The Halifax Board of Selectmen met in-person on Tuesday, June 23. They began with a reorganization of the Board naming Tom Millias as the new chair, Gordon Andrews as the new vice chair, and Troy Garron as the new clerk.
Town Meeting Update
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said that while the town meeting is currently scheduled for July 11, it will likely have to be postponed even further. According to Seelig, it is unlikely that local aid numbers will be available until the end of July. Seelig told the Board that he recommended them having a special meeting with the town moderator and town counsel to postpone town meeting to August 8 at 9 a.m.
Seelig said that possible venues for town meeting include the Halifax Elementary School gym, the fields behind the elementary school, or the Silver Lake Regional High School Auditorium. Garron said that if holding the meeting outside, it may be necessary to rent tents in the event of inclement weather. Millias said another option would be to have multiple rain dates available. Andrews said that his preference would be to hold the meeting in the elementary school gym. Since space is an issue due to social distancing precautions, Andrews also proposed having family members sit in groups within their own 6- or 8-foot bubble. Another idea that was floated was to utilize multiple rooms for town meeting as was done in Plympton. Millias said, “We’ve done that in the past and it can work but it is a lot more difficult.”
Seelig also told the Board that there was an allowance for temporary quorum changes for town meeting during the state of emergency. Seelig said if the Board wished to consider a temporary change, they would need to give advance notice. The Board said they were inclined to leave the quorum at 100.
Regarding the recent election, Seelig said, “town clerk Barbara Gaynor thanks everyone for making the town election a success given the conditions.” Most residents that voted did so in person with fewer electing to mail-in their ballots. Seelig said that the town would face greater challenges in November as there would likely be a much larger voter turnout.
Of the reopening of the town hall, Seelig said, “all signs are that everything worked.” He continued, “People who are coming in have been working with the town employees and town officials on the pandemic protocols.”
Library Director Jean Gallant is currently looking towards a July 13 opening of the Holmes Public Library though that is subject to change depending on the state’s phase 3 guidelines. Council on Aging Director Susan Lawless is looking into the possibility of renting a tent for a couple of months in order to hold outdoor gatherings.
Several changes to elected and hired positions were also discussed. The selectmen said they wanted to thank both Ashley DiSesa and Karlis Skulte for their service on the Planning Board. Millias, who encouraged them to serve in other capacities said, “We can always use informed folks that want to serve.” As of July 1, Robert Valery of Plymouth will be the new Board of Health agent. Town Accountant Sandra Nolan is also in the process of hiring a new assistant accountant. Current Animal Control Officer Noreen Callahan has given her notice and will leave the position as of July 7. Seelig said he is working with Police Chief Joao Chaves on finding applicants to fill the position.
Liquor License Request
The Board had an appointment with George Latini of In Season Restaurant to hear his request for a 1-day liquor license in order to hold weddings and/or functions outside. Following a brief discussion with Latini, the Board voted to allow it.
Revised Contract for Seelig
Seelig told the Board that they would need to revise his contract to indicate that he would not be receiving a pay increase this fiscal year. “I applaud you for bringing it up because basically you’re looking to cut your own pay, which is admirable, especially knowing from the inside the type of work and the amount of time and effort you put into it. A thank you is in order,” Millias said to Seelig.
Recognition for Town Employees
The Board also took time during Tuesday’s meeting to applaud and recognize the efforts of the municipal building department including Maintenance Director Scott Materna as well as staff Tom Schindler and Andrew Elliot Smith.
“They have not missed any workdays through the whole COVID situation; they have adjusted their schedules to accommodate the cleaning,” Millias said.
“They have done a fabulous job. We can’t give them any money, but we can give them some recognition,” he continued. Garron also mentioned that Schindler recently rescued a fox.
Another town employee was also recognized during the Board’s meeting. Seelig said he received correspondence from the Wareham police chief regarding Halifax’s assistance on June 6 during a large protest at the Wareham Police Station.
The Wareham chief said, “During the event your Police Chief Joao Chaves was instrumental in securing our station, providing expert advise and counsel; our officers were very impressed with Chief Chaves and found him to be a consummate professional…Halifax is very lucky to call him Chief.”
Protocol for Requesting Documents
Andrews also requested that the Board discuss the current protocol for handing a department to department request of official documents. According to Seelig there was a recent incident where a town official made an on-the-spot demand for many documents to be immediately turned over from another town official. Seelig made a point of saying that he felt that the requestor’s approach and attitude was inappropriate.
Garron said the he believed that the policy has always been that documents be turned over in a “reasonable amount of time.” Millias said he is concerned with the possibility of someone checking out records and potentially removing documents from folders, etc. Andrews recommended instituting an electronic filing system to avoid such problems. Garron said he would be interested in knowing the cost to the town for implementing such a system. Millias said it might be possible to use COVID funds to cover some or all of the expense. The Board decided to temporarily table the conversation in order to get feedback from other departments before making any decisions.
Seelig said that the Board had received a request from the Conservation Commission Chair Gerry Fitzgerald asking that Amy Troup be barred from any interactions with the Secretary of the Conservation Commission Terri Renaud. Town counsel advised that if the Board wanted to consider the matter they should do so with a public hearing. Millias suggested that the parties involved utilize the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a means of arbitration. “I’ve used it in the past and I’ve thought it was pretty helpful,” Millias explained.
Seelig said that the Youth and Recreation Department had preliminary plans for the summer though it would ultimately be dependent upon what the state will allow.
Seelig also said that the algae in the Monponsett Ponds are still at a low level and the ponds are therefore still usable. A treatment will hopefully be scheduled in July.