The Halifax Board of Selectmen met in-person on Tuesday, Jan. 26. While the Selectmen and Town Administrator Charlie Seelig were in-person, other attendees were virtual including Adam Cushman the senior patrol leader of Halifax Boy Scout Troop 39. Cushman led the Pledge of Allegiance during Tuesday’s meeting.
Seelig said that while the 14-day total for COVID cases was down a bit, the town continues to be in what he called “triple red.” Seelig mentioned that the state lifted some of the restrictions. While he noted that residents aged 75 plus could begin registering for appointments to receive the vaccine, he said that Halifax doesn’t have the necessary deep freeze capabilities for the Pfizer vaccine which he said was the vaccine being distributed in this round. He said the town zone clinic will need to wait until it is able to receive the Moderna vaccine. Council on Aging Director Susan Lawless is working with eligible residents to navigate the process and locate vaccination sites elsewhere in southeastern Massachusetts.
Seelig told the Board that they had received a letter from the South Shore Children’s Museum, who held a drive-in movie event at the Walmart in town in October. The letter thanked them for their assistance in putting on the event. They expressed sadness over having to close down and cancel many fundraising events in the past year and said they were looking forward to working with the town further in 2021. “We will be back as we reconfigure and make a plan for our future,” the letter read.
Monponsett Ponds Update
Seelig also gave an update on Monponsett Pond saying he had been in contact with Solitude Lake Management about various projects concerning the pond. Seelig said $135,000 has been set aside to be put toward that work but noted that it won’t cover everything the town may want to do. Possible work includes performing basic study work, revising the natural heritage habitat management plan, issuing notices of intent for weed control, performing a weed survey for invasive weeds for West Monponsett Pond, monitoring water quality and algae in May through October, and running a muscle monitoring program as part of the algae work. Seelig said that all of the aforementioned work was relatively low budget and estimated costs at $20,000 to $25,000.
Big ticket items include $100,000 for the application of aluminum sulfide in West Monponsett Pond and $70,000 for the application in East Monponsett Pond. Invasive weed control for East Monponsett Pond especially would cost $90,000.
Of the more expensive projects, Seelig said it was recommended to him to move forward with the invasive weed control prior to town meeting in May as that was the project that would most benefit from an earlier start. “Doing that and doing most of the other study work would spend about $116,000 and we would still need $170,000 of which $59,000 we’d have available to us,” Seelig said. Seelig recommended moving forward with the weed eradication program and study work prior to town meeting and then seeking the additional funds for the other work at town meeting on May 10.
Fuel Storage Hearing
The Board had a hearing with Anthony Curtin. “We’re just following up with our first conversation making sure that the steps are clearly delineated, I think what you’re looking for… is some indication from the Board… that if you were able to obtain your special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals and had a favorable decision of the Planning Board if the Board of Selectmen would be inclined to support granting of the permit for the fuel storage facility,” Selectmen Chair Tom Millias said. Seelig added that approval would have to be given by the Fire Chief and the Fire Marshall. Two letters of support had been sent in by abutters for Curtin’s proposal. Millias said that as long as there wasn’t strong opposition on behalf of the abutters and Curtin meets all necessary requirements, the Board would be fine with moving forward.
Seelig said there were multiple openings on the Finance Committee. Melinda Tarsi recently gave her resignation which will be effective February 15. There is also a spot available for a citizen on the Capital Planning Committee. Silver Lake Regional School Committee Chair Paula Hatch attended Tuesday’s meeting virtually to discuss the opening on the committee left by the resignation of Edward Desharnais. “He had served well over a decade and was a valued participant,” Hatch said of Desharnais.
Hatch spoke to the difficult year it has been for the school committees saying that the regional committee has very new members from Kingston and Plympton due to other earlier resignations. “I’m looking forward to Halifax determining another person that can come join us and take a place on Silver Lake,” Hatch told the Selectmen. Millias said the town would reach out and see if they could find willing volunteers for the position.
Seelig recommended reaching out to the residents who had earlier applied to fill the vacancy on the Halifax Elementary School Committee. Selectman Gordon Andrews asked that the talent bank be open for two weeks prior to interviews being held.
Complete Streets Presentation
The final appointment of the night was a Complete Streets presentation by Courtney Beckwith of Green Seal Environmental. Beckwith said she had been working with Seelig and Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward on the Complete Streets Program which is a grant through Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT). “Specifically, they’re meant to prioritize streets that are made for bikers, walkers, and not necessarily just focused on cars so a lot of these projects consist of adding sidewalks, extending sidewalk networks, adding bike paths, and road diets and speed bumps to reduce speeds,” Beckwith explained. Halifax is currently at Tier Two of the program which consists of developing a prioritization plan for the town consisting of a list of projects that the town is interested in pursuing.
Mass DOT has approved a grant for $38,000 to help the town conduct the necessary studies including gap analysis studies for existing sidewalk networks. Also included in the research is an analysis of historical data involving crashes at various streets and intersections. Beckwith cited community input as being another part of the data collected during Tier Two. “We are asking residents of the town, the Planning Board, and the Board of Selectmen their ideas for projects to focus on,” Beckwith said. She spoke about a google maps type website they have developed called wikimapping.com which provides a map of the town of Halifax. Residents can login and answer questions regarding where they see problems and where they would like to see improvements. People can also build upon comments left by other residents. The website will be open for the entire month of February.
Beckwith said the state would offer a maximum of $400,000 in construction costs which could be dedicated to a single project or spread across several different ones. Engineering work would need to be done prior to the allocation of the construction money. “I’ve seen in the past that towns that spend the money on the engineering and have the plans ready to go are more likely to get the funding but I do need to say that that is not guaranteed,” Beckwith said. “I know that Mass DOT specifically does not like giving grant money for the design and engineering portion; they like paying for the planning and construction,” she further explained.
Andrews asked that if they had their submissions in for Tier Two by the April 1 deadline if the town could receive up to $400,000 for this fiscal year’s program. Beckwith confirmed.
A plan would need to be in place as well as a construction schedule by June 30, 2021 in order for the funds to be allocated to a particular project.