The sole remaining member of the Halifax Board of Selectmen, Jonathan Selig, conducted an in-person meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13. Selig was left manning the helm following the sudden resignations of Ashley DiSesa and Alex Meade as well as the newly hired Town Administrator Marty Golightly. Town Accountant Sandy Nolan was named as acting Town Administrator until a new one can be hired. A special town election will be held on November 8 to elect two new Selectmen.
Tax Classification Hearing
A tax classification hearing was held during the meeting. Selig said it was “for the purpose of allocating the local tax levy for the five property classes for the fiscal year 2023.” He introduced Holly Berry with the Assessor’s Office. Berry said there were five property types in Halifax. “Residential makes up 91, almost 92 percent of our tax base,” Berry explained. She further said that Halifax doesn’t have open space. Commercial property makes up nearly 5 percent of the tax base, industrial property makes up a little over 2 percent, and personal property makes up almost 1 percent. Given that commercial and industrial make up less than ten percent of the tax base, Berry said that she was not recommending a split rate. Selig voted to adopt a residential factor of 1 without a split rate.
“The real estate and personal property total value is based on 100 percent of the fair market value,” Berry said. She said the average single-family assessment for fiscal year 2023 will be $458,202, up 11 percent from the previous year. “The average tax bill for fiscal 23 will be $6,859.92, up nearly 4.10 percent from last year,” she explained. Berry also said that the average condo assessment was approximately $280,000, up 18 percent over the previous year. The average tax bill for condos will be $4,192. The top taxpayers in Halifax are Halifax Mobile Home Estates, Walmart, WJG Realty and Trust (Stop and Shop), Massachusetts Electric Company, and Halifax Solar.
Screening Committee for New TA
Selig said, “we are in the works of starting a Screening Committee for our new Town Administrator; it will be a 7-person committee.” He said that Town Clerk Sue Lawless will serve as the point person and the rest of the Committee will consist of acting, interim Town Administrator Sandy Nolan, the Halifax Police Chief, the Halifax Fire Chief, and three citizens at- large. “I’m making the call out here… if there’s anybody out there that would like to be considered… send the Board of Selectmen an email,” Selig said. He also said that they hope to have the Committee in place by the next Selectmen’s meeting. The consultant recommended having the position open for a month. “Ideally if everything goes well, we could be looking at a new Town Administrator… around the beginning of the year,” Selig said. He also noted that the final decision will be made once the Board of Selectmen is full again.
Town Green Request
Selig read a request from the Halifax Congregational Church asking for permission to use the Town Green on Sept. 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for the annual blessing of the pets service. Selig approved the request. The rain date will be Oct. 2.
Building Department Update
Scott Materna was in attendance to give a monthly status report for the Building Department. Among the updates were the ongoing installation of an EV charging station which is being paid for through a grant as well as the completion of the concrete sidewalk outside the Town Hall. Materna also provided updates on a number of projects that fall under the Green Communities initiative including new heat pumps at the Fire Station and Water Department as well as new insulation for the Fire Station attic. He said it totaled nearly $200,000 in improvements.
Pine St. Bridge Update
Selig began his update on the Pine St. bridge project by calling it great news. Selig said of the project, “it’s been a little bit of an issue for a while,” before turning it over to Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward. Hayward shared photos of the project with the Selectmen and Nolan. Hayward went through all the obstacles faced by the project including exorbitant cost and Covid delays. He said that the nearly $200,000 cost for police details would be eliminated since “Pine St. is going to be closed during the whole construction.” Hayward said that the project would be going out to bid soon. The current cost stands at $1.3 million, down from $1.5 million. He noted that they hoped to come in even lower.
Talent Bank Forms and Resignations
Selig said that a talent bank form had been received for Christina Palmer. Palmer expressed interest in serving on the Beautification Committee as well as the Library Trustees. Selig said he would share her information with those Committees. Someone in the public asked Selig if he talked to town counsel about appointing people to committees while the Board is short two thirds of the Selectmen. “If it’s a necessity they said we can. If it’s a board that we can hold off on, I guess it depends on how your board is functioning right now and if you think it can function until the interim, until November, they want us to try and sit tight,” Selig explained.
Jeanne Kling resigned from the Beautification Committee. Selig said, “I would like to personally thank her, I know she’s been a driving force of that Committee and a big asset to the town… she will be missed.” The Veteran’s Agent Wilford Corey also resigned calling Halifax “a great town” and adding, “I have been honored to serve as the Veterans Service Officer for the past decade. All the people I have worked with have been helpful and professional.” Selig said, “Again, a big loss for Halifax… we wish Will the best.” Steve Littlefield will be serving as Acting Veteran’s Agent. Littlefield was previously Corey’s assistant.
Public Health Grant
Halifax Health Agent Bob Valery was in attendance to speak on the Public Health Excellence Grant which Selig called “excellent news.” “Boards of Health, and ours in particular, are always about continuous improvement; if there’s one thing, positive thing, that Covid showed us over the last two years is the need and the importance of the Public Health Department. Also, the impact that underfunding has had,” Valery said. He added, “Prevention is the best medicine.” He said that the Halifax Board of Health was chosen to be a host community for a new grant fund. “Their mission is to enhance the existing capabilities and to achieve the mutual goals of public health,” Valery said.
Several other local communities would be joining Halifax to better manage public health. He said that it would be “zero cost to our town.” Valery said that they would be hiring a Health Inspector for the five towns participating that would be paid for entirely out of the grant money. “The first and primary goal of anything that we’re going to try and accomplish is to make sure that everybody gets fair and equal services whether you’re making a million dollars, or you don’t have enough to put food on your table,” Valery explained of the initiative. “Bob, you should be proud because the fact that Halifax is serving as kind of the central hub for this is a feather in your cap – in your Department’s cap,” Selig said. “I’m happy to, it’s my passion,” Valery replied.