Halifax was able to complete its Annual Town Meeting Monday night, May 17, after failing to meet its quorum last week on Tuesday. With just about half of the articles acted on Monday, May 10, the meeting adjourned Tuesday at 8:05 when the quorum of 100 voters could not be reached.
There were several hot button topics left to vote on: Article 55, to see if the town would authorize the Board of Selectmen to petition the General Court to enact legislation that would allow Halifax to expand the membership of the Board of Selectmen from three to five members.
Had this passed, the selectmen would have been able to put the question of expanding the board on the ballot in Spring, 2022. Discussion ensued for most of half an hour both for and against the measure. Selectman Gordon Andrews spoke to his article, saying that two more members of the select board would allow the business of the town to be completed more efficiently, as there wouldn’t be as many votes tabled due to conflicts of interest. It would also allow current board members to share the ever-increasing burden of the work of the Board of Selectmen.
Candace Kniffen spoke to the room saying that for many years the position of selectman has gone unopposed, and for many boards and committees it is difficult to get people to fill the empty positions. She also brought up the cost of health insurance for an additional two board members as a deterrent.
Retiring Town Clerk Barbara Gaynor said that she had never experienced a more contentious election ever! “Lately every one of us has been torn down.” Gaynor said she didn’t think that growing the board to five members would solve anything.
Kim Cavicchi said that she felt it would bring “transparency” to the board, and not have as many conflicts of interest. “If we don’t expand we’ll continue to have lawsuits.”
Alison Long took the microphone to oppose the expansion of the board stating that she strongly feels “we have a good working system.” She has resided in Halifax for 48 years and recognizes that having a good town manager takes a lot of the work selectmen would formerly have done.
Paula Hatch, chairman of the Silver Lake Regional School Committee said she has made Halifax her home for 25 years. The complexity of the issues she has to face on our boards can be overwhelming. “What are we afraid of? I have no reservations as to increasing the board,” she said.
After all was said and done, Article 55 failed.
Despite an impassioned plea from Shirley Graf speaking for her article to ban the sale of “nips” in Halifax, nips will still be sold for the foreseeable future.
Joe Tonello, owner of Harmony Liquors in Halifax, told the assembly that nips make up 17% of his liquor sales. He said that taking away nips sales, after the state curbed flavored tobacco sales, menthol cigarettes, vaping, and some cigar sales, he said his business is feeling these losses. “Where does it end?”
Tom McGrath got up to say, “I don’t want the town of Halifax to tell me what I can and cannot drink.”
Two voters pointed out that Halifax has no litter laws and that Halifax policemen have issued no tickets for littering. In fact, there were only 12 arrests for DUI and three for open container violations since Jan. 1, 2019.
Halifax voters did not vote the $105,000 requested to resurface the five tennis courts at Silver Lake Regional High School. There was much debate as to why there wasn’t an option to repair the courts, rather than reconstruct the surfaces. A repair would only be guaranteed for two years and a reconstruction would last 15 to 20 years. Because the article stated its funding source would be the general stabilization fund, the article required a 2/3 vote to pass.
Paula Hatch, Chairman of the Silver Lake Regional School Committee, defended the article and asked where the $312,000 that was Halifax’s share of the settlement when Pembroke left the region. That money, Hatch said, was to be set aside for capital expenses at the high school just like this. The Town Accountant said the funds were in the general stabilization fund and a 2/3 vote was needed to spend them. The article failed. Halifax may yet have to spend that money as Plympton voted for its share of the article last Wednesday and Kingston will vote for or against its share on Saturday, May 22. If Kingston’s article passes, Halifax will need to conform to the majority.
Later in the evening, School Committee chairman Gordon Andrews, with other members of the school committee, attempted a reconsideration of the article, but that failed as well.
Articles 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 42, 51, and 52 were passed over.
Article 14 approved $150 for the use of the Trustees for County Cooperative Extensive Service.
