The Halifax Board of Selectmen met Tuesday, Feb. 7. Selectman Naja Nessralla was unable to attend the meeting.
Selectmen took up the issue of training for town Boards and Committees. New Town Administrator Cody Haddad said that they have sent out some training materials to department heads and Boards and Committees regarding how to hold meetings. Haddad also said that he has reached out to the Attorney General’s office in the hopes of holding some open meeting law training sessions. He told the Selectmen that he is looking into holding some more specific training programs geared toward individual Boards and Commissions.
Selectmen Chair John Bruno said he would like to make it policy that as part of the appointment process, people are required to attend certain trainings. They did note that it wouldn’t be possible to insist on trainings for elected Boards such as the Planning Board. The Selectmen voted to approve Bruno’s suggested policy. Resident Jim Walters, who serves on the Finance Committee, said that the Massachusetts Municipal Association has many training WebEx’s available for different types of Committees and Boards.
Downed Trees at Halifax Mobile Home Estates
Selectmen had on the agenda to review and approve a draft CDBG application from Halifax Mobile Home Estates. The application is to remove several trees that came down during a recent storm. The town would be responsible for overseeing the project and would be the ones receiving the funding on behalf of Halifax Mobile Home Estates. Bruno told the representative from Halifax Mobile Home Estates that he would arrange to have them meet with new Town Administrator Cody Haddad and Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward to sort out the details.
Lingan St. Beach
The Selectmen had an appointment with the Park Commissioner and Police Chief Joao Chaves regarding the Lingan St. Beach. It was said that there are issues with the beach area being used to launch boats, jet skis being all over the place, inappropriate parking at Walmart, and non-resident use of the beach. The Park Commissioner said that the ticket structure and signage all need to be updated. It was acknowledged that the Police can’t be always monitoring the beach. Chaves said that it would be best to have someone monitoring parking, suggesting that it might be a good job for a high school student. He said that the additional parking across the street is overgrown and in need of being cut back.
Chaves said that last year people were coming from Revere, Boston, and even Rhode Island to go jet skiing, etc. at the beach. “It was out of control there for a little bit,” Chaves said. Bruno asked the Park Commissioner to sit down with Haddad and review the existing bylaws. If the bylaws aren’t appropriate for dealing with the issues, Haddad will meet with Town Counsel next. A resident pointed out that the bylaws only say that non-residents can’t park and use the beach but that it doesn’t say anything about non-residents that walk over to the beach.
The Selectmen also discussed the use of a one-time allotment of State funds that have been received. Bruno asked if some of that money could be used for the beach issues including signage. The Park Commissioner said they are working on the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s WPA Form 2 Determination of Applicability for beach nourishment and reconditioning. “The road’s washing into the lake, it’s a mess down there,” he said. He further told the Selectmen that engineering drawings will have to be created to move forward. He also noted that there are no picnic tables down there. He said they are also working on a feasibility study in town regarding accessibility in the form of boat ramp areas and parking.
Haddad told the Selectmen that a site visit will be scheduled for Morse Brothers. Haddad, a member of the Board of Selectmen, and an engineer will all attend the visit. Bruno said that once they figure out what is going on, they will schedule an appointment with Land Counsel. There were some residents in attendance at the meeting to speak on the project. Steve Goodman, who serves on the Conservation Commission and is neighbors with Morse Brothers, recommended that the Board enlist the help of someone from the Conservation Commission. He also recommended that someone from the Taunton Watershed also attend the site visit and/or get involved. Another resident recommended having a hydrologist visit the property as well.
“If we only attack it as a Halifax problem, we’re not going to solve the problem,” Goodman said. He recommended enlisting the help of the State saying that the digging is almost at “lake level.” Goodman also questioned if Morse Brothers was really selling cranberries or if they were making money from selling the sand. Bruno said that a member of the Conservation Commission could come along for the site visit and said they would like to begin by gathering the thoughts of the engineer.
Steven King of the Helping Hands Food Pantry appeared before the Selectmen regarding starting a Farmer’s Market that could be used to fund the food pantry. He was specifically requesting use of the Town Green as well as the Great Hall for several Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the summer and early fall.
“We serve a lot of people – more and more everyday – food uncertainty and such as that,” he explained. He also noted that they were privately funded and don’t receive grants or State money. The Selectmen approved the dates contingent upon the approval of the Board of Health and Police Department.
ARPA Grant Agreement
Haddad spoke to the Selectmen regarding the Plymouth County American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Grant Agreement. Haddad explained that in order to utilize the funds from the County, the town would need to sign the agreement. Some of the funds have already been approved for specific projects including HVAC at the elementary school. The Selectmen voted to approve the agreement.
Open Meeting Law Complaint
Haddad also spoke with the Selectmen regarding an Open Meeting Law complaint from the January 24 meeting. He said that the allegations included that the meeting was held in a room that required attendees to stand. Haddad said, “we did have enough seating, participants chose to stand.” Another allegation was that meeting minutes were not approved in a timely manner. Haddad said that they would work to get the meeting minutes approved in a timely manner and noted the difficulties posed by the recent turnover of the Board. The final allegation was that the Chair didn’t announce the names of the organizations that they would be entering into negotiations with during Executive Session. Haddad said it was an oversight and they would make sure that it didn’t happen again.
Appointments and Resignations
The Selectmen dealt with a few appointments, resignations, and talent bank forms. Brian Kling was unanimously reappointed to the Halifax Cultural Council. They also had a talent bank form from Ruth Mills for the Council on Aging. Mills said she moved to town two years ago and wanted to get involved. “I’m a freelance book editor, so my time is my own,” Mills explained. The Selectmen voted unanimously to appoint Mills to the Council.
They also dealt with Council on Aging resignations from Jo Schofield and Ivy Matheny. Schofield previously served as the Chair of the Council on Aging and said she plans to continue volunteering and attending coffee hours. Colleen Fiumara resigned from the Conservation Commission. Finally, the Selectmen accepted the resignation of Dave Swanson from the Highway Department as he retires following 22 years with the Department.
Brigette Benoit was appointed Assistant Accountant. Selectman Jonathan Selig said, “She’s been great, she’ll be a great asset to Town Hall.” They also approved the Animal Control Officer (ACO) contract with Precision Wildlife Services.
Veteran’s Agent Steve Littlefield met with the Selectmen regarding Robert Mullen and Shawn Goyette both filling out a talent bank form to serve as the Assistant Veteran’s Agent. Littlefield said that previously there was just one assistant but said that given the qualifications of both and the volunteer nature of the position, he was recommending that they both serve. After a brief interview with both the Selectmen unanimously approved their appointments.