Volume 5 Number 11
Office of the Vermont
Secretary of State -
26 Terrace Street, Drawer 09,
Montpelier, VT 05609-1101 : Phone 802-828-2363
Voice from the Vault
By Gregory Sanford, State Archivist
Breaking the Mold
I confess that during late night rummagings through my refrigerator
I occasionally unearth food with longer beards than the state
archivist. Mold can be fascinating, but it usually not welcome on food
or records. In recent weeks, however, I have heard from several
clerks, and one librarian, who have had to deal with mold in their
The Archives is currently blessed with a UVM graduate intern
through a program of the Snelling Center on Government. Lois Coulter,
a graduate student in Historic Preservation, has been helping the
Archives update its disaster plan. I asked Lois to write up a short
piece on mold and records
The Problem of Molds in Collections, by Lois Coulter
"Molds" and "mildew" are the generic terms given to a wide variety
of molds, mildew, fungi, algae, rusts and yeasts which feed on living
or organic material. While dormant mold spores cause little damage,
active mold colonies excrete an enzyme that breaks down the host
material, weakening and altering paper and book bindings; many molds
contain pigmentation that irreversibly stains paper, cloth or leather.
In addition, several varieties of molds result in respiratory ailments
making the presence of active mold colonies a significant health
Microscopic spores are everywhere, transmitted by air currents as
well as contact with humans or animals. Once established, spores may
remain dormant until environmental conditions are favorable for
growth. Molds require only high humidity and warm temperatures to
become active. A musty odor, the presence of stains or the appearance
of a fine web of filaments or a bushy growth of almost any color
indicate an outbreak of mold. The sudden appearance of mold in a
collection is a signal that changes in the environment have allowed
the spores to germinate.
Mold species commonly found in libraries and archives prefer the
starches, gums and gelatin found in book bindings and the cellulose
fibers that make up paper. "High temperatures, poor air circulation,
dim light, and accumulated grime assist and accelerate the growth of
mold once it has germinated, but only high relative humidity and
moisture contents of the substrate can initiate and sustain mold
In outbreaks involving less than 300 cubic feet of records, where
no toxic molds are present, enlisting outside aid is not necessary.
When mold is detected, a mycologist should be consulted to determine
the mold species. Some molds are highly toxic to humans and require
more specialized treatment.
People with compromised immune systems, asthma and other
respiratory ailments as well as diabetics, those on steroid
treatments, and people with serious allergies should not be exposed to
either the area where the mold outbreak occurred or to the infected
items. All others should wear protective clothing and HEPA filter
masks when exposed to active mold colonies.
Once an active mold colony is discovered, three actions must be
taken: establish the cause of the environmental changes, isolate the
infected items, and thoroughly clean and dry the affected areas.
Reducing the humidity and increasing air circulation is essential to
discouraging mold growth. Optimum relative humidity is below 50% with
a temperature in work spaces below 70F. Discovering the source of the
environmental change is also essential to preventing the further
proliferation or recurrence of mold colonies. Regulating the
environment to maintain a steady temperature and relative humidity is
sound collection management policy.
Isolation of affected materials deters the spread of the mold.
Infected items should be sealed in a plastic bag and removed to a
clean area with relative humidity below 45% for decontamination. Once
in a clean environment, the items should be removed from the plastic
bag to discourage further mold growth. Wet or damp materials should be
dried immediately or frozen until appropriate treatment options can be
undertaken. All dry materials should be cleaned with a soft brush to
remove remaining mold spores. Exposure to ultraviolet light will
inhibit mold growth and may kill molds (sustained exposure to UV
light, however, is not good for records).
The area where the mold outbreak occurred should be disinfected
with a mild bleach solution. All HVAC system components in the area
will require cleaning and disinfecting as well. Until the affected
area is thoroughly cleaned, removed items should not be re-filed.
"Spores, active or dormant, are ubiquitous. Although it is impossible
to get rid of all the spores, mold growth can be controlled."2
Finally, before any new material is introduced to the collection, it
should be quarantined and carefully inspected for any signs of mold or
The most important step is the careful regulation of relative
humidity in the collections storage area. "Problem environmental
conditions that may contribute to higher humidity levels need to be
corrected. Repair leaking pipes, gutters and downspouts, cracked
windows, a problem roof, deteriorated brick, masonry pointing, or
cracked walls."3 Regular inspections of the HVAC
systems, regular cleaning and the maintenance of good air circulation
in the storage areas will help keep the area free of the media
required to nourish spores.
