The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, Nov. 23. Former Town Administrator Charlie Seelig was no longer present as his resignation was effective Nov. 20.
Interim Town Administrator
The Board had an appointment with former Pembroke Town Manager Edwin Thorne to discuss hiring him as Halifax’s interim Town Administrator. Thorne, who served in Pembroke for 21 years, said he has been in the business for nearly 40 years in a career spanning multiple states. Selectman Troy Garron asked Thorne, “What’s your management style?” Thorne replied, “I take a lot of it from my upbringing in New Jersey and being in athletics all the years that I was in… I played baseball at East Carolina and I was never the best player on the team but somehow I made all subject conference two years in a row. I’m a team kind of guy and I think all the department heads will find that out.” Regarding his former experience he said, “If I had to be tough, I can be tough but that wasn’t my style.” Selectman Ashley DiSesa asked how he dealt with disgruntled people. “I think you use a lot of thought into the process of making a decision for the employee and for the organization and town; different kinds of things have happened over the years; I had an employee commit murder in one of the places I worked; there’s not really a whole lot that I haven’t seen,” Thorne said. He continued, “I think that I would just use my expertise and my experience to get through the process, so the resolution is in the best interest of the community.” “I like him,” Garron said in summary. The Board voted to award Thorne the interim position. “Thank you very much, I’m honored,” Thorne replied.
Holidays in Halifax
Halifax Fire Chief Jason Viveiros gave an update on Holidays in Halifax which will take place on Saturday, Dec. 11 from 5 to 7 p.m. “It’s going to be a little different than we’ve had other years; the Committee met; obviously we still face a lot of challenges with the pandemic still going on. We decided it would be best to have an all-outdoor event this year.” He continued saying there would be a tree lighting ceremony, performances by the Silver Lake Chorus, an ice sculpture, farm animals, food truck vendors, and a large-scale movie. Multiple local companies have all made contributions to this year’s event including one of the town’s newest marijuana establishments Flower and Soul.
Aldana Rd. Land Transfer
The Board also discussed the Aldana Rd. land transfer. The deal dates back to 2019 when Joan Pierce with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife met with the Board to request purchasing an area of Peterson’s Swamp. The Board and Pierce came to an agreement that included a transfer of land behind Aldana Rd. from the State to the town. Ownership of the sliver would allow the town to be able to eventually pave the road. Selectmen Chair Gordon Andrews read an update from Pierce that said, “We received the executed deeds; I will prepare for the Commissioner to sign when she’s in the office next week.”
Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward spoke on wages for people hired by the town to drive snowplows. “Last year we were paying $20.33,” Hayward said. Garron said, “How is it compared to the other towns?” Hayward responded, “It’s a joke.” He continued that on average, Halifax pays $5 less than every other surrounding town. The Board voted to support Hayward in his efforts to pay drivers a more comparable wage.
There was a discussion regarding the agreement with the Lakeville/Halifax animal shelter. Police Chief Joao Chaves said it was the same contract that was signed each year with the only difference being an increased fee to hold dogs from $15 to $25. “We’ve actually only surrendered one dog this past year; a dog that was involved in a dog bite incident, so the owner actually requested to surrender the dog themselves,” Chaves said. Chaves said he was trying to look into Kingston’s prices. The Board decided to move the decision to the next meeting until the Kingston prices could be investigated and compared.
Cesar Calouro met with the Board to discuss possibly using ARPA/Cares Act funds to purchase an interactive display to facilitate interactive Zoom/Google Meets/Microsoft Teams meetings. “Right now, upstairs, we don’t have anything. Here we have that display screen which is a regular TV screen but that’s actually going out to the front lobby of Town Hall to replace the bulletin board,” Calouro explained. He continued that he would like to see something be added upstairs and in the room they were currently in to allow the continuance of the hybrid style meetings.
Calouro was looking at an interactive display that would cost around $5,000 and would be able to be wheeled around different rooms. “I just don’t know that we’re going to utilize it,” DiSesa said. DiSesa expressed concern that not enough Boards were currently using the hybrid style meeting approach to warrant the expense. “I think it’s great if we’re going to use it,” she continued. Calouro expressed that many Boards and Committees have reached out to him expressing a desire for such a device. The Board decided to vote on the issue during their next meeting.
Comcast Public Hearing
During the Board’s meeting there was a town of Halifax public hearing on the Comcast Cable license renewal. The Executive Director of Area 58, Richard Goulart, asked to speak. “Halifax currently receives five percent of the revenue from Comcast brought in, that is the maximum that is allowed generally speaking. Halifax also gets $25,000 capital each year. Over the ten-year period, we’re basically looking for something in the similar vein,” Goulart said. “While we can justify more than that for capital, we know they’re not going to go higher than that,” he continued. Goulart also told the Board that Comcast is the only company looking at ten-year contracts as other companies such as Verizon were looking toward five-year contracts.
The attorney explained that there was no decision making to be made by the Board of Selectmen that night as it was an early-stage hearing for public input only. “From the town’s perspective, I think it would be nice to see an upgraded upload speed from Comcast,” Andrews said. Andrews also said that the Cable Advisory Committee has tried to solicit Verizon to come into Halifax many times without any success. The Comcast representative told the Board he would have someone that handles upload speeds reach out to them. A resident also spoke to express disapproval of Comcast’s services saying, “I would rather see the town not renew the license with Comcast even if we had to spend the extra money to go Satellite or any other options.”
Former Selectman Tom Millias also spoke saying, “I have the same lament I have had for years… I think the public should know who’s paying for it and where the money is coming from; there is no definitive place on the Comcast bill that lets anybody know that they are paying for this [the local channel].”
He went on to say that he wasn’t advocating for or against Comcast but rather for clearer indication of what they are paying for on the bill. Millias also pointed out that Area 58 is also now available on Youtube to everyone. The Selectmen closed the hearing for the night but left it open for public comment until December 10.