The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Fire House. Chair John Bruno began the meeting saying, “This is our continuing summer adventure, the Halifax Board of Selectmen roadshow… it’s an opportunity for the Board of Selectmen to get out of the Town Hall and actually interact with people which is a good thing. It’s also another opportunity for our various departments, this is the third or fourth one we’ve done this summer, to get on TV and brag a little bit about all the good work that goes on in Halifax.”
Fire Chief Michael Witham spoke to those assembled at the Fire House saying that he has been involved with Fire and EMS services for 32 years. “I am a paramedic,” he said. He also went through an overview of the Department saying they had a Chief, four Captains, and 13 call members, two who are paramedics and 11 that are EMTs. “The overall status of our shifts, we run four shifts now currently; we try to work it with one Captain and two firefighters working daily,” he explained. Witham said that they also have an administrative assistant who “does a fantastic job keeping all of us in line and making sure the daily operations run efficiently.” The Department has two ambulances, two fire engines, a tower truck, some brush trucks, and command vehicles. He noted that the mechanic and DPW work tremendously hard to keep the vehicles in great shape. Witham said that his ideal situation would be to add two more members to the Department which would allow them to have two additional ambulances or another engine. Witham noted that they have mutual aid agreements that allow for other towns to help Halifax in an emergency and vice versa.
Fire Captain Jeffrey Cuozzo also spoke to share a “feel good story” regarding a water rescue back on May 7. Cuozzo said that they received a call that there was a distressed person in the water in a near drowning incident. “Before we even got there, we heard that some civilians managed to get the victim out of the water which was great,” Cuozzo said. Michael Hughes swam after a remote-control boat that was swept into the water farther than anticipated. Residents Lyla Dooley and Cole Hingston were on the beach playing football. Hingston jumped into the water to save the drowning victim while Dooley called 911. Dooley, Hingston, and Hughes were all present at the Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday. It was the first time that the rescuers met the man they saved that day. Just teenagers, Dooley and Hingston were presented with Citizen Hero awards. Selectman Jonathan Selig said, “I personally know Lyla and I know she’s an exceptional kid and if this guy is able to date Lyla Dooley, he must be alright too, so keep up the great work guys.”
Bruno said they had a letter from the Fire Department who was looking to run a fundraiser where a professional photographer would take photographs by an antique vehicle. They were seeking permission to use the town-owned property on the grounds by the blacksmith shop for two dates in October and November for fall and winter-themed photoshoots. The Historic Commission previously signed off on the usage. “A lot of families get their photos done anyway so why not do it in a way that can help the town,” Selig said. The Selectmen approved the use of the property.
The Beautification Commission asked for permission to use the town green on October 14 from 8:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. to kick off a week-wide clean-up project and distribute supplies. The Selectmen also approved this use.
Don Barrows, President of the Monponsett Watershed Association, appeared before the Board to share a leaflet regarding some of the testing and treatments. “The water is really great; I’m surprised myself,” he said. He said that wake surfing in shallow waters was becoming a problem. “What’s happening is those boats are actually bringing up the bottom of the ponds,” Barrows said. Jeremy Gillespie also spoke regarding the boats saying, “basically these boats are specifically designed to displace as much water as possible – they also have plates they can drop down on either side so they can create a wake up to and over 4 ft in height. These wakes have been proven to be much more disturbing than wind-driven wakes… it’s actually like a tsunami wave… you see the water starting to go out and what that does is pulls nutrients out of the water.” Town Administrator Cody Haddad said that they regularly work with Solitude throughout the year and that he was sure if it was a problem, they would address it. Bruno said that in addition to the problems it posed environmentally, he didn’t feel it was an appropriate activity for a small beach. He noted that potential bylaw changes may be needed.
The Selectmen also held the tax classification hearing for fiscal year 2024. Bruno said, “it is an annual event where we determine what the tax rates will be based on the type of property; we’re not setting the tax rate, that’s done… it’s more of a procedural thing than anything else.” The Principal Assessor for the town of Halifax Debbie Dean spoke next. “The town of Halifax has under 10 percent commercial, industrial, and personal property and therefore a split rate is not recommended… the real estate and personal property total value is $1,385,119,480. That’s up 13.4 percent from last year,” Dean explained. She also said that the Board of Assessors is not adopting the Open Space discount. She explained that towns with a lot of second home populations or resort communities often benefit from this discount. “There are only 61 second homes in Halifax,” Dean said. She said the Board of Assessors recommend that the Board of Selectmen vote against the exemptions and in favor of the factor of one. The Board voted in favor of the recommendations.
Bruno told the Selectmen that Haddad had drafted a code of conduct for elected officials. “This is becoming very common throughout the State… as chief policy makers for the town of Halifax it is good to set expectations for Board and Committee members throughout the town,” Haddad explained. He said that he borrowed pieces from other towns.
Melanie Martin-Plant appeared before the Board regarding an appointment to the Conservation Commission. The Commission voted to have her become the fifth member during their previous meeting. Martin-Plant is a new resident of Halifax and previously was involved in environmental advocacy in Plymouth. She said she was a founding member of a group called Sustainable Plymouth. The Selectmen voted to approve her appointment.
Haddad provided the Board with a number of Town Administrator’s updates including the MBTA Action Plan. He said that they hope to have someone come to the Zoning Bylaw Review, the Planning Board, and Zoning Board meetings to provide trainings on ways in which the town can be in compliance with the Action Plan. He said that they received word that Morse Brothers would be conducting work and noted that they were informed that they will need to submit a permit. Bruno outlined the process for taking public comment as he said he anticipates the Morse Brothers’ hearing to draw a large crowd. Those wishing to speak will need to sign up when they arrive at the hearing.