The Halifax Board of Selectmen met virtually on the evening of Tuesday, July 27.
Water System Discussion
Selectmen met with the Water Commissioners and the Board of Health to discuss the water system. Selectmen Chair Gordon Andrews explained that a resident had attended a previous Board of Selectmen meeting to complain about the state of the water supply to her home. The resident had provided the Board with photographs of brown water. Andrews asked if someone could provide some clarification on the discolored water. A member of the Water Commissioners responded, “I know that specific development that she lives in; it’s because of what the water main is in. it’s an eight-inch water main going in with a two-inch main coming off and a dead end.” He said the building maintenance company was supposed to go in and do something since the Water Commissioners cannot go in and flush. He said the company was not flushing as often as they should be. Andrews asked if the water was safe and was told it was. The resident asked if it was just the condos, why was brown water being seen in other areas in town. The Water Commissioners acknowledged that the town may not have been doing their due diligence regarding flushing in the past and stated that there is a new Superintendent in place as of the last three weeks. “We know there’s been a problem with flushing and we’re going to correct that,” the member of the Water Commissioners stated. “Thank you for taking some ownership,” the resident said. Someone asked if the discoloration could be rust from older pipes. The Water Commissioners said they didn’t believe that to be the case.
The Water Commissioners insisted that if a proper flushing job was completed then “ninety percent of these problems will go away.” Selectman Ashley DiSesa pushed for an answer regarding when residents would begin to see improvement but an answer was not given. DiSesa also asked if they would be willing to go out to the condos and investigate and was told that they would.
Zoning Bylaw Review Contract
Seelig told the Board of Selectmen that if they wished to make amendments to the proposed contract, they would need to be sent to Attorney Mark Bobrowski soon. “I did talk to the Finance Committee about this last night; they’re welcoming other Boards, Committees, and town officials to participate in this project with the anticipation that the work reviewing and revising the contract moves ahead,” Seelig explained. Andrews said that his concern was that the Finance Committee, through their own admission, does not have the expertise necessary to do the work. He noted that they are not getting the needed outside participation at their meetings. “I think we should consider revamping the bylaw subcommittee and assigning them to work on this task with Attorney Bobrowski,” Andrews recommended. Andrews said that thus far it is really just Attorney Bobrowski providing recommendations on what he sees could be done differently. DiSesa agreed with Andrews. “And who would you put on that Committee?” Selectman Troy Garron asked. DiSesa replied that she would like to see someone from Zoning and Planning. Seelig said that previously there were members from Zoning, Planning, the Selectmen, the Building Inspector, and some members at large.
“I know obviously a number of people opposed this project at Town Meeting back in September; I’m not quite sure that it would be normal to have people that oppose the project and voted against it to be on the same Committee that actually is trying to get the work done,” Seelig said. Andrews disagreed saying, “Except those are the people that you need to get buy-in with two-thirds of the vote.” Seelig asked what would be preventing those against the project from sabotaging it. DiSesa said she felt the necessary checks and balances would be in place. A motion was made to revamp the bylaw subcommittee. It was voted through with Garron abstaining.
Appointment for Live Entertainment Permit
The Board met with David and Linda Tonioli who were seeking the permit for August 14 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Andrews confirmed that they had already verified that a Police detail would not be necessary. DiSesa asked if they would have enough space for parking and was assured that they would. “Our invitations are in the mail?” Garron joked. The Board voted unanimously to approve the permit.
Council on Aging Coffee Group
Seelig said that while a men’s coffee group has been in place for a number of years, they have only recently organized a woman’s one. He said it was great to see more activities happening under the new COA Director. The new Director spoke saying, “In order to increase the awareness of the COA, what has been difficult of course is finding the resources to be able to hold the events. We have so much energy here, tons of energy, I don’t want to squash that energy – I want to create more programs.” Officer Cushman has been invited to the event. “The community is very supportive of one another and you don’t see that often,” she said.
Town Facebook Page
Seelig said that the Board would need to decide whether or not to allow comments from the public as they would need to be moderated if they were allowed. If not allowed, it would simply be a means of posting information to the public. “So, I think posting onto Facebook to share information is good; I think it creates issues if you’re going to have more than one person comment back because if two members of a three-person Board comment back, that’s a violation of an open meeting law,” Andrews said. Seelig said he was more interested in whether or not to allow comments from the general public. DiSesa said that she didn’t necessarily think comments should be allowed but said she did feel that messages should be allowed. Andrews said he felt that they needed to have a policy in place and recommended speaking to the town attorney to see if they have a social media policy to recommend.
Seelig asked the Board if they wished to make an appointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Garron said he wished to nominate Daniel Borsari. DiSesa said she felt that applicant Tina Kenyon had the qualifications necessary. “It would be nice to see a mom on the Board with all of her education and background in real estate,” DiSesa said. Garron agreed to second the motion to make Kenyon the newest member of the ZBA. Andrews recused himself.
