The Thursday, Oct. 1, Halifax Board of Selectmen’s meeting began with a COVID-19 update. Board of Health agent Bob Varley told the selectmen that since their last meeting there were three new confirmed cases in Halifax.
Varley said that the Director of Contact Tracing for the state has made a number of new forms available to assist cities and towns. He also said that the state has started to provide new assistance to towns. They will follow up on individual as well as clusters of cases. “So as fast as we know something, they should know something,” Varley explained.
Varley said he would like to see Halifax take a more proactive approach in combatting the spread of the virus. He referenced a recent incident in another local town where, according to Varley, a restaurant hired a new employee despite that person awaiting a COVID test. That employee began work prior to receiving their results which ended up being positive. Other employees were infected, and the restaurant had to close down. “I’ve been observing a lot of people being lackadaisical, in my opinion, losing the focus on what we need to do by wearing masks and if you think you’re ill, you don’t report to work,” Varley said. He also said that restaurant managers and owners need to have proper policies in place and revisit with their employees what all the standards and expectations are that must be followed in order to remain open.
Varley also noted that for communities with low risk, the minimum number of people at gatherings would be increased per the state’s regulations. Currently, Halifax is in the yellow zone. Varley explained how easy it would be for a community like Halifax to enter the red zone saying, “It only takes two to three cases for our numbers to move given the size of our population.”
Varley thanked Town Administrator Charlie Seelig for a memo he sent out to employees of town hall calling it “a very powerful message.” Varley asked to borrow from Seelig’s memo and has since posted a message to residents on the town website.
The selectmen also discussed how best to deal with Halloween. Regarding Halloween, Selectmen Chair Tom Millias said, “I mean, I don’t think we’re going to go out and stop people but I don’t think its something we want to promote.” Selectman Troy Garron said that people that didn’t want to participate would be best served by leaving their lights off. Seelig said that if the Board believed trick-or-treating to not be enforceable, it would be best to leave it up to families and to recommend that people use their best judgement and follow CDC guidelines. “I don’t want to see us policing it,” Selectman Gordon Andrews said. Garron did note that he did not want to see the town closed down again.
The selectman said that they are still awaiting more details about a proposed drive-up Halloween to most likely be held at the Elementary School.
There was, as has often been the case, more debate over whether to issue recycling abatements. Andrews was for doing so while both Garron and Millias were not. Andrews said in the future he would like to see the town move to two separate rates – one for pickup which is more costly and another for drop off.
Millias said the town would need to have some sort of sticker program as was done in the past. Of the current recycling program, Millias said, “Regardless of what you think of the program, my estimation of it is it works pretty good and it’s relatively inexpensive.” Millias did say, however, that he would like to get input from the general public. It was agreed that a meeting to discuss recycling should probably be scheduled.
Andrews, who is also the Chair of the Halifax School Committee, told his fellow selectmen that DESE sent out a survey about municipal contributions for school budgets. He said that the intention is to ask DESE to increase state aid beyond the $30 per pupil minimum. Andrews said that Halifax actually receives more than that, but that Silver Lake Regional is different. “We’re getting subsidized at the elementary level; that money is supposed to be spent at the elementary, but because Silver Lake is not getting more than the $30 per pupil our money is being shifted from the elementary to Silver Lake. They really need to apportion the regional school systems based on the three towns’ affordability,” Andrews explained. He noted that according to his rough estimates from earlier this year, Halifax brings in 45 percent of the state aid while Kingston and Plympton bring in 35 percent and 27 percent respectively. Andrews said, “the way the numbers come in everyone is getting Halifax’s proportionality of state aid.” Andrews asked the Board to vote to request that the state break out the state aid based on the town. The selectmen did so unanimously.
In other school related news, the Halifax Elementary School Committee has received 5 or 6 candidates interested in serving. Interviews with both the school committee and the selectmen will have to be scheduled to select a new member.
A virtual public forum will be held over Zoom on Tuesday, Oct. 20 to discuss expanding the town’s Host Community Agreement with Bud’s Goods and Provisions. The company, which will be establishing an outdoor marijuana cultivation site on River St., said that they would like to expand the agreement to include both manufacturing as well as indoor cultivation.
Finally, the selectmen voted Thursday to prorate liquor licenses for 2021 to account for the time that local restaurants were closed in 2020.
Millias noted that he was certainly in favor of helping the businesses in this manner.