The Halifax Board of Selectmen as well as Fire Chief Jason Viveiros, Police Chief Joao Chaves, and Board of Health agent Bob Valery met Thursday, Dec. 10, for what is being referred to as an extraordinary meeting during the COVID era.
Valery began by telling the selectmen that there have been 22 confirmed cases of COVID in town since their previous meeting. Valery said that the numbers from November 25 through December 8, which included Thanksgiving, showed 48 positive cases for a percent positivity rate in Halifax of 8 percent which was up from 5 percent. He said the town would be moving into the red along with approximately 150 other communities. Valery also expressed concern that there would be even more gatherings between Christmas and New Year’s, compared to Thanksgiving. “I would caution everybody to follow the guidance that has been set forth by the state no matter how difficult it is, during this upcoming holiday season. It’s going to be different than it has been in years’ past,” he explained.
Valery also said that updates to the Maven system including contact tracing information linking directly to it, have allowed him to see when and where clusters of cases develop. According to Valery the guidance from the CDC encourages remote work wherever possible or at least staggering shifts, if possible. He said it might be something that the Board of Selectmen may want to consider.
Chief Viveiros gave an update on the drive-through testing that had been held in Halifax the previous weekend. He said that cars began lining up around 6 in the morning and that there was a steady flow throughout the day. Just under 800 people were tested between the two days with 54 tests coming back positive. Not all those tested were residents of Halifax. Viveiros said that they learned a lot of lessons from the weekend testing that they can use should they choose to run another similar event. He also said that since holding the testing, he has received at least 7 phone calls from communities who were inquiring about holding their own. Hanson plans to do one partnering with the same company as Halifax.
Halifax plans to continue with their employee testing program as well. Additional dates are coming. Viveiros said that he plans to speak with Town Administrator Charlie Seelig about expanding the testing to include the senior population.
Viveiros also took a moment to publicly recognize Dr. Daniel Muse for everything that he has done in assisting with the testing. Muse, an emergency physician at Brockton Hospital, is the Medical Director for the Fire Department. He oversees all emergency services that run out of Brockton Hospital. Muse has already given written, standing orders to the Halifax Fire Department for vaccine distribution, should they be needed. “He has been extremely supportive with all of our COVID efforts,” Viveiros told the selectmen. Chief Chaves expressed his gratitude for Chief Viveiros in executing the drive up testing relatively seamlessly despite inclement weather.
Selectman Gordon Andrews asked if there was a plan to hold another testing event in Halifax, perhaps two weeks after Christmas. Viveiros said that it was certainly something that could be done but noted that the CARES Act funding will expire at the end of December.
Seelig said that decisions will have to be made to proceed with certain expenditures despite not immediately having the receipts/revenue to balance it all. He said that emergency situations sometimes necessitate having an article at the May special town meeting prior to the annual to appropriate money against free cash. “If it’s necessary it’s no different than a snowstorm and spending money beyond what you have in the snow budget. At some point you say we’ve got to do this, we know we have to pay that bill, but it’s worth doing,” Seelig explained.
Seelig asked Valery what the correct protocol for instances was where an employee tests positive but remains asymptomatic. Seelig, who said he was fielding this question from town employees, asked if they would have to wait the full 14 days to return or if they could shorten the duration to 10 days. Valery answered, “It’s on a very individual basis level because first of all I have to make sure that they haven’t shown any symptoms so that, you know, comes down to integrity, whoever is giving me that information… they do find that if you follow the proper procedures that 10 days coming back and still monitoring yourself for any symptoms for the last four days, only shows about a 1 percent risk factor over the 14 day period.” Valery, who asked that employees are directed to him, noted that if he had any doubts, he would ask the employee to wait the full 14 days.
Chief Chaves asked the Board to extend an offer of employment to Michael Boncariewski as a permanent intermittent patrol officer. Boncariewski is a lifelong resident of Halifax who attended Silver Lake schools. He also previously worked as a special officer in both Hull and Halifax. “I believe he’s an asset to the department… he is well respected by his peers,” Chaves said. The Board voted to approve his hiring. Chaves explained that the department is moving toward state accreditation which will require each new hire to undergo a psych evaluation. Officer Boncariewski will be the first in the department to fulfill this requirement.
The Selectmen voted to sign an amended Host Community Agreement (HCA) with Bud’s Goods and Provisions.
The amended agreement added both indoor cultivation and manufacturing to the list of approved uses. Bud’s will still need to go to the Cannabis Control Commission for a revised provisional license to expand their uses. They will also need to come before the Planning Board for a site plan review and special permit.
The selectmen had an appointment with Green Earth Cannabis, who has proposed a retail marijuana store at 657 Monponsett St., during Thursday’s meeting. John Kudryk and his partners Matthew Collins and Robert Maker were in attendance.
Andrews recused himself from the discussion as he has family that owns adjoining property and therefore a potential conflict of interest.
Kudryk said that the zoning for the proposed location was changed from industrial to commercial. He also said that the location appears to be well within the guidelines that prohibit such an establishment from being within so many feet of a school or other area where children congregate.
Kudryk told the Board that they have had an engineer draw up some preliminary plans. He also said that they are anticipating needing 18 full time employees which he said would help to stimulate the local economy. The projected opening date is July 1, 2022.
Seelig brought up the proposed 21-unit multi-family project known as Hilda Lane. It is set to go before both the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Andrews said that he was directing people on social media to contact the appropriate department secretary regarding whether they are for or against the proposal. Seelig said that a letter was received from a resident opposing the project.