1 Managing a Mold Invasion:
Guidelines for a Disaster Response, Conservation Center for Art and
2 Emergency Salvage Of Moldy
Books And Paper, Northeast Document Conservation Center
3 Mold and Mildew: Prevention
of Microorganism Growth in Museum Collections, National Park Service
Table of Contents
Past Issues of
Secretary of State's Homepage
1. Executive Session Can Include People Who Are Not Board
Members. Vermont law permits a board to go into an executive
session to discuss a variety of matters. 1 V.S.A. § 313(b) provides
that "attendance in executive session shall be limited to members of
the board . . . and in the discretion of the public body, its staff,
clerical assistants, its legal counsel and persons who are subjects
of the discussion or whose expert information is needed."
2. Board Cannot Eject Member From Executive Session. In one town a
dissenting member of the board routinely informed the public and press about
what was discussed during their executive session. There is no way the board
can prevent this from occurring. Although the board can publicly express its
displeasure, the law does not permit the board to exclude or eject one of
its members from a meeting. 1 V.S.A. § 313(b)
3. Board May Eject Unruly Member of Public. On occasion a member
of the public will disrupt a meeting. In such a case the chair of the board
should first try to calm the individual down and restore order. If this is
not possible the chair can call on the town constable to remove the
individual from the meeting. 1 V.S.A. § 312(h).
4. School Board May Act With Majority of Those Present. Most local
boards can only act when a majority of the full board is in agreement. 1
V.S.A. § 172. Not so for school boards. According to 16 V.S.A. § 554, while
a majority of the members of the board shall constitute a quorum, the
concurrence of a majority of members present at a school board meeting is
necessary and sufficient for board action.
5. School Board Follows Roberts Rules; Selectboard Can Create Own
Procedures. Vermont law requires school board meetings to be conducted
using Robert’s Rules of Order. 16 V.S.A. § 554. For small school boards we
recommend that the board use Robert’s Rules for Small Boards. In contrast,
the law is silent about what procedures the selectboard and other local
boards should follow. Accordingly, these boards can adopt their own rules of
order. This can be, but does not have to be, Robert’s Rules. We recommend
that board’s commit to writing the procedures they follow so that all board
members and members of the public will know what to expect.
6. Board May Draw Orders Without Quorum In Some Cases. Vermont law
permits the selectboard (and other boards that have authority to draw orders
directly from the treasurer) to authorize one or more members of the board
to draw orders directed to the treasurer to pay the expense of the town.
Orders must state definitely the purpose for which they are drawn and serve
as full authority to the treasurer to make the payments. The full board must
be provided a record of the orders drawn in this manner. 24 V.S.A. § 1623.
7. Board May Submit Minutes of Meeting To Draw Orders On Town
Accounts. If a selectboard chooses it may simply submit to the town
treasurer a certified copy of those portions of the selectboard minutes,
properly signed by the clerk and chair or by a majority of the board,
showing to whom, and for what purpose payments by the town are to be made by
the treasurer. The certified copy of the minutes serves as full authority to
the treasurer to make the approved payments. 24 V.S.A. § 1623.
8. Treasurer May Not Make Payment Unless Law For Drawing Orders Is
Followed. If a board has not voted to permit less than a majority to
draw orders on the town accounts, the treasurer may not write a check at the
request of less than a majority of the board. This means that if a board
does not have a quorum present at its meeting it may not authorize the
payment of town expenses. In some situations a special meeting or an
emergency meeting of the board may be warranted to ensure that required
payments be made in a timely fashion. 24 V.S.A. § 1576.
