HALIFAX– At an otherwise brief meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, March 22, Halifax Fire Chief Jason Vivieros presented certificates to two high-school students who completed the Halifax Firefighter’s Cadet program, and promoted two firefighters to the rank of Lieutenant. Selectmen also met with Barbara Brenton, Director of the Council on Aging and Karen Trudeau, Principal Assessor, with an update on the Senior Tax Work-Off Program. Russ Kleekamp, of GHD, a consultant working with the town on Monponsett Lake water-quality issues also updated selectmen.
Firefighters and families celebrate
The Great Hall in the Halifax Town Hall was filled with firefighters, family and friends as students from the Halifax Firefighters Cadets program were recognized with certificates.
The cadet program allows high-school students with an interest in becoming firefighters to explore all aspects of the day-to-day work of firefighters and paramedics, including firefighter safety, EMS, search and rescue, and according to Vivieros, “they were able to play with the trucks a good deal.”
Students Abby Dubraski and Zachary Rossini received their certificates.
Vivieros continued with firefighter promotions, citing Nathan Jones and William Palma as the obvious choices to promote to Lieutenant.
“Both are already natural leaders in the department; they are the guys that others go to for help in solving problems.”
As each was sworn by Town Clerk Barbara Gaynor, their spouses pinned on their new badges to thunderous applause of those gathered.
There were many hugs and handshakes seen around the hall, as the board and the firefighting community congratulated the newly minted Lieutenants.
Senior Tax Work-Off Program
Barbara Brenton, Director of the Council on Aging and Karen Trudeau, Principal Assessor, were tasked last year with bringing to fruition a tax-abatement program for seniors in which, under certain conditions, by volunteering, seniors could abate part of their property tax bill.
The PILOT program allows seniors, over the age of 60 who are homeowners of five years or more, a chance at a lottery for two slots for the program. A maximum of $750 each can be “volunteered” off of their taxes, for example, at the library. The number of hours is capped to the minimum wage.
Nothing prevents anyone from volunteering more, but a restriction is in place so that someone can’t win a lottery position two years in a row. An income means test is imposed as well.
Brenton and Trudeau were reporting back after the inaugural year of the program, and they both stated that it was a little hard to fill the two slots that they started with.
The COA did meticulous research about how this type of program works in other towns, noting that over 100 towns in the Commonwealth have had something similar in place for 15 to 20 or more years.
They recommended to the board that no changes be made in the program for FY’17, as the concept continues to become more well known.
“We need to market it more,” said Brenton.
Monponsett Lake Storm Drains
Russ Kleekamp, a consultant with a company called GHD, is working with the town of Halifax, specifically very closely with the Highway Department, in order to identify and take the necessary steps to reduce storm-drain runoff making its way into both the ponds of Monponsett Lake.
Using grant money from the state, money donated from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, and matching town money, the town has been achieving $9 for every $1 spent on the project, which hopes to reduce the amount of runoff into the ponds. This runoff provides extra nutrients to feed the problematic algae, partially leading to the unhealthy water in the lake, according to Kleekamp.
Kleekamp will identify three major “hot-spots”, and work on a detailed conceptual design to mitigate the pollution. That way the grant money will be spent on the highest priorities first.
“I’m at a point in my career where I’m lucky enough to be able to pick and choose my clients,” he said to the board. “It’s been great working with the town.”
The board was visibly pleased.
Halifax selectmen will next meet Tuesday, March 29.