.

At the May 1 meeting, Selectboard members read letters from townspeople into the record. Their comments asked about process and the committee’s work.

Town’s phone systems hacked

NEWFANE — At the May 1 regular Selectboard meeting, Administrator Shannon Meckle provided the Board members with some information on their dispute with Fairpoint Communications over a phone bill.

“The good news is that our phone bill is not $25,000, which it was at one point,” Meckle said.

Because the municipality’s monthly telephone bill is usually approximately $129, Meckle investigated the increase. What she learned was that someone had hacked into the town office’s voice-mail system and made a series of international calls to a disposable, or “burner,” cellphone in the Dominican Republic.

Unfortunately, there is no way to find out who did it, Meckle said. When she contacted the Vermont State Police, “they said it’s [like] chasing ghosts,” she said.

Meanwhile, Fairpoint adjusted Newfane’s bill — to $3,359. “That’s their lowest international rate they offer,” Meckle said.

According to Meckle, the town’s insurance company, through the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, has denied coverage under the policy’s rider covering computer hacking because they don’t consider a phone a computer.

After a number of Selectboard members and meeting attendees expressed incredulity and anger, the Selectboard voted to pay the utility the amount they usually pay — about $129 — but have the town attorney send the payment with a letter disputing the charges. The Board also voted to contact the Secretary of State and the Attorney General.

Selectboard Chair Carol Hatcher said the phone company “is holding us over a barrel” over charges resulting from someone else’s criminal activity. Hatcher said she wanted to get the word out through the meeting’s recording on Brattleboro Community Television to warn others of the scam.

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