9. Lost Minutes Won’t Invalidate Decisions. If a decision was made
at an open meeting of the town, the fact that the minutes of the meeting
were later misplaced or lost will not result in the invalidation of the
action taken at that meeting. Town of Rutland v. City of Rutland, 170 Vt. 82
10. Action Taken In Violation of Open Meeting Law is Not Void. 1
V.S.A. § 312(a) provides that "no resolution, rule, regulation, appointment,
or formal action shall be considered binding except as taken or made at [an]
open meeting . . .." The Vermont Supreme Court has held that this section
does not provide that an action taken at an improperly closed meeting is
void, but rather, that action taken outside an open meeting is ineffective
unless ratified in an open meeting. Once the decision is ratified the action
is effective and binding. Valley Realty v. Town of Hartford, 165 Vt. 463
11. Old Roads Don’t Go Away From Lack Of Use. Vermont law is clear
that a town highway cannot be abandoned or discontinued without following
the required statutory procedures. In Re Bill, 168 Vt. 439 (1998). Moreover,
a landowner has no right to adverse possession over a town road, even if the
landowner has built a building on it and has maintained that building for
over 15 years. 19 V.S.A. § 1102. Even if the town fails to maintain a road,
and even if that road drops off the maps of the town, if an old road was
never discontinued then the town retains the right of way. In Re Bill, 168
Vt. 439 (1998).
12. Landowner Can Request Permission to "Pent" a Road. With the
permission of the selectboard a landowner can place an unlocked gate across
a public highway. The board can designate where this gate may be placed. 19
V.S.A. § 304(a). The board’s permission must be in writing and recorded in
the town clerk’s office. Note that this will not cause a reclassification of
the road, so the procedures for reclassification do not have to be followed.
Pent roads originated as a way to permit a farmer to use land on both sides
of the road for grazing. Now, it is a way for landowners to slow down ATVs
and other vehicles using the road.
13. Some Tax Exemptions Must Be Voted On By Town. The basic rule
is that real and personal property of an organization that is used primarily
for health or recreational purposes is not automatically exempt from
taxation. However, the property can be made exempt by a vote of the
municipality. 32 V.S.A. § 3838(7).
14. Travel Trailer May Be Taxed If It Remains In One Place For Too
Long. Generally, motor vehicles that are registered for use on the
highway cannot be taxed as real property. An exception exists for trailer
coaches (a trailer or semi-trailer designed to be towed by a motor vehicle
and equipped or used for sleeping or living quarters). A trailer coach may
be taxed as real property by the town in which it is located if it stays on
the same trailer site or camp site for more than 180 days during the 365
days prior to April 1. A trailer coach is not taxed as real property if it
is stored on property on which the owner resides in another dwelling as a
permanent residence. 32 V.S.A. § 3692.
15. If Town Extends Sewer System It Can Require Property Owners To
Connect. If a town or city extends its sewer system, it can adopt an
ordinance to require that all adjacent property owners connect to the public
system and abandon private septic systems. 24 V.S.A.§3509. The Sewage
Commissioners may require the owners of buildings, subdivisions or
developments abutting a public street to connect to the municipal sewage
16. Water or Sewer Commissioners Can Charge Interest On Delinquent
Payments if Voters Approve. Water or Sewer Commissioners can charge
interest on delinquent payments for water and/or sewer ONLY if the voters of
the municipality have approved an article in the warning to collect interest
on overdue water or sewer bills. 24 V.S.A. §5151 and 32 V.S.A. §5136. The
article must be voted in the same manner as the vote to collect interest on
delinquent taxes, and likewise stays in effect until voted otherwise at a
17. The Majority of Members of a Planning Commission Must Reside in
Town. The majority of members of a Planning Commission must reside in
town; however, the Selectboard can appoint members from outside of Town. The
statutes allow non-residents to serve in order to allow the planning
commission to have members with special expertise from outside of town. 24
18. A Member of a Planning Commission May Be Removed at Any Time.
A member of a Planning Commission may be removed at any time by the
unanimous vote of the Selectboard. 24 V.S.A.§4323(a) The statute does not
require that planning commissioners only be removed for cause.
19. Development Review Board Members Do Not Have To Reside In Town.
There is no statutory requirement that members of the Development Review
Board reside in town. 24 V.S.A.§4461(a). The Selectboard can appoint all or
some members of the Planning Commission to serve on the DRB or can appoint
entirely different citizens.
20. A member of a Development Review Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment
can only be removed "for cause" by the Selectboard after being given written
charges and a public hearing. 24 V.S.A.§4461(b)
21. A Zoning By-Law, Amendment or Repeal Must Be Adopted In Its
Entirety. A proposed zoning by-law, amendment or repeal must be adopted
in its entirety according to the procedures set out in 24 V.S.A. §4404.
