The Halifax Board of Selectmen met Tuesday, July 9.
DFG land agent from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Joan Pierce came to speak to the Board about the possibility of acquiring an area of Peterson’s Swamp from the town. Pierce, who brought a map of the area to show the selectmen, said, “We would like to acquire it because it would make a really good public access for a couple of cars.” Pierce also mentioned that their intention with the land would be to maintain rather than develop it as it contains ecologically important attributes including, but not limited to, white cedar trees.
The inhabitants of Plymouth County and the town of Halifax share fifty-fifty undivided interest in the property. An appraisal of the property came in at $250,000. Fisheries and Wildlife is interested in purchasing the area for a total of $150,000 with $75,000 going to each of the entities. Board of Selectmen Vice-Chair Tom Millias took issue with the low price offered given that it falls significantly short of what he considered to be an already conservative appraisal. Adding to the dissatisfaction with the offer, Fisheries and Wildlife currently owe the town of Halifax $52,500 from a past transaction. Payments on debts of this nature must be tied to a land purchase. Pierce explained that Fisheries and Wildlife’s intent was that the purchase of the land would also absorb the debt owed to the town. The Selectmen were displeased to hear this as the $52,500 would be coming out of the $75,000 purchase price, leaving the town with a net gain of only $22,500 on a property appraised at $250,000 ($125,000 of that value belonging to Halifax). Pierce argued that the town would also be gaining a parking area (albeit a small one) that would provide residents with better access to the area.
Explaining, in part to newest Selectmen Gordon Andrews, Millias said, “Every time we deal with Fisheries and Wildlife we get short-changed and we keep kicking this can down the road.” Board of Selectmen Chair Troy Garron also expressed frustration with what has been an ongoing theme in the town’s dealing with Fisheries and Wildlife. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig and the Board discussed the offer at length with Pierce before a possible suggestion was offered by Andrews. There is a sliver of land in Halifax owned by Fisheries and Wildlife behind Aldana Road that would be necessary to possess in order to be able to pave that road. Andrews suggested Fisheries and Wildlife turn over that land to Halifax as part of the negotiation. This idea was amenable to all parties. Before any negotiations can take place, however, the town of Halifax must first purchase the inhabitants of Plymouth County’s portion of the land from them. The next step would be to sell it to Fisheries and Wildlife for $150,000 plus the land behind Aldana Road. Pierce agreed to email her summary of the proposed plan to Seelig prior to sharing the details with Plymouth County Administrator Frank Basler. The Board also plans to verify that the land behind Aldana Road provides everything needed in order to eventually pave the road. While the selectmen still felt that the deal leaves something to be desired, they agreed that they could live with the proposed plan as the town would still be receiving something of value to it.
Library Director Jean Gallant attended the meeting to speak to the need for more parking as the library is now competing for parking with the new playground built by Friends of HOPS (Halifax Open Play Space). Additionally, many people also use the library parking lot when attending events at the athletic fields. Gallant pointed out the safety issue posed by the lack of adequate parking as cars are often circling the parking lot looking for a space while children are running in the area.
Millias said, “The simple answer is we need to create more parking spots. The bigger question is where and at what cost?” Friends of HOPS still have some funds available but were planning to use them to have an Eagle Scout build a gazebo for the playground. Both Gallant and Millias agreed that they would rather see those funds go to the gazebo project and have the cost of the additional parking area paid for by the town. Garron argued that the town could oppose the idea of paying for the additional spaces since the reason for the lack of parking is the playground. The selectmen agreed that speaking with the highway surveyor about how many spots can be added as well as where to best place those spots would be a good first step.
Police Chief Joao Chaves addressed the Board requesting permission to institute a six-month trial of a motorcycle unit. Chaves, who previously headed the motorcycle unit in New Bedford, reached out to a contact at Seacoast Harley in New Hampshire who provided tips for a small lease plan. The lease would cost $325 a month for six months for a total expense of $1950. The leased bike would be fully equipped and would have only 80 miles on it. Officer Michael Schleiff would be attending a 40-hour course in Taunton starting next week at no cost to the town. The addition of the motorcycle unit would be instead of rather than in addition to a cruiser patrol. Chaves explained, “He can respond to calls the same way and can actually get to calls a little quicker.” Chaves sees the motor unit as potentially having a lot of benefits to the town.
“Halifax has a high population of motorcycle riders that enjoy the roadways. I think it’s another way for police to connect with that part of the community. We can utilize it for races and for funeral processions, it’s just another way to get us closer to the community.” The Board gave permission to move forward with the trial after which the feedback from both the community and the Police Department would be evaluated to determine whether to continue with the unit.
Various other items of business were also discussed. A hearing for “Jada,” a dog accused of biting another dog while loose on June 30, will be held on July 23.
The Traffic Safety Committee plans to meet with Chief Chaves later in the summer regarding complaints about truck traffic and speed on Walnut Street. Seelig agreed to talk to the highway department regarding a resident complaint of overgrown brush on South Street just off of River Street.
Trash bag fees will also be increased from $2.00 to $2.25 for small bags and from $3.00 to $3.25 for the large bags. This is the first increase for bags since 2009.