Article 18 asked the town for $110,000 to purchase and equip two new marked police vehicles to be used for patrol. Police Chief Joao Chaves spoke to the article saying this is part of an ongoing program of updating and replacing his rolling stock, transferring the replaced vehicles to other departments in Halifax that could use them. Karen Fava amended the article so that the replaced vehicles would have to be sold or traded in and the resulting funds be used in another way. The amended article passed.
Article 20 asked for $6,850 to fund an actuarial study of Town-paid post-employment benefits. The article passed.
Article 21 asked the town for $25,000 to reseal the Halifax Elementary School parking lot. Passed.
Article 22 asked the town for $30,000 to replace the kitchen flooring at the Halifax Elementary School. Passed.
Article 24 asked for $23,000 to install and extend pedestrian pathways from and around the Halifax Elementary School including but not limited to improving ADA access to areas of the HES. Article passed.
Article 29 asked the town for $3,500 to support South Shore Resource and Advocacy Center for domestic violence intervention and prevention services for its residents. Selectman Troy Garron spoke in support of the article saying that over the past 30 years people in Halifax have used the services and it deserves support. The article passed.
Article 30 asked the town to add $300,000 to the General Stabilization fund. The article finally passed after a little lesson in free cash that is neither free nor cash, and it left unaccounted for it would cause accounting problems.
Article 31 asked the town for $32,000 to purchase a document management/digitization/e-permitting/workflow system. The article passed.
Article 33 asked the town for $135,000 for a new backhoe for the highway department. Highway Superintendent Stephen Hayward spoke to his article saying that he was replacing a 2010 John Deere backhoe with 6,600 hours on it. He expects the trade-in value is about $20,000. The article passed.
Article 35 asked the town for $29,000 to replace 24 windows in Pope’s Tavern. Jeff Bolger asked how much money the town was going to put into the “sinkhole” Pope’s Tavern? We must have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last 10 years.” Jean Gallant, Holmes Library Director, told the group that the old building has seen a lot of history and deserves to be preserved. The article passed.
Article 36 asks to fund $17,500 to upgrade alarm systems at the Town Hall, Highway/Water Bar, and recycling Center. Passed.
Article 39 asks for $90,000 to replace 72 windows at the Town Hall. Pam Aducci who works in the town hall spoke about the non-functioning windows that won’t stay open, that close with a bang, leak water and wind. The article passed.
Article 43 asked the town for $2,500 to purchase three new computers for the Holmes Public Library. Passed.
Article 44 asked the town for $6,500 to purchase and install an OSHA required mezzanine gate in the highway barn. After discussion about the amount of the bids, is $6,500 sufficient to complete the job, and whether or not engineering would be required, the article passed.
Article 46 asked the town for $50,000 for a fraud risk assessment on the recommendation of the town’s auditor. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said the program was necessary to outline areas that need to be addressed. “If we don’t know what’s wrong, we can’t correct it,” Seelig said. The article passed.
Article 47 asked the town for $20,000 to add to the Unemployment Compensation account. Passed.
Article 49 asked the town for $7,500 to repair and replace the fence at the Lingan Street beach area. After conversation about whether the fence is in poor condition, do we need a fence there anyway, or is this enough money to complete the job, the article passed.
Article 53 dealing with the floodplain district regulations was considered and since its passing is necessary to getting flood insurance in these areas the article passed.
Article 56 asked the town to allow the establishment of a stabilization fund for the Silver Lake Regional School District. The Finance Committee did not recommend it saying that there is no control over how it is spent once it is funded. The article failed.
Article 57 asked the town to vote to amend Chapter 146 (Stormwater Management) as recommended by the Massachusetts Attorney General. The article passed.
Article 58 asked the town permission to acquire by gift, transfer, temporary easement for bridge construction, access and/or related purposed in, on, and under parcels of land abutting Pine Street, shown on a plan entitled “Pine Street over Cranberry Bog Overflow Right of Way Plans”. Highway Superintendent Hayward explained that this was a formality so he would have a place to park his equipment while he was working on the area.
The original article was amended by Amy Troup and Karen Fava to eliminate any reference to monetary compensation. The article passed.