As the Hinesburg Selectboard perused a draft policy governing town employees’ personal use of social media, board members questioned if it applied to them.
Chair Phil Pouech said at the board’s May 19 meeting that it should, but town manager Todd Odit said as board members are elected, they would not be considered town employees.
He suggested, however, getting a ruling from the town’s attorney.
“Committee members who are appointed by the board are probably more akin to an employee,” Odit said, but suggested that was another issue on which to seek legal advice.
“Whether we’re legally bound by this as selectboard members or not, it’s certainly a good idea for us to follow this, because as selectboard members we are in a position of leadership and we’re also in a position of visibility. We should be conscious of what we’re saying and posting,” board member Merrily Lovell said.
After controversy erupted over what many considered a homophobic meme posted by fire chief Al Barber on his personal Facebook page in April, both Pouech and Odit said working on the town’s social media policy became a priority.
At the meeting, selectboard members suggested minor revisions to the proposed policy to make the wording more inclusive.
For example, board member Mike Loner proposed changing the word sex to gender in a section prohibiting personal social media posts meant to harm someone’s reputation or contributing to a hostile work environment based on factors including race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, military or veteran status.
“Sex indicates there’s just two and it’s usually predicated by birth,” Loner said. “That’s not actually true. I also would add sexual orientation, which is glaringly missing from this.”
Pouech said the final version of the social media use policy might be approved at either of the next two selectboard meetings.
Rescue contract extended
The selectboard voted to extend its contract with St. Michael’s Rescue by six months because Hinesburg’s ambulance service will not be running when the contract ends June 30.
Odit said there is a shortage of vehicle computer chips, which is slowing down the delivery of the ambulance the town has ordered.
“If it turns out that we can get the service up and running before the end of December, then they’d be fine with ending the contract and not holding us to time we don’t need,” he said.
Town hall reopening
In his town manager’s report, Odit announced the second and third floors of the town hall will be open to the public starting Tuesday after Memorial Day. Staff will be working from their offices rather than remotely.
Masks will be required for employees and visitors.
Through June, access to the first floor of town hall, where the town clerk’s office is located, will still be by appointment only, Odit said.
People without an appointment can knock on the door on the side of the town hall, back up and a member of the town clerk’s office will talk to them outside.
Odit said the plan is to open town hall completely to the public after July 4, although it could be earlier or later.
“That really depends on what the governor’s restrictions are,” said Odit.
Acreage added to forest
The board voted unanimously to approve buying 291 acres from the Carse Land Company on Lincoln Hill Road abutting Hinesburg Town Forest.
Pouech said a lot of people have told the selectboard they support adding this property to the town forest.
“I’m not surprised. This is a critical part of what makes Hinesburg, Hinesburg,” Pouech said.
Using the land for recreation, as a wildlife corridor, and the other benefits that come from increasing the size of the town forest are reasons people move to Hinesburg, he said.