The Halifax Finance Committee met on Monday, April 11. They heard from both Facilities Manager for Silver Lake Regional Matt Durkee and Council on Aging Director Darlene Regan. Both have articles on the warrant for town meeting on May 9 for their respective departments.
Durkee spoke to the ongoing issues with the intercom system at the Halifax Elementary School. “The problem with the system is – number one, it’s a proprietary and based system, so there’s only one authorized vendor that can perform maintenance and repairs on the system so that kind of shoehorns us into a price bracket that we don’t really like,” Durkee explained. He clarified that the aforementioned issue was not the main one driving the request for a new system. “There are sections of the building that do not work currently with the intercom system on a consistent basis,” he continued. Durkee said that the gymnasium is the most critical portion of the school experiencing difficulties with the intercom system. In addition to difficulties with dismissals, Durkee said that students in gym class have been the last to know that lockdowns were happening. “One of the main parts of this new proposed system is to bring all of the classroom spaces and meeting spaces in the building up to a consistent, usable intercom system,” he told the Finance Committee.
In addition, the new system would outfit the clocks throughout the building with an auto adjust feature. “If there is a power outage, currently we have, I would say half the building, is battery operated, manually adjusted clocks; every time there is a power outage, that has to be adjusted – each space,” Durkee explained. Another new feature of the updated intercom system would be, in Durkee’s words, a “user friendly bell schedule adjustment.” This feature would allow the administration to easily update the bell schedule for half days or two-hour delays, etc.
Durkee also said that they are working their way through the entire Silver Lake Regional school systems to replace the aging intercom systems to integrate all of them. “The end goal here, once all these schools have come online in a new system, they will all be interconnected so if… the superintendent needed to make a district-wide address… it can be done through this system and speak to each classroom or any space where there is an intercom,” Durkee explained. He also said that there is a preset recording for all types of emergencies including fire alarms or lockdowns.
Regarding price, Durkee said the final pricing would be $38,793.51 including previously anticipated price increases. He said that the plan was to reuse much of the current wiring already found in the school in addition to the existing speakers which would help to keep the cost down. Town Accountant Sandra Nolan confirmed that this cost was already included in the capital plan. The article is recommended by the Finance Committee.
Regan spoke to the Committee about the plans to utilize existing funds to convert the Halifax Museum building into a new senior center. Regan shared with the Committee some 3-D renderings that were done of the proposed center. The images are available on the town website as well as having been shared in last week’s Express. “It just gives the people the idea of being excited about what the possibilities are going forward and that the funding is there its just a matter of making this all happen,” Regan explained. “Aesthetically on 106, it’s going to look beautiful,” she told the Committee. Regan stressed the importance of the new center, not just for aging adults, but for those with disabilities as well as the families of seniors.
Finance Committee Chair Thomas Connolly said to Regan about town meeting, “I anticipate, based on prior ones, that you’ll get questions about those things [services] and folks will want to be reassured that we are not just building an empty building that has no programming capability inside. My first recommendation would be to make sure you have crisp answers on that programming stuff that is going to go on there.” Connolly said that the proposed building looks “gorgeous” and agreed that it would enhance the look of the community as people drive down 106. Regarding the funding, he did bring up similar infrastructure issues that exist with the Town Hall, the Fire Station, and the Police Station though he noted that the current COA building is likely the worst. “Is there a rationale that we need to convey as to why these funds are used here and not for those three other central buildings?” Connolly asked. Nolan said that both the Police and Fire Stations are much larger jobs and noted that a complex combining both is in talks and would cost “quite a bit of money.” Of the new COA building, Nolan said, “This a building that can be done in the $1.6 million that we have leftover from the school.” She went on to say that pouring that money into the existing Fire or Police Stations would not make sense. Connolly agreed noting that a similar project in Brockton is estimated at upwards of $98 million. Nolan said a combined Police and Fire station in Halifax could cost somewhere around $12 million.
Finance Committee Chair Thomas Connolly said, “I think the one number that sort of tells it all for us is, after the one percent increases, it looks like our usual $300,000 buffer is somewhere around $119,000 this year.” He continued, “We are cutting it very close to the levy limit… that is where we are even with effectively a flat budget across the town… except for some uncontrollable increases like special education and the waste management contract and other just inflationary measures that are hitting us.”
Nolan told the Committee that there were still a few outstanding articles that the Finance Committee did not provide a recommendation on including a special town meeting article for work on the front door of the Town Hall. The total cost is $11,000. “If you’ve come to Town Hall recently, you would see why, they really need to be replaced,” Nolan said. The Finance Committee will provide their recommendation on it during the Town Meeting.