The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Thursday, Jan. 21, for one of the weekly meetings they have been holding since the onset of the pandemic. Board of Health agent Bob Valery told the selectmen that every Thursday he receives a two-week run rate of tests from the Department of Public Health (DPH). The most recent numbers indicate that 848 tests were performed with a total of 69 of those coming back positive. “So that would put us at a two-week run rate of 8.13,” Valery explained. “We are running a lower rate, a slightly lower rate than every town that surrounds us,” he continued.
Valery also said that effective Jan. 25 the stay-at-home advisory for the hours of 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. was rescinded. The limited capacity of 25 percent and gathering limits remain in place until Monday, Feb. 8.
Valery said he was working in conjunction with Fire Chief Jason Viveiros on the logistics of having an in-town vaccination site. He said that should they move forward, vaccinations will likely be by appointment. They are working through their eight-page checklist for hosting a vaccination site. Viveiros said that Our Lady of the Lake Church had offered their hall as a possible site for a vaccination clinic. “It will be a decent space for us, we will have a good flow path for people,” Viveiros said. He said he spoke with Police Chief Joao Chaves about having a police presence for traffic control purposes.
Viveiros said that in speaking with Town Administrator Charlie Seelig, it appears that there would be roughly 500 people in the 75 plus age group. Also, in Phase 2 will be those with co-morbidities, 65 plus, and schoolteachers. Valery pointed out the priority rankings within each of the phases. Viveiros said they were hopeful they would have enough to vaccinate at least those that are 75 plus as well as the teachers. Selectman Gordon Andrews, who also serves as Chair of the Halifax School Committee and as a member of the Silver Lake Regional School Committee, asked about the possibility of coordinating the vaccinations of teachers with Kingston, Plympton, and Silver Lake.
Selectmen Chair Tom Millias asked about acquiring the vaccine doses to be administered. Viveiros said that to date they were only given the doses that were administered to the first responders, noting that all first responders in town had been vaccinated. “As far as availability… we really don’t know what’s going to be available to us. The only thing we’ve been guaranteed is we’ll get the second doses for everyone that’s already been vaccinated,” Viveiros said.
Millias asked Andrews about a cluster of cases that had occurred within the school district. “We had a cluster of sports teams,” Andrews explained. “There were eight positive cases, I believe, and they shut down contact sports meaning ice hockey and basketball for two weeks,” he continued.
Seelig said that he and Valery had reviewed the COVID protocols for town employees with the aim of simplifying the process for those that have been sick or have been exposed with the goal to err on the side of caution. Seelig said that there weren’t any plans to roll out any further large-scale testing programs in town as the focus has now shifted to vaccine administration. He said the plan would be to work with the Council on Aging (COA) on sign ups for the vaccine as well as possibly transportation. “These folks are our most vulnerable individuals, the elderly especially, we want to make sure that they have an opportunity to participate,” Seelig said.
Millias asked if the antigen test was the most commonly run. Chief Chaves said it was. “Now if you were to get a negative result, that’s not necessarily 100 percent accurate,” Millias asked. Chief Viveiros said, “They’re roughly 85 percent accurate. If we test someone and we get a positive result, then it’s just considered positive. If someone’s symptomatic and they have a negative test they still need to get the PCR test,” Viveiros said.
At this point in the meeting, the Selectmen and Seelig turned their attention to non-COVID related issues in town. Seelig provided an update on an ongoing transaction between the town and the state.
Back in July of 2019 DFG land agent from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Joan Pierce came to speak to the Board about the possibility of acquiring an area of Peterson’s Swamp from the town. At the time both Millias and selectman Troy Garron expressed frustration with always coming up with the short end of the stick when dealing with Fisheries and Wildlife. Selectman Gordon Andrews suggested that in addition to the sale of the parcel, Fisheries and Wildlife transfer a sliver of land behind Aldana Road that they own to Halifax. That land would be necessary to possess in order to be able to pave the road eventually. All parties agreed to the transaction.
Seelig said during Thursday’s meeting that the state legislature had passed the necessary legislation to transfer the land from the Commonwealth to the town. Seelig asked the Board to take an official vote to approve the sale of the parcels of land to the Commonwealth. Once done, it will go to Pierce and the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM). “Troy and I have been through this thing for about twenty years so I would love to get this off our plate,” Millias said.
Chief Chaves said that several weeks ago the Board approved Michael Boncariewski as an intermittent police officer. He said he was hoping the Board would now approve a conditional offer of employment so that he might replace an outgoing officer who left the department for Weymouth. Chaves said a full background check had been performed on Boncariewski and noted that nothing had changed since their previous approval. The Board voted to approve and Boncariewski will begin the Academy in Plymouth on March 1.
Seelig asked the Board if they were interested in creating an article to eliminate the exclusion zone for marijuana establishments as he was fielding multiple inquiries about the issue.
Millias said he would be more comfortable to have the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee or Planning Board handle it. Seelig also pointed out that applicants unhappy with the zone could get the necessary voter signatures to create a petition article themselves. Andrews agreed with the petition article idea saying, “I would request that if they want to make a petition article, to do the petition article and they can be the champion of the article and say what the value is to the town.”
Seelig also mentioned that there was a vacancy for a Halifax member on the Silver Lake Regional School Committee. The appointment will be a combined vote of the selectmen and the members of the regional school committee.