The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, March 30 for the purpose of going over some budget items for town meeting as well as the warrant articles. Town Accountant Sandra Nolan was in attendance.
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig led the discussion on the budget. Seelig said the Finance Committee had already been through most of the line items though he noted that there were several items that they had not provided final recommendations for the warrant. The Finance Committee is still waiting to find out how much money will be available to account for increases in line items. Seelig said they must first see what happens with the Elementary School budget as well as the Silver Lake Regional assessment as they are such a significant portion of the town’s operating budget. “Things are very tight,” Seelig said, “…the Finance Committee cannot honor all of the requests that came in from all the departments.”
Seelig went over the various articles in the warrant. Article 1 is the report of town officials and committees and Article 2 is the wage and personnel amendments. Article 3 pertains to elected officials’ salaries. As of the meeting, the Finance Committee had yet to make a recommendation regarding wage and personnel or salaries. Article 5 is the operating budget and Article 6 is the traditional list of revolving funds. Articles 7 through 13 are articles for the contracts for both unions and personnel including the fire and police chiefs. “These articles will remain on the warrant even if an agreement hasn’t been made by next week,” Seelig explained.
Much of the meeting was spent going over the appropriation articles. The article for general highway maintenance has been funded at $150,000 for a number of years though the Highway Surveyor, Finance Committee, and Capital Planning Committee have agreed that there is a need to increase it to $300,000. Article A4 is a request from the Highway Surveyor for a bond for $4,000,000 for major roadwork. “Obviously, as most residents know, a number of roads in Halifax are substandard and it does unfortunately take a large amount of money to bring them up even without any engineering costs and such,” Seelig explained. Seelig said that Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward had yet to make a decision about whether or not to have this article on the warrant. A30 is for $135,000 for a new backhoe for the Highway Department. A31 is for $85,000 for a new forklift, also for the Highway Department. Several articles pertain to the Town Barn including an OSHA required mezzanine gate and new overhead doors. Seelig said he is waiting for a quote on these items from Hayward.
A5 is for the possibility of the Building and Facility Needs Committee purchasing land for future building needs. A6 is for the Assessor’s recertification account. Other appropriation articles include money for new vehicles and a new copier machine for the Police Department. A14 is for resealing the parking lot at the Elementary School. Another article is for $32,000 for the document management system that will allow for e-permitting.
A32 is for $29,000 to replace windows at Pope’s Tavern and A33 is to upgrade the alarm systems at Town Hall, the Highway Barn, and the Recycling Center. Several articles are for work at Town Hall including A34 to appropriate additional money beyond $35,000 to repair or replace the handicap ramp at Town Hall. A35 is to crack seal and repave the parking lot at Town Hall. A37 is for $90,000 to replace the windows at the Town Hall. Seelig explained that replacing the windows at the Town Hall and Council on Aging are especially expensive as they are custom sized windows. Nolan said that there is a chance that that some of the money can be recuperated through Green Communities. An article for a new PA system for the Town Hall was also discussed.
A36 is to repair and replace the roof at the Holmes Public Library for $11,000. A45 is for $2,500 for three new computers for the library, two for the public and one for the staff. A40 is to hold a number of workshops for department heads. A48 is for a fraud risk assessment recommended by the auditors. A49 is a request from the treasurer/collector for $25,000 to be added to the unemployment compensation fund. Silver Lake Regional School requested $36,000 to support a part-time school resource officer at the Middle School. Selectman Gordon Andrews said he would be recusing himself as a selectman as he would likely be presenting the article. Article A53 is a carryover from last year when the Housing Authority was actually mistakenly paying a share of retirement for town employees.
There is also an article regarding a solar property on River St. where an agreement is still being negotiated with the town. The purpose of the article is to allow the possibility that the assessors and selectmen would bring a final agreement to town meeting for approval. Seelig explained that they are waiting for legislation pertaining to taxation of solar fields to go into effect in June before proceeding. The selectmen agreed to leave it on the warrant though they acknowledged it is unlikely that it will actually be ready for town meeting.
Seelig also addressed an article pertaining to an update to floodplain requirements per FEMA. The Planning Board held a hearing on Thursday, April 1 with someone from the state present to answer any questions residents had. It is a requirement for the town to maintain eligibility for the property owners for floodplain insurance. Selectman Chair Tom Millias said, “I would highly recommend to the residents, anybody who lives even close to any water or has had issues with floodplains in the past, to pay some attention to this because it doesn’t become a problem for them, until it’s a problem.”
There are a few petition articles as well including an article to eliminate the sale of nips.