The Halifax Board of Selectmen met in-person on Tuesday, Feb. 22. The Selectmen discussed an article put forth by Selectmen Chair Gordon Andrews as a private citizen to change the Board of Selectmen to a five-member board. “It seems like there is a number of occasions where two of us want to go to a meeting and we didn’t post it as a meeting and we can’t both attend; it just seems like with a larger board there would be overlap of information and knowledge as to what happens at other meetings and the ability to communicate and more than one person’s take on what happens at a meeting,” Andrews said. Selectman Ashley DiSesa pointed out the benefit of more members should someone need to recuse themselves from a discussion or event. Town Administrator Ed Thorne said he could prepare a survey of neighboring towns comparing their populations to the number of selectmen on their boards. Selectman Troy Garron simply said of the three-person board, “it has worked well the last 30 years.”
Amy L. Troup told Selectmen that the Beautification Committee was requesting to use the Great Hall for a vendor fair. Troup described the fair as “anything that’s going to promote saving the earth; making it beautiful.” She told the Selectmen that they were aiming for April 2. Andrews made a motion to accept the proposed date of April 2 pending approval from the Board of Health for the food trucks that will be present. The Selectmen voted to approve the motion.
Gerard Joy presented an article on behalf of the Solar Farm Committee. He noted that Alan Winkler was the Chair of the Committee. He said, “the biggest asset that the town has is the landfill and I think that’s where the most money that the town can get with little effort.”
Joy said there were two options. One being similar to Pembroke with at least one megawatt (MW) or more depending on what can fit on the site. The company that would do the estimate, PowerOptions, is a non-profit. He said it would be a fixed rate that would be locked in for 20 years for the power. Joy said he would recommend a lease to own option. “There’s no responsibility for the first eight years; they’ll come in, they’ll do it, they’ll own it, they’ll operate it,” Joy told the Selectmen. He said the life of a solar farm should be 30 years.
Regarding the cost of the plant, Joy said, “the U.S. average open field… the cost goes anywhere from $0.83 to $1.39.” He said he took the higher number of $1.39, which he explained was per watt, and multiplied it by two. “I’m looking at the cost of $2,780,000 to install the solar farm and that could go up or down,” Joy said. He said that the battery storage system would be another $1,000,000. Joy said the town would receive roughly $86,000 for the first eight years.
The option to buy the field exists after eight years. “Typical payback… is $470,000 per year in revenue… that’s what the town should generate if you own,” Joy explained. “So, at the end of 16 years, we now own the system; but we’re still getting roughly about $72,000 per year in revenue,” he told the Selectmen. He continued, “At the end of thirty years we’ll make $6,000,142.00” “There’s a reason why everyone is throwing these solar fields everywhere; it’s a money-making machine,” Joy said. He added that the cost of maintenance was low. Joy said there was a waiting list but noted that landfills have priority so it may be possible to bypass some people on the waiting list. The Selectmen said they would review the materials and think it over.
The Selectmen also had an appointment with the Halifax Fireworks Committee. The representative said they wanted the Selectmen’s feedback on them planning the fireworks for June 25. They said that they already had approval from the Fire Chief and the Board of Health. “You guys have done such a great job in the past; why should we doubt the future,” Garron said. Asked about Covid, Garron said, “As far as Covid is concerned, it will be up to individuals.” He noted that people could wear masks if they desired. There will, however, be no jumpy houses, etc. as there was two years ago.
Andrews said that a fundraising idea would be to raffle off an ideal parking space for the winner. “I just think it would be cool, especially to get to pick your own spot on the field and have it coned off… this is the winner of the raffle and this is what supports these fireworks and make it into a big deal,” Andrews explained of his proposal. Currently there is $8,000 in the account. She said they have enough money for a small display but noted that they would rather put on something more impressive so as to not disappoint. DiSesa said that they were happy to help with fundraising or any other needs that arise. “All your time and effort is appreciated and I’ve been to every one of the fireworks,” Garron said.
Thorne gave a brief update saying that the Ethics training they held for various boards and committees was a great success. The town is planning to hold another one regarding open meeting laws. Thorne also said that the town is moving forward with the pond treatments that are needed.
The Selectmen had an appointment with Steven MacFaun of the Board of Health to discuss the Massachusetts Health Board Trust Fund Agreement (MAHB). MacFaun said they were granted $5,000 to assist with contact tracing, etc. He said that they hired a nurse initially but needed to terminate her. As a result, the Health Agent took on those responsibilities. MacFaun explained that the Board wished to give some of those funds to the Health Agent as well as the Fire Admin. He explained that “both were doing jobs outside of their jobs that were specifically supposed to be being done by someone else.” The Selectmen were in support of the bonuses.
Building Inspector James Perry appeared before the Selectmen to go over a proposed revision to inspection fees. Perry said that no changes had been made since 2011. Perry said that Halifax was on the low side in comparison to neighboring communities. “If it puts us in competition with other towns what they’re doing then the compensation is proper,” Garron said. The Selectmen voted to approve the new fee schedule effective March 1.
Cesar Calouro met with the Selectmen to request use of ARPA funds to purchase an interactive display for meetings. He said he would like to also get a secondary, non-interactive display to be used for overlap. The Selectmen decided to delay the vote of $6,400 for the interactive display and corresponding tTV until March 8 in order to allow Thorne to verify that the ARPA funds could be used for that purchase.