Citizens cannot petition to have a proposed by-law voted on separately
section by section. However, 5% of the legal voters of the town can petition
the planning commission to ask for amendment(s) to any section or repeal of
any section(s) of the zoning bylaw. 24. V.S.A.§4403(b)
22. ERRATA: Last month we mistakenly said that school
districts must bid contracts over $10,000. Act 12 of 2003 modified
section 559 so that $10,000 is now $15,000. This means that the law
requires public advertisement of all contracts over $15,000 or an
invitation to bid to three or more people or vendors capable of
fulfilling a contract for: 1) the construction, purchase, lease, or
improvement of any school building; (2) the purchase or lease of any
item or items required for supply, equipment, maintenance, repair,
or transportation of students; or (3) a contract for transportation,
maintenance, or repair services. If the board receives fewer than 3
bids the Commissioner of Education can grant an exception to this
rule. For school construction contracts of over $500,000, the board
must follow rules established by the State Board of Education, and
receive suggestions and recommendations on bidders from the State
Department of Buildings and General Services. 16 V.S.A. § 559. The
amendment of section 559 also provides for contract renewal without
a new bid under certain circumstances set out in the law. 16 V.S.A.
§ 559 (e)(7).
In our monthly Opinions we provide what we believe the law requires based
upon our legal judgment, years of observing Vermont’s local government
practices, and Vermont Court decisions. This information is intended as a
reference guide only and should not replace the advice of legal counsel.
Table of Contents | Past Issues
of Opinions | Secretary of State's
Service Agency Appropriations Get on the Ballot
Every year Vermont’s towns appropriate
hundreds of thousands of dollars to support social service agencies
that provide services to their communities. In many town these gifts
appear as separate articles to be voted by the townspeople. In other
communities these amounts are wrapped into the "selectmen’s budget’
and included in the overall budget of the town.
The practice, of going directly to the voters for agency funding
has proliferated in the past ten years as federal and state funding
have been reduced. As a result of the increase in demand for
assistance, town officials have adopted a variety of policies and
practices about when and how agencies may request financial support
from the voters of the town. Because state law also provides agencies
the right to petition to be placed on the ballot, confusion abounds.
The following is a step-by-step guide to the process of getting on the
1. Who can ask for money?
The general rule is that a town may only spend taxpayer dollars for
social service agencies that serve the community. According to 24 V.S.A.
§ 2691 a town or village may "appropriate such sums
of money as it deems necessary for the support of social service programs
and facilities within that town for its residents."
F Note that, despite the statutory language, the
Vermont Supreme Court has held that social service agencies physically
located outside the municipality may be considered to be social programs
within the village or town if the agency serves the residents of the
municipality. Addison County Community Action
Group v. City of Vergennes, 152 Vt. 161 (1989)(this case also extended
§ 2691 to cities.)
The statute sets out the types of social service agencies for which a
municipality may appropriate sums of money. These include, (but are not
limited to) services for/involving:
Transportation Day Care Disabled Persons
Nutrition Senior Citizens Drug and Alcohol Abusers
Rehabilitative Services for persons with low incomes
Persons requiring employment to eliminate their need for public
2. How does an agency get a financial request on the ballot?
An organization’s request for a town appropriation can be placed on the
ballot in one of two ways.
a) An agency can bring a petition, signed by 5% of the voters, to
the selectboard by the 40th day before the date of the meeting. 17
V.S.A. § 2642(b). Note that more than one agency
can join together to circulate a single petition in the community.
Unless the petition includes these requests as separate articles, each
asking for a separate appropriation, the town will have to vote on the
proposed combined appropriations. (If voted on the floor, the meeting
can always amend the article to increase or decrease the
b) The selectboard may, on its own motion, include in the warning
appropriations for non-profits that serve the town.
F Some selectboards have an established policy
about when it will include an appropriation request on the warning without
petition. A typical
policy is to automatically place on the warning the previous year’s
appropriations. In these towns, any non-profit that had not previously
been given funds by the town, or an organization that wishes an increase
in funding must still petition the town to get on the ballot.