Department Head Meeting
Andrews explained that they had invited all of the various department heads to see if there were any unforeseen issues, etc. that they wished to discuss. The Board of Health led things off saying that as of right now their budget looks secure but noted that it was dependent upon what happens this fall. Board of Health Agent Bob Valery noted that the town was currently on an increase regarding Covid. He also noted that he’s had more tick bite cases than Covid cases in the last month and said that mosquitos are likely next. DiSesa thanked Valery and the department for all of the extra work that was required in the past year.
Police Chief Joao Chaves provided an update on his department saying, “things are good budgetary-wise.” He also noted that staffing was finally at one-hundred percent. An article will be on the warrant for Town Meeting to remove Halifax from civil service. He noted that it was supported by both unions. “I think for a department our size, it makes all the sense in the world,” Chaves explained. He said that a new program will be put in place where any home that has an autistic child living in it, the family will be provided with a decal for either their home or car. The Department will also participate in a litter program where the officers will be given gift certificates to be handed out should they come across someone cleaning litter. Another program will provide care packages available for children ages 0-12 should they find themselves at the station.
Halifax Elementary School Principal Kayne Beaudry spoke next. “The school is actually, finally quiet for once,” he said laughing. He said the custodians were doing a deep clean of the building to make it ready for the fall. He also gave a rundown of several projects that were underway including putting AC into several areas of the building. Beaudry noted that they had no idea what kind of restrictions will be mandated come the fall.
John Shiavone spoke next on behalf of the Board of Assessor’s. He said the Assessor’s Office should be able to level fund any budgetary matters. He also said they weren’t anticipating any additional requirements for equipment.
Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward provided an update on the Highway Department. He said he would be losing a part-time recycling employee. A mechanic will also be leaving soon. He said they are working on a job description. He provided an update on the cremation garden, saying that 7 lots were sold. A new section is now open and already a burial has occurred.
Holmes Public Library Director Jean Gallant spoke next. “The library is doing well… we’ve made some adjustments to our summer reading program,” she said. She noted that they were very busy and said that they were holding most of their programming outside. She said she is down one 35 hour per week position which she hopes to fill in September. Gallant said she is in the middle of writing a 5-year strategic plan. Gallant said they are also working on a grant to design three new spaces in the library including the toy room.
Treasurer/Collector Pamela Adduci said that cash flow was good in their office. She said they were waiting on word from the Selectmen to send out the recycling bills. Town Accountant spoke on the heels of Adduci saying this was probably the busiest time of year for her as the office closes out FY2021 and opens FY2022.
New Council on Aging (COA) Director Darlene Regan also provided an update. Regan said that the senior center opened on June 28 noting that everyone was “pretty excited to the point where it was difficult to keep up…. you know, in a safe way.” She said she reached out to Valery regarding safety measures including mask wearing in a small environment. She said that they have rebranded a bit in the hopes of reaching out to not only the senior community but their caregivers as well.
Cesar Calouro spoke on behalf of Information Technology. Calouro said he began his 40 hour a week position the previous week and noted that he was able to get their email security system setup. “We’ve also started to implement our new backup solution to our servers as well as dedicated workstations across the town,” he explained. He said that as of right now the only system being backed up properly is the one at Town Hall. Andrews recommended having a meeting dedicated to the IT issues throughout the town. “I know there are a lot of issues and I appreciate everyone’s patience… it does take time, I wish I could do everything with the snap of a finger but I’m not a magician,” Calouro said.
Town Clerk Susan Lawless said that their office has been quite busy and noted that dog licenses are now past due. Lawless also said that they sent out a mass inactivation for people who did not complete their census. She said their voter registration becomes inactive. She said they sent out a postage paid postcard that they just need to sign and send back to verify that they are still living in town.
New Town Counsel Paul DeRensis introduced himself to those gathered.
Police Chief Chaves made Seelig aware of some valiant actions on the part of one of the town’s officers. “Officer Hingst was able to diffuse the situation and help both the individual and the family… the Chief wanted to make sure that the public was aware of Officer Hingst’s work,” Seelig said.
Garron recommended sending a letter to Hingst.
Seelig said that the Assistant Building Inspector had resigned and asked the Board if he should move forward with the process of finding a new one. The Board confirmed that he should.
Seelig mentioned that the Board has been dealing with a number of complaints and inquired as to whether or not they wished to formalize the process. “I think that we’ve got a new firm with Brooks and DeRensis to reach out and talk to about policies they can recommend,” Andrews said.
Seelig said that he has been asked what steps the Board of Selectmen intend to take to address the lowering of morale that has occurred in the last year. “I think by having these open meetings with department heads – getting people together with the understanding what everyone’s going through with their issues,” Andrews said.
DiSesa said, “I think it’s important that everyone work together… I get that people don’t like change… and there’s been a lot of change in this town in the last couple of months but I think change can be good sometimes and I think if everyone has an open mind about things and works together that will help the morale.”