The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
The Board also met with members of the Finance Committee for the appointment of two vacancies on the Committee. Both open terms expire in 2025. Frank Johnston told Selectmen that he was recently retired and had been attending meetings of various towns and committees to figure out what would be a good fit for him. He said that he spent 44 years managing a large environmental firm which familiarized him with bidding, contracts, operating budgets, labor, etc.
Jim Walters went before the Board next and told them that he and his wife moved from New Jersey two years ago. He said that he wanted to help after what happened with the resignations of the two Selectmen. He said that he checked a lot of boxes on the Talent Bank Form. Walters said he is the Director of Programs for State and Local Government for a cloud computing company and has extensive experience writing grants. The Selectmen voted to appoint both Johnston and Walters to the vacancies on the Finance Committee.
Chair John Bruno said they had received correspondence from the treasurer of the Halifax Mobile Home Estates. Bruno summarized the letter saying that for many years, the Mobile Home Estates had been fully occupied at 430 homes, however, that as of December of 2021 one of the homes was demolished in a house fire. They asked for the necessary changes to be made to the fees paid to the town.
Bruno requested of the other Selectmen that on one of the off Tuesdays per month, they establish Selectmen’s office hours where residents can come and discuss any concerns that they may have. The first Tuesday of every month was decided upon from the hours of 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and the third Tuesday of the month from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.. The first hour will be on Dec.6.
The Selectmen dealt with several recycling abatement requests including one for a home where a resident had passed away and the son didn’t realize he had to request an abatement. In the aforementioned case, the Selectmen voted in favor of abatement.
The Selectmen had an appointment with Steve Littlefield, who is the acting Veteran’s Agent. “He is now looking to fill the vacancy on a permanent basis; he has done a wonderful job on the Veteran’s ceremony,” Acting Town Administrator and Town Treasurer Sandy Nolan said. Littlefield was previously the Assistant Veteran’s Agent. Littlefield noted that he will soon be stepping down from active military service. The Selectmen voted unanimously to appoint him through June 30, 2023.
The Selectmen also met with Susan Hill, the Vice Chair of the Halifax Fireworks Committee. “We have decided to forgo our craft fair in December because of a lack of vendors,” Hill said. Hill said that they had been approached by someone requesting to be a multi-year sponsor of the fireworks display. She said they are considering doing a craft fair in the spring.
Council on Aging Director Darlene Regan met with the Selectmen as well regarding a few issues. Nolan said that Regan was hoping to hire a van driver at Step 4 rather than Step 1 due to the qualifications of the particular driver. Regan explained that they had lost drivers in the past due to the salary range. Regan said that the driver in question is GATRA qualified. The Board voted to hire the driver at Grade 2, Step 4.
Regan also requested that the receptionist title be changed to administrative assistant calling the former title “antiquated.” She also said that administrative assistant better suited the tasks being fulfilled by the role. Selig said if it was just a name change, then he saw no harm in it. His concern was if there was a grade change associated with the title change. The Selectmen passed a motion to change the job title name from receptionist to administrative associate. Regan also said that the Outreach Coordinator position is not truly defined as clearly as it should be, based on the community’s needs. She told the Selectmen that she rewrote the job description as Human Resource Service and Case Worker. Bruno asked if they could hire for a position that doesn’t exist yet in the bylaw. Nolan said she would need to propose the position to the Wage and Personnel at the public hearing in January and then it would need to be voted upon at town meeting. Bruno asked if he could take it under advisement so that he could gather more information before deciding.
The Selectmen also had an appointment with Municipal Environmental Law Attorney Richard Hucksam regarding a proposed condominium complex of 200 units on 25 acres. Hucksam, who is representing the town, said that Mass Housing wants the town to submit comments on the project. “At this point, in my view, the very best thing we can do is get from the various town boards and officials all the comments that we can about the project,” Hucksam said. Bruno asked if those contained abutter comments and was told that this was really for town officials to submit. Hucksam said that they would have a problem not going through the 40B process. Chapter 40B Housing is a Massachusetts program that enables developers to overrule local zoning bylaws in order to increase the number of affordable homes in certain municipalities. “Does our ZBA not have as much bargaining power because it is a 40B?” Selig asked. “In one sense it has less bargaining power because if you’re just dealing with zoning bylaw, it has criteria that have to be satisfied and that’s it unless there’s a variance granted and the variance standard is very strict under Mass law,” Hucksam said. He continued saying that 40B pits the local concerns against the need for affordable housing. “They’re going to be balanced against each other and that’s where the more the town can establish that there are real issues… during the hearing process the better position its in to have some kind of control over what the project ends up being,” he explained.
There was a conversation on the Building Inspector certification. “I’ll say that we have received several letters relating to this issue, I’m not going to read them all because some of them go on for four pages, but they will be part of our public record,” Bruno said. Bruno summarized the issue saying that they don’t have complete certification for the Building Inspector. “We’ve had a couple of concerned residents reach out wanting to point out to the Board that our Building Inspector had not received all of his… certifications yet. I spoke to Mr. Perry, our Building Inspector and he told me that it is in the works,” Selig said. He further said that they have on record an extension request from the Building Inspector. He said that the State would rule on the extension of time request. Bruno asked James Perry how close he was to being certified and was told that he needs to complete a fire test. Perry confirmed that taking that test would be enough to certify him as a local Building Inspector. He would need three more sets of tests to become Building Commissioner. Perry said they do have a Commissioner out of Bridgewater who signs certificates of occupancy alongside Perry. Perry said, “just for the record, my predecessor also received an extension of time.”
Bruno said that they received an email of a donation of land at 0 Hill St. to the town. “Maybe we can find a use for it someday,” Bruno said. The Board said they were in favor of adopting the small land parcel pending it passing at town meeting.
Selig provided an update on the Holidays in Halifax planning saying that traditionally it is the second Saturday in December. The plan is to have the event from roughly 4 pm to 8 pm on December 10. He said that there would be an ice sculpture, hayrides, Silver Lake carolers, and food trucks. There will also be balloon animals, jumpy houses, and Santa.
The Selectmen also dealt with a complaint of an open meeting law violation at one of the Selectmen meetings that were run when just Selig was at the helm on October 25. The complaint stated that he accepted meeting minutes from the October 11 meeting without a quorum. Town Counsel recommended that the two new Selectmen watch the recording of the meeting and then approve the meeting minutes.