The Halifax Board of Selectmen met via Zoom on Tuesday, April 14. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig told the Board that he would like them to revisit the Halifax COVID leave that had been established for town employees following the Governor’s statewide stay-at-home advisory.
He said that it would be necessary to differentiate between time off due to vacation or sick leave (unrelated to COVID) from leaves of absence related to the pandemic. Seelig said that in the weeks since the order, the town has been able to establish the ability for most town employees to work from home. He said there are still a select few who cannot work from home but no longer have a job site. Seelig said he would work with departments to try to find remedies for those situations, including possibly finding other town work for those employees to do from home. The Board plans to review further at their April 28 meeting.
Seelig also addressed the need for certain town employees to be granted carry over for vacation hours.
He said that the police and fire departments have not seen an influx in calls related to COVID-19 and therefore it wouldn’t be necessary to grant the carry over across the board. Seelig said, however, that both he and the town health agent Cathy Drinan would like the ability to carry over vacation time for use at a later time as they are having to work more hours as a result of COVID-19.
The Board approved the request with Chair Troy Garron saying it would be best to take such requests on a case-by- case basis.
Joseph Peck attended the meeting remotely to fulfil an appointment with the Board to discuss the issuance of a post permit for earth removal done a few years back by his father, John Peck. The Board and Seelig had a copy of a report from an engineer that included comments and recommendations for how to move forward before issuing the permit. Seelig asked Peck what his intentions were with the remaining earth mounds. Peck said, “I have no intentions with it. They’re just piles of dirt right now… it is certainly not leaving the property which I guess is the main concern.” Selectman Gordon Andrews said that he felt that a topographical plan should be submitted per the recommendation of the engineer.
Selectman Tom Millias agreed saying that in a perfect world he would like to see the recommendations carried out as well.
Peck told the Board that his father was quite ill and would be unable to attend a court date should there be one. He requested that the Board allow him to pay for the permit and waive the other recommendations stating that he would rather see money go to the town right now for the permit than to a land surveyor.
He also stressed his continued cooperation in the future in abiding by all town bylaws. Referring to Peck’s father’s health and the overall situation Garron said, “My feeling right now is that we set out to make sure everyone follows the rules and the bylaws and the situation has changed radically.
The Board agreed to move forward allowing Peck to simply pay for the post permit with the caveat that if there were to be any future violations, the town would need to take further legal action.
The Board also met virtually with Robert Bergstrom to discuss the upcoming Mudfest. Bergstrom said that just under 1,000 people attended the event last year and said that he was coming before the Board with the understanding that the event could only move forward if the Governor lifted his ban on gatherings before the June 21 date of the event. The Board voted to approve the event contingent on a review of the Governor’s restrictions prior to the event date.
Seelig gave a quick update on the town budget saying that the Finance Committee plans to meet next week. He said they will review guidance from town accountant Sandy Nolan as well as a framework provided by himself.
Seelig also said that the Halifax town meeting is still scheduled for June 15 and the town elections are still scheduled for June 20. Seelig said that he hopes that the state government will give consideration to a mail-in vote as it gets closer to June.
Two articles in the proposed warrant for town meeting will be submitted to the Planning Board for their public hearing on May 7. Those include one related to floodplain mapping as well as an article allowing recreational marijuana in the commercial district with a special permit. The Selectmen also voted to submit a new draft of the proposed multifamily zoning bylaw to the Planning Board for the May 7 hearing.
In other news, the May 8 Ragnar Road Race scheduled to use Halifax Elementary School as one of it’s stops has been cancelled.
Seelig also said that the Board had received a request to proclaim May 3 through May 9 as Children’s Mental Health Week.
Both Garron and Seelig pointed out that the Board has never participated in making such proclamations. The Board requested that Seelig gather more information on the organization making the request before they make their decision likely at the next meeting.
The Board voted to approve a generic contract requested by Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward in the amount of $28,500.
The money would be spent surveying the conditions of the town’s roads and estimating the cost of improvements. Seelig also asked the Board to approve a $5,000 grant from the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards for the town to use toward COVID-19 related costs.
Seelig told the Board that the pandemic has given the town more of a reason to try handling more business electronically moving forward. Seelig said that they may want to consider articles at town meeting to appropriate money to have new systems put in place.
Garron, who referred to himself as “old school” said, “I like hard copies.”