The Halifax Board of Selectmen met in-person on Tuesday, March 8. Town Administrator Ed Thorne provided an update on the community survey reports that looked at the number of selectmen per town as well as open town meeting versus representative town meeting. The first survey investigated 30 communities on the South Shore and the other looked at communities across the State with populations of 5,000 to 10,000. Of the 30 on the South Shore, 23 had Boards of Selectmen and seven had Select Boards. The vast majority had five members while eight had three members. Of the 86 communities looked at across the State 50 had five and 36 had three. This survey was conducted as the Selectmen consider an article at town meeting to go from a three-person Board to a five members.
The other report discussed was what Thorne called the “Stump Brook Dam Report.” Thorne said that Selectmen Chair Gordon Andrews visited the site with the Board of Health agent and had a lengthy conversation with MA Wildlife. “Did you see any beavers?” Selectman Ashley DiSesa asked. “We found muskrat and they were trapping for beaver,” Andrews responded. He said the Board of Health needs to issue an Emergency Order for the trapping of the beavers. He said the Conservation Commission may need to do so as well for the removal of the dams. Thorne said the level of the pond is up, but nothing can be done as the beaver dam is in the way. Andrews said that currently the State is handling it but if it falls outside of their jurisdiction, the town will need to pickup the cost of trapping the beavers. Andrews said that they believe that there are at least 4 lodges in Burrage. Andrews said that ultimately the town would likely need to increase funding for trapping. He specified that the traps are no kill traps. A 55 lb beaver has already been removed.
The Selectmen had an appointment with Don Barrows, the President of the Monponsett Watershed Association. “The most important thing that we see this season is weed eradication,” Barrows explained. “We’ve got to do something this year, we can’t wait,” he continued. He noted that there was funding for the ponds available and Thorne said that it should cover the cost. Thorne said that the amount should cover the aloe treatment as well as the weed eradication for both the East and West ponds. Thorne said the work should be done in May. Barrows said that he had not yet heard if the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be conducting testing of the ponds.
The Selectmen also met with Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward to discuss the condition of the roads including potholes. Hayward said that he just had an additional mile of work come in at an estimated cost of nearly $400,000.
Andrews told the other Selectmen that there would be an increase of $24,572 for the out of County tuition rate for Norfolk Aggie. He said that the town has two students currently enrolled.
The Selectmen also discussed the intermunicipal dispatch agreement with the ROCC. Fire Chief Jason Viveiros said there would be a $50,000 increase this year. He noted that in the five years they have been with the same service, the price has remained steady. “We’ve had a great service there; it’s been a considerable savings from when we were doing dispatch in house,” Viveiros explained. He also explained that there are a lot of things that the ROCC does that people are not aware of such as replacing a computer system for $50,000. The Selectmen voted to approve the agreement.
Andrews read from a status report for municipal and school buildings. He said that the wiring for the Town Hall front door is complete. The backflow preventer was weeping at the Elementary School and needed to be drained during the vacation break. The cost to prevent future draining is $5,300. The windows are installed at Pope’s Tavern. There are leaks under the windows at the library and due to the size of the project, its cost will need to go into the capital plan.
Andrews also said that they had received a letter from the Silver Lake Regional School Committee asking to use some of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support upgrades to the schools’ HVAC systems. The Selectmen agreed to review it further at a later meeting.
Information Technology Director Cesar Calouro was there to discuss potentially using ARPA funds for network security. Calouro said the amount needed was listed as both an ARPA request as well as being included in the capital plan. The amount listed in the capital plan was just for Police, Fire, and Water. He said the life expectancy of the equipment should be ten years. “I think you’re better off just going with the capital request for Police and Fire,” Andrews said. Calouro said that if the amount was included in the capital plan his budget would be going up. DiSesa said she wanted to delay voting until she could investigate it further.
Andrews said there is a petition article for zoning at the Special Town Meeting to change the location requirements for marijuana establishments. “It’s been certified; there are 100 signatures,” Andrews said explaining that it was enough to consider it at the Special Town Meeting. Andrews said that the Planning Board should hold a public hearing on the matter.
The Selectmen voted to issue the RFP for a lease-to- own option for the solar farm per discussions from previous meetings.
The Selectmen had a request from the V.F.W. to establish a field of flags on the Town Green from May 14 to June 4. “The field consists of 500 flags,” Andrews said. The Selectmen approved the request.
An update on a relocation of the Council on Aging was discussed. DiSesa said that of the two options provided for relocation, one was not suitable and the other involved a lot of legal paperwork. Andrews asked DiSesa if she would be in favor of approving $15,000 in ARPA funds to move forward with a set of plans to present at Town Meeting. DiSesa said she would but would like to see an article at town meeting that covers both the cost of design as well as the entire project. The Selectmen approved the $15,000 during Tuesday’s meeting.
Andrews read that the Town Clerk had certified the resignation of longtime Selectman Troy Garron effective March 28, 2022. “I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those people who supported me over the years, and I hopefully haven’t disappointed anybody,” Garron said before explaining that he is taking time for family. He called it a very difficult decision before being met with resounding applause from those present. “You’ve done a lot for this community,” Andrews said noting that Garron was first his soccer coach before serving on the Selectmen Board with him.