The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Thursday, August 6 for their bi-weekly meeting with the town’s emergency management officials regarding COVID or other emergency concerns. Halifax Board of Health agent Bob Valery told the Board that there were no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID in town. Valery also told the Board that the message board at the fire station will refer residents to Mass.gov for updates on Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
According to Valery the CDC is warning about acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious neurologic disease with polio-like symptoms occurring most frequently in young children. While AFM cannot be spread person to person the viruses associated with it may be spread by mosquitos or other vectors and is most active during the months of August to November. Selectman Gordon Andrews asked if there was an outbreak in New England was told there was not.
Andrews gave an update on the school’s reopening plan. He explained that per the last survey, 48 percent of parents favored full, in-person learning at three feet. The plan sent to the state was the hybrid model which would see the majority of students attending school in person two days a week and remote three days a week.
Another cohort of high-needs students would attend school in person four days a week. Families can also opt into a full remote option. Selectmen Troy Garron pointed out the difficulties of keeping elementary school aged children facing forward and adhering to social distancing. He said he thought a monitor would be needed in the classrooms in addition to the teacher. Selectman Tom Millias said of the 3 ft distancing if facing forward, “I don’t see that as being enforceable… they’ll be a thousand infractions the first day.”
Andrews told Police Chief Joao Chaves that he believes a detail officer will be necessary during pickup and drop off times at the school. He further explained that given the distancing requirements on the bus, it would cost an extra $400,000 just for Silver Lake to be able to cover the additional buses and/or runs for half the year. With buses at one-third capacity, Andrews also brought up the question of how students would be transported to and from opposing teams’ venues if sports were allowed. Andrews said that as of right now, students are not allowed to drive themselves. “I pretty much think sports are done, for at least the fall and probably all of next year,” Andrews said.
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said that he was speaking with Maintenance Director Scott Materna about fogging the town hall more frequently as the number of in-person meetings were increasing. Seelig said that fogging the building would likely need to occur on Tuesdays or Wednesdays given the building schedules.
Garron asked why the building couldn’t be fogged on Fridays when empty. Seelig explained that the fogging was used to kill the virus and if the building sits empty for several days as it would over the weekend, the virus would likely be gone by the time it was being occupied again.
Seelig and the Board discussed the possibility of rearranging meeting schedules to end them earlier to allow for the fogging to occur.
Seelig told the Board that they needed to start to move forward with the process of allocating the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds that are available to the town through Plymouth County. According to Seelig, Halifax has made three submissions to Plymouth County thus far totaling $40,000. The amount spent to date is just a fraction of the $884,000 available to Halifax. Expenditures to be reimbursed through the CARES funds must be spent by December 31. Seelig said that of the requests he had received from departments thus far, he didn’t see any of the items being big ticket items. He said that the requests were too vague and that he would need to go back to departments to specify what exactly was needed. Instead of a request such as signage, Seelig said he would need to know exactly the type and quantity needed. Seelig said that money would likely be available for use by the school system. Andrews asked the Board if they would be in favor of potentially using some of the funds for either additional school staff or additional buses. The Board agreed.
Seelig said that another source of funding is the Massachusetts IT Infrastructure Bond Bill. The bill has already been through the legislature and is currently with the governor awaiting his signature. The $185,000 available to Halifax can be used for specific systems. If the costs don’t exceed the available limit, those will be expenditures that don’t have to use any CARES Act funding. Seelig also told the Board that Council on Aging (COA) Director Susan Lawless told him that the Old Colony Elder Services will be giving out grants in the amount of $3,000 to each COA to be used toward activities.