The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Thursday, July 16. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said that as of the time of that meeting, there were no new reports of COVID in town. Health Agent Bob Valery said there is a new reporting site on the Department of Public Health (DPH) website for the general public to call the Board of Health with any concerns they may have with restaurant re-openings. Valery said that Lakeside Villa was reopening soon and said that he planned to head there for an inspection. Valery also said that Grille 58 will be opened early next week and that a walkthrough was scheduled for this week to ensure 100 percent compliance.
Valery said of the horse show in town, “I have to admit, I was very pleased. They are taking temperatures right when you get inside the entrance, everybody had masks on, there’s markers for social distancing, there is extra sanitizer and hand washing stations around… so far things seem to be going well there.” Valery also said that they hired an outsider to head up their COVID force. No spectators are allowed.
Valery told the Board that he planned to visit 163 Plymouth St. that afternoon to address some boats that are sitting on the property. Police Chief Joao Chaves said he had been alerted that some activity was going on there that may have included placing tarps over the boats or moving them. “From a public health perspective, I told him I had environmental concerns and health concerns,” Valery said of the property. “Boats being open they’re just going to take water on and that’s a mosquito breeding ground, all kinds of paint cans and buckets which could easily get spilled into our ponds or grounds,” he continued.
Fire Chief Jason Viveiros asked Seelig about the discussion the Board had earlier in the week regarding what to do with the CARES Act funding. Seelig said that most of the ideas presented centered around PPE and building infrastructure changes. He said that Holmes Library Director Jean Gallant had requested changes to the ventilation system there. Seelig said he plans to make copies of everything for the Board to review at their July 28 meeting.
Town moderator Dennis Carman also phoned in to the meeting to address yet another recessing of town meeting. The moderator is only allowed to recess the meeting for 30 days from the currently scheduled date of the meeting. This time, the Board of Selectmen, the Health Agent, and Carman decided to move it from August 1 to 9 am on August 29.
The meeting is set to be held at the Halifax Elementary School. “I’m aiming for September 12, that’s the last Saturday that’s doable in order to get the tax rate and the tax bills done on schedule; my hope and expectation is that the state budget will be done by then,” Seelig explained. Carman said that he wants to be sure that residents understand not only what decisions are being made regarding the continuations, etc. but also why. “We would love to meet earlier and get this resolved but we can’t until the state does its business and we want to do it in a way that’s safe, that’s why we’re looking at it in the way we’re looking at it in terms of what date and where we’re going to do it,” Carman said.
Selectman Gordon Andrews asked Carman if he had a preference between holding the meeting between two rooms (to ensure distancing) or outside. Carman said that due to his struggles with his vision, if the crowd is separated by rooms or great distances, he will need some expert spotters to ensure that no one attending feels disenfranchised. He said he is happy with whatever solution proves safest while still allowing people to feel that they are an active part of the process. Selectman Tom Millias said the problem with outside is the potential for inclement weather.
Viveiros said he spoke to Director of Building Maintenance Scott Materna and head custodian Matthew Durkee regarding concerns over the safety of the spray used during fogging, with particular regard for the schools.
He said they never heard back from the manufacturer, but the distributor said that educational and school settings do constitute a recommended use. The distributor also said it is safe after it is either dried or wiped off.
Viveiros said that it would be very difficult to implement the U.V. light method of disinfecting which had been proposed as a possible alternative. Andrews, who is part of the school reopening committee, said they had received a letter from the unions asking all sorts of questions about the reopening. He said that he would likely come back to the Board with more questions regarding the issue after the reopening committee’s first meeting.
Andrews asked the chiefs and Board if they had any issues that they would like him to address with the reopening committee and also asked if they had a preference regarding the reopening of schools. I understand the urge to reopen schools in the sense of educationally, it’s probably the best thing for everybody… but the big asterisk and its not any surprise, is you’ve got to do it safely,” Seelig said. Admitting to not having any solutions, he continued, “I don’t want Halifax or Massachusetts in general to end up part of any big slide backward due to the school system.” He pointed to Israel where schools seemed to play a large part in the transmission of the virus. He shared with the Board a sentiment he had heard as well saying, “You can always make up education, but you can’t make up lives.”
Andrews also shared that he was informed the day before that there was a 12-year-old baseball team in Marshfield that was under quarantine due to one of the players testing positive for COVID. “I guess my feelings have changed in the last day or two about whether I’m leaning toward reopening or not,” Andrews said. Viveiros pointed out that the issue is a polarizing one saying that regardless of what decision is made it is probably going to upset at least half the parents.
Selectman Troy Garron asked if there had been any discussion regarding having students tested prior to the start of school as he felt it would make common sense to know we’re you’re starting.
Andrews pointed out that DESE is recommending against temperature checks. Valery said from a public health perspective, he didn’t feel that a full reopening was the right choice.