Halifax holds Special Town Meeting: Unanimity, Majority, Passed Over
HALIFAX– On Monday, Jan. 4, Halifax voters met in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Halifax Elementary School to consider three warrant articles at a Special Town Meeting.
The first article, which was approved unanimously by Town Meeting members, transferred $70,000 from available funds to the Municipal and School Building Committee to contract with an architectural firm to continue to develop plans for an expansion and renovation to the Pope’s Tavern Senior Center as well as to solicit bids for the construction of the renovation and expansion. This was the third attempt to approve funds for a renovation to Pope’s tavern, according to Selectmen Chairman Kim Roy.
The second warrant article, presented by Fire Chief Jason Vivieros, asked the Town Meeting members to vote to raise the rates charged for ambulance calls and to transfer the authority to set these rates from Town Meeting to the Board of Selectmen. Halifax significantly charges less compared to other communities, according to documents prepared by the Fire Department.
One voter was confused as to why there was any charge for ambulance services at all; the answer being is that it would be prohibitively expensive to provide such services without billing for them. These charges mostly affect insurance agencies, but Vivieros noted that any uninsured resident receives three bills, and then the bill is abated after three years (written-off) and never goes to collections or a credit agency in order to encourage residents to never hesitate to call for help regardless of their insurance status.
Another voter expressed concern about giving up any authority that is held by the Town Meeting members to the elected Board of Selectmen. Chairman Roy explained that the reason the Selectmen are asking for the power to set ambulance rates is so that they can be adjusted quickly, if necessary, on the recommendation of the Fire Chief. The last two changes to the rates were in 2010 and 2007. Vivieros stated that it was “very uncommon” for Town Meeting to set ambulance rates.
This article passed by majority.
Article Three was passed over, obviated by Article Two, which was nearly identical. Article Three asked that Town Meeting members vote to raise the ambulance rates but did not contain the language transferring the authority to set the rates from Town Meeting to the Board of Selectmen.
The meeting was brief and the quorum of 100 members to start the proceedings was reached shortly after the meeting’s scheduled start time of 7:30 p.m.