3. After the vote.
In the event that a social service agency receives an appropriation
from the town, it can expect to receive a check from the town at the
beginning of the town's fiscal year. If the appropriation is large,
sometimes the agency and the town agree to two or three installments
(perhaps to mirror installment payment of property taxes). In addition,
state law allows the selectboard to require the agency to enter into a
contract with the town to ensure that the appropriation is used to provide
services to the town. 24 V.S.A. § 2692. A court will
require that such a contract be reasonable. Addison County Community
Action Group v. City of Vergennes, 152 Vt. 161 (1989).
For more information see Getting on the Ballot: A Practical Guide
For Social Service Agencies on the Secretary of State website at
www.sec.state.vt.us (go to the municipal page and then to handbooks).
Table of Contents | Past Issues
of Opinions | Secretary of State's
2003-04 Poster and Essay Contest
We are pleased to announce the 2003-2004 Vermont Secretary of
State’s Essay and Poster Contest. We are hopeful students will take
part in this contest that promotes the history of Vermont, the Vermont
Constitution and the importance of voting.
This contest is open to students at all grade levels. Those in grades K-2
may participate in a poster contest on Official Vermont Symbols. Students in
grades 3, 4 and 5 are asked to draw posters with a Vermont History Theme.
Students in grades 6 to 8 are asked to write on the topic of the Vermont
Constitution and students in grades 9 to 12 are asked to write on the topic
involving the importance of voting to democracy.
A good starting point for this contest is the Secretary of State’s Kid’s
Page on the Internet. The web site is intended to supplement classroom
studies and it can be of assistance to the students as they prepare for
their posters or essays. Our web address is www.sec.state.vt.us. You can
also view last year’s winning entries.
As with any contest there will be prizes for students within each
category. A distinguished panel of judges will review the entries and
establish a winner in each category. Each of the four winners will receive a
$100 savings bond. His or her class will also be invited to be my guest for
a day in Montpelier to tour the State House, visit the Historical Society
Museum and have a rare viewing of the Vermont Constitution which is kept in
the Archives at my office. This is a particular honor, since the Vermont
Constitution is only removed from its special vault on very few occasions.
Please encourage the students in your communities to participate in this
contest. All schools will be receiving the rules and registration forms for
this contest in early November.
This contest is open to all students across Vermont and entries must be
received by April 2, 2004.
Visit our website at:
to print out official contest rules and entry form.
Table of Contents | Past Issues of
Secretary of State's Homepage
Tip of the Month
By Sandy Harris,
VMCTA President and Vernon Town Clerk
When we upgraded our computers we kept one that is networked to ours
on a "read only basis" for the land records indexes and day book.
Even some of the "older" attorneys seem to enjoy using this as well.
If you have a good tip that you would like to share with our
readers please email it to Sandy Harris at
mail them to:
Sandy Harris- VMCTA President
Town of Vernon
567 Governor Hunt Rd
Vernon, VT 05354
Contents | Past Issues
of Opinions | Secretary
of State's Homepage
Volunteers Wanted: VPSA 2004
We are planning for the 2004 Vermont Public Service
Awards and we need your help!
The Secretary of State’s Office will be honoring long serving
appointed and elected local officials of all fourteen counties for the
2004 Vermont Public Service Awards (VPSA). The purpose of the VPSA
program is twofold -it gives our dedicated local officials the
recognition they deserve - and, by highlighting the vital role our
public servants play in our towns, it will hopefully encourage others
If you are interested in volunteering please email
Marianne Lynch at email@example.com or call 802-828-2148
to get involved!
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November 2003 Calendar
Veterans Day. 1:371
Thanksgiving Day. 1:371
Table of Contents
Issues of Opinions | Secretary of
December 2003 Calendar
December 1: Last day to pay property taxes in
towns that voted to collect interest on overdue taxes. 32:5136(a)
December 14: Last day for Listers to add omitted inventory to
tax roles. 32:4086
December 23: (70 days before Town Meeting) First day to warn
the first public hearing if a charter adoption, amendment or repeal is
to be voted on at Town Meeting. 17:2641(a), 2645(a)
December 25: Christmas Day. 1:371
December 30: Last day for Listers to correct real or personal
estate omission or obvious error in grand list, with approval of
December 31: Town fiscal year ends, unless voted otherwise.
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Issues of Opinions | Secretary of