The Halifax Board of Selectmen held a remote meeting on Tuesday, May 12. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig addressed the necessary steps the town would have to take to begin reopening per the state’s guidelines. Seelig described it as a “slow opening” and said it would begin with the recycling center opening on Wednesday, May 20.
Seelig also credited library Director Jean Gallant with developing a plan for the opening of the library. He said he plans to share it with the other departments. Gallant, who said she had recently spoken with other SAILS directors, said that the library would also be ready to begin curbside pickup and returns at the book drop beginning on May 20. Phase 2 of reopening would include having patrons in the building. Selectman Chair Troy Garron said to Gallant, “I love your initiative.”
Council on Aging Director Susan Lawless was also at the meeting and expressed that she was unsure what steps to take to get her drivers back to work. Currently the drivers, who do not have benefits such as vacation time, have continued being paid despite not working. Lawless asked if drivers not comfortable returning to work in the next week or so should continue to be paid.
Both Garron and selectman Tom Millias said that they believed payment should be stopped in such a case. Millias explained, “The cold hard fact is we can’t pay them and pay somebody else to do their job.” Adding to the complexity, Lawless said that there may only be limited hours available and asked if drivers should be compensated only for what they work or for their normal workloads. Seelig said a meeting between the selectmen and the department heads would be scheduled soon to hash out such details.
Seelig acknowledged that the town hall is not yet ready to be opened. He explained, “My first priority in all of this is the protection of the employees that are working in these buildings and also the protection of the residents and visitors who come in.” Seelig also said that he wouldn’t want to see employees in the vulnerable population return to work if it was contraindicated for them to do so. Millias said he would like to begin by determining which employees should come back first saying they, “should start functioning with our staff first before thinking about opening our doors to the public.”
Potential Official Town Facebook Page
Seelig said that some interest had been expressed in the creation of a town Facebook page. He said that approval would need to go through the selectmen so they could setup the terms for use. Seelig said, “Right now, given the circumstances, I don’t think anyone has time to do this.” He also said it could be a duplication of efforts as many already get information from private Facebook groups and those not on Facebook are able to get information from the town website. Selectman Gordon Andrews said he wasn’t opposed to the idea but said that he would recommend that commenting not be enabled. Garron said that given Seelig’s full plate it would be best to back burner the idea and all agreed.
Cranberry Drive Sidewalk
Seelig said that a Cranberry Drive resident requested that a sidewalk be placed along the shoulder of Plymouth St. Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward had received an estimate of $125,000 a few years ago for the work. Seelig said he was, “certainly for it, it’s just the cost consideration that is the problem.” The selectmen agreed saying they were in favor of the idea conceptually but that the money posed a problem particularly given the uncertainties of the present day. Seelig said he would ask Hayward to provide a new estimate and suggested that money may be available in the form of a grant. Seelig said there was potential for residents to put an article into the warrant for town meeting next year.
Abandoned House on 4 Upton St.
Seelig said that due to the abandoned house on the town owned lot at 4 Upton St., the property is classified differently since the structure is not part of the town’s operations. As a result, it has a separate insurance policy for $2,500 to cover the property as well as general liability. Seelig explained the various options for selling the property. As-is, Seelig said it is not considered a buildable lot and therefore would only be of interest to abutters. Seelig explained that this option is not desirable since if the offer was too low it likely wouldn’t cover the insurance or amount of back taxes due. The other potential option would be to work with the Planning Board to get a new bylaw in the zoning bylaws that would allow for abandoned properties to be used by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) by a special permit as a single family only. Garron inquired as to the cost to raze the building and Millias estimated anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. Andrews also said he would be in favor of razing the building if the town is unable to sell the property. Seelig agreed to get bids first to gather a clearer picture.
Town Meeting and Town Election
Seelig said that town meeting is still scheduled for June 15 and that the warrant would be going to press shortly. According to Seelig, there are two hurdles that must be overcome in order to move forward with town meeting on that date. The first of which is that the town doesn’t currently have an idea of what state aid is going to look like. Andrews said that the state had authorized themselves to have until June 30 to present a budget. He also said that from what he knew, both Kingston and Plympton were moving forward with their scheduled town meetings despite not having knowledge of state aid. Both Seelig and Andrews expressed confusion about how the towns planned to proceed without the information. The second hurdle to holding the meeting is the physical logistics. Venue as well as safety protocols would have to be considered.
Seelig said the town clerk’s office is moving forward with the assumption that the town election will be held on June 20. They are working with the school to figure out the physical logistics for in person voting. Seelig said that while in person voting will occur, mail-in voting would be encouraged.
Budget and CARES Act
The town budget remains in flux though the Finance Committee planned to have their recommendations in by the end of the week. Seelig said he was yet to hear anything from Plymouth County regarding the $90,000,000 in federal funds to be distributed to municipalities by the county. Seelig said while he awaits word, he will move forward with speaking to the various town departments regarding their needs. Seelig said that the town needs to think about equipment and supplies that will be needed in the coming months.
Beach Stickers for Nonresidents
Back in the winter, the issue of beach stickers for nonresidents was introduced. Seelig said he checked with both Kingston and Duxbury and discovered that neither town is issuing beach stickers to anyone due to COVID-19. Andrews said that if the town’s beaches remain closed, it doesn’t make sense to issue stickers. He did say, however, that should they open he would be in favor of a $25 fee for nonresident beach stickers. Millias asked if the offer would be extended to anyone or only those in abutting towns. The selectmen agreed to put off making any decisions to a later date so they could put more thought into their decision.
Seelig said that while the Board had previously voted to cancel regularly scheduled Memorial Day events, the VFW was moving forward with putting up flags on the town green. He also said that there could potentially be some low-key activities planned with social distancing protocols in mind.
The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) held a meeting last Wednesday for Chapter 40B on Country Club Estates but have postponed the hearing until June.
Halifax Health Agent Cathy Drinan will be retiring in June. “Obviously it’s unfortunate we’re losing Kathy especially at this time,” Seelig said.