October 22, 2008
Attending the meeting: Jon Trefry, Andrea Morgante, Ken Brown, Randy Volk, Howard Russell, Jeanne Wilson, Rocky Martin, Steve Button, Alex Weinhagen, William Lippert
Meeting called to order at 5:10 p.m. This was an emergency meeting of the Board, called as a result of the announcement by Saputo Cheese that they would be closing their facility immediately as a result of the fire on September 29, 2008.
Jeanne Wilson reviewed information that had been gathered since receiving word earlier in the day of the immediate closing. The following information was shared with the Board:
• Appraised value of the facility is $2.4 million, and generates $44,385 in property tax revenue. Approximately $8,800 of the tax revenue is for municipal tax. The rest is education tax.
• Appraised value of the equipment is $4 million, and generates $18,647 in property tax revenue. All of this tax revenue is municipal tax.
• Saputo owns 51% of the current wastewater treatment capacity of the Town’s treatment facility, and pays 51% of the O&M budget for the treatment facility, which equals $117,500 annually.
• Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee advised that his agency had been informed of the closure and was having discussion on whether the facility could be used by others. He advised that it was too early to know. He further advised that during a conversation with Greg Dwyer of Saputo earlier in the day, Mr. Dwyer noted that Saputo had just received a bill for $542,000 for fire fighting and HazMat costs associated with the fire.
• Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Kevin Dorn was not in his office, but agency member Jim Saudade advised that the Secretary and the Director of Economic Development had conferred and were undertaking some activities in an effort to have Saputo reconsider their decision.
• GBIC was contacted, and President Frank Cioffi was out of the office but will be informed (email also sent to Frank Cioffi)
• Karine Vachon, Director of Communications at Saputo was contacted to inquire whether Saputo planned to sell the facility and whether they had a potential buyer. Ms. Vachon advised that Saputo has made no decisions at this time, and is focusing on the employees.
• Calls were made to businesses whom had either previously expressed an interest in locating in or expanding in Hinesburg (Blodgett Oven and NRG Systems) to advise of the potential available industrial zoned space.
• A call was made to Cabot Creamery Cooperative regarding the potential availability of a cheese processing facility.
• Contact was made with Engineer Wayne Elliott of Forcier Aldrich Associates. Wayne asked whether the Town would want his firm to hold on submitting the discharge permit amendment to the State and design work until after the bond vote.
Alex advised that he had contact Joss Besse, Director of the Vermont Department of Planning & Revitalization. Joss provided some insight, including information about the Vermont Department of Labor, Workforce Development Division, and their service for Saputo workers in regards to unemployment and re-employment services.
Jon noted that there were immediate revenue concerns, and asked Steve for some information on the impact to the wastewater department. Steve advised that he could lower the lagoons and stop discharging. This will save expense for chemicals and electricity for the blowers. A concern with taking this action would be odors, but odors are really not a concern in cold weather. He would need to keep the blowers running intermittently over the winter to keep the lines from freezing, perhaps a 12 hour on / 12 hour off schedule. He noted that the elimination of flow from Saputo did not cut the workload in half, and he felt that two people (the Superintendent and the Operator) were still required to operate both the water and wastewater systems. Steve noted that the reduction in hydraulic loading supplied by Saputo would have a negligible impact on the biological activity of the lagoon system.
Alex noted that the closing could impact the upcoming bond vote for the wastewater treatment facility upgrade and would impact the growth center planning. He further advised that Green Mountain Power was planning to install a substation in Hinesburg because the area was nearing maximum capacity. Saputo utilized 2/3 of the capacity, and the closing may impact the need for the substation.
Jeanne advised that Vermont Gas planned to expand service to Hinesburg in 2009. A major component, which made the expansion financially feasible to Vermont Gas, was service to Saputo.
Alex advised that he had been contacted by Rob Farley regarding Rob’s concern about Saputo’s well MTB contamination and whether the closing and lack of draw from the Saputo well might allow the contamination plume to migrate to the Town wells. Steve said he didn’t feel this was really a concern, since the Town has consistently drawn more water from its wells than the draw from the Saputo wells. Monthly testing on the Town wells is currently being done. Steve said that he is working on a plan to address contamination should it ever occur.
Bill Lippert asked what role the Town played in determining what happened with the Saputo facility. He wanted to insure that the State involved the Town in negotiations and decisions. The Town needs to be a player, and the Selectboard should identify a point person for the Town. Andrea suggested that a letter be drafted to various State agencies and GBIC, saying that the Town wishes to be a partner in the process. Jeanne will draft a letter and circulate to the Board. In order to expedite the letter, it was decided that Jeanne would sign the letter on behalf of the Board.
There was discussion about the upcoming bond vote for the wastewater treatment facility upgrade. Andrea noted that the bond vote does not obligate the Town to incur the debt. It just provides the authorization to proceed with incurring bond debt if moving forward with the project was feasible. Howard also noted that the project could be modified (down-sized) as appropriate. It was recognized that answers about the future of the facility would not be available by the October 29 public meeting on the bond vote, but the Board should be prepared with as much information as possible.
Howard stated that the Town would take into consideration the future of the facility in determining the scope of the project. The bond vote would give the Board the authority to move forward when appropriate. The bottom line is that the plant still needs the upgrade, and the news of the Saputo closing has not changed that. Randy further noted that it was important to move forward with the bond vote due to the current availability of financing. Jon stated that the upgrade will still need to occur, and without the bond the improvements will happen in a piece-meal fashion, which will be more costly in the long run.
Rocky advised that the town-wide mailer for the bond vote was due to go out. He will check with Minute Man Press to see if it has already been printed, or whether there is time to modify it before it goes out to include information about the impact of the Saputo closing on the bond vote. Randy volunteered to work on verbiage to add to the mailer, or for a new mailer if the first one has already been sent out.
Andrea made a motion to go into executive session to discuss legal and personnel issues with Rocky Martin, Steve Button and Jeanne Wilson. Seconded by Ken and approved.
Ken made a motion to come out of executive session. Seconded by Randy and approved.
Ken made a motion to adjourn at 6:30 pm. Seconded by Randy and approved.
Jeanne Kundell Wilson
Hinesburg Town Administrator