The Halifax Board of Selectmen met in-person on Tuesday, Jan. 27.
The Selectmen voted to transfer $100,000 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds to the legal line. The Selectmen commented that they were currently negative over $40,000 in that line. From the audience, Alan Dias asked for clarification that the money was being spent on legal defense. Selectmen Chair Gordon Andrews said he was not entertaining questions from the audience. Dias insisted but was told by Andrews, “I’m not getting into it with you, Sir.”
Health Agent Bob Valery told the Selectmen that the town would be receiving 3,000 more free test kits. Valery also pointed out that people can order test kits online through a federal program. Andrews asked Valery if there was an amount that he wanted to request to purchase additional test kits. “I don’t think that we need to go to the $8,000 mark we were thinking of,” Valery said. Valery said that he thought 1,000 test kits would suffice. Selectman Ashley DiSesa pointed out that the schools would also be supplying test kits to students’ families per the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)’s new plan. Fire Chief Jason Viveiros recommended that the Selectmen approve $5,000 to be used toward the purchase of additional test kits. The Selectmen voted to approve the request.
The Board also debated whether an at-home test showing a positive result would suffice for a town employee using sick time. DiSesa argued that user error can come into play with at-home tests and also that employees could potentially show a picture of a positive test result that was not actually their test. The Selectmen agreed that anyone using sick time due to a COVID positive result would have to receive a positive result on a test obtained outside of their home. The Fire Department offers testing for symptomatic employees. The Board also discussed when an employee could return to work. DiSesa said that starting day 6 employees could return to work in a mask if their symptoms were resolving. Valery emphasized, “as long as it’s a well-fitting, properly worn mask.” Valery offered that the town has a lot of kn95 masks that can be made available to employees free of charge. The Selectmen voted that if a town employee is exposed at work and told to go home, they would receive sick pay.
The Water Department Superintendent Bill Lindsay told the Board that the Department was “Looking to use some of the ARPA money for some of the things that aren’t included in the upgrade project… there’s a lot of stuff in the treatment plan that’s just outdated.” He said the filter plant won’t run if power is lost as there is no generator. Andrews said he was in favor of using the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds for this purpose but noted he wanted to find out the payment plan from Plymouth County first. The other Selectmen also stated their support especially since residents have expressed their concern regarding the water in town.
There was a discussion on the FY23 budget. Andrews, who also serves on the Halifax School Committee, said “the minimum contribution numbers were released… Halifax’s proportion of Silver Lake’s is going up $240,000. Kingston’s is going up $240,000. Plympton’s is decreasing by $130,000. It’s not good news for the Halifax assessment number for Silver Lake.” He continued, “They’re talking about a million dollar increase so you have the shift of 240 and then you have the increase on top.” Regarding the budget, Andrews also told the Selectmen, “We talked about at the Finance Committee, moving some free cash, talked about an override, talked about cuts… putting everything on the table and possibly using stabilization.”
Interim Town Administrator Ed Thorne said, “In talking about revenues… ensuring that one-time revenues go to one-time projects and trying to free up existing revenues to help with the operating budget for FY23.” Regarding 368 Monponsett St., which Thorne said, “needs to be demolished,” he said himself and the town treasurer/collector talked about taking the property for nonpayment of taxes and looking at demolition costs versus what the property would be worth as a buildable lot. “That would be a project that the Board needs to look at for improving one-time revenues for the town,” he explained.
A conversation was also had regarding building security. Andrews said they would need to put an article in the capital plan for the security system being recommended. Andrews confirmed that they had a plan to move forward with the locksmith.
The head of the Interactive, Technology, and Communications Department, Cesar Calouro, told the Selectmen that he was seeking $5,300 for an embedded interactive display. Calouro told the Selectmen, “I priced out what it would cost to get an additional TV screen and that came out to about $1,000.” Andrews said they would put the discussion on the agenda for their next meeting.
There was a discussion about adding an associate member to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Andrews recused himself from the discussion. ZBA member Peter Parcellin appeared before the Selectmen expressing concern over moving forward with votes, etc. when current members need to recuse themselves.
He noted that the Selectmen elected not to reappoint the former Chair of the ZBA, Robert Gaynor. The ZBA member expressed concern that a vacancy on the Board was not being filled. DiSesa appeared frustrated with the conversation and at one point Selectman Troy Garron interjected, “Bottom line, what are you looking for?” Parcellin said, “Me, personally, I have two questions. One, I’m interested in seeing what the process would be for an associate member. And two, very, very, one hundred percent honestly, I have no idea why there is in certain people a specific issue with the Zoning Board… I ask for people to come to meetings. I can talk to anybody at any time. All of our stuff is on YouTube. I guess I don’t understand why there was a shift in tone. I worry, very honestly, that it is because of personal lawsuits that certain people have.”
DiSesa asked when the Selectmen were asked to come to the meeting. She said that she has not been personally invited. Parcellin said that a letter was sent to the Selectmen. Garron tried to mediate saying that the bottom line was that they would like to have an associate member named to the ZBA. Parcellin said, “what we’re looking for is to have five regular members and two associate members who get along, care about the town, and have positive interactions… that’s job one.”