Highway surveyor Steve Hayward spoke with the Halifax Board of Selectmen at their regular meeting on Tuesday, March 10, to get approval for two contracts. The first is a precision weather forecaster that was free for the past year and will cost $1,295 to renew. The second was for a GreenSeal Environmental prioritization plan for $38,000. Hayward explained that the plan would look at all the streets in town, saying, “Any hazard for bikes, walking, any bad intersections, stuff like that, we can get a $400,000 grant but we have to have this program.” The Board approved both contracts.
Grant to Hire New Police Officer
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig also recommended to the Board that they discuss the COPS Hiring Program (CHP) with Police Chief Joao Chaves. The program provides funding to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in order to rehire officers previously laid off or hire new, additional officers. Chaves plans to apply for the grant this week.
Seelig explained that every year for three years, the percentage funded by the grant is reduced until at the end of that period, the town is fully funding the position.
The grant stipulates that the town must then keep that position for a set minimum number of years. Seelig said that the town was involved in a similar program 25 years ago.
Resident Requests Earth Removal Waiver
Resident Joseph Peck attended the meeting to request a post permit for earth removal on behalf of his father, John Peck.
Back in 2018, the elder Peck had removed 1200 cubic pounds of soil from the bottom of an irrigation pond, violating the town’s bylaws that limit earth removal to 1000 cubic pounds.
Board of Selectman Chair Troy Garron said that his biggest concern was that there was no change to the contour of the land.
Some abutters attended the meeting after receiving a notice but said that they had no issues as long as the work was already done.
Selectman Gordon Andrews said that he wanted to see a plan showing the current contour of the entire property before signing off on the waiver.
The hearing was continued until 7:45 p.m. on March 24.
Electricity Costs Going Down
Seelig said that natural gas prices are going down and consequently electricity rates are as well.
As a result, Halifax will be going with Old Colony Gas for their municipal electricity aggregation. Seelig said that the new rate would be 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) versus the current rate of 10.876 cents per kWh.
Seelig said that newly appointed Planning Board member Ashley DiSesa approached him about the possibility of having mobile homes count toward affordable housing. Chapter 40B is an affordable housing program in Massachusetts first created in 1969.
Under 40B, residents must earn no more than 80 percent of the area-median income to qualify.
In addition, developers may be able to bypass certain restrictions imposed on them by planning and zoning bylaws if 20 to 25 percent of their development is deemed affordable.
Seelig said that other local communities have been met with great resistance when attempting to designate mobile homes as low- and moderate-income housing.
Nevertheless, Seelig said that he would reach out to Senator Michael Brady and Representative Kathleen LaNatra to find out their thoughts on the matter.
Building and Facility Needs committee
The newly created Building and Facility Needs Committee met on Tuesday, March 11 for the first time.
The Committee, which includes most of the department heads in town, will be reviewing the various town buildings and facilities and making recommendations regarding whether to renovate, repair, or construct new buildings.
Among those facilities being reviewed are the Police station, the Fire station, and the Council on Aging building.
Changes Coming to Water Restrictions
Superintendent of the Halifax Water Department Keith Swanson informed Seelig that changes are needed to the mandatory water use restrictions bylaw in connection with a withdrawal permit.
All water departments or water facilities need a withdrawal permit from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and that permit must be renewed every ten years or so.
Swanson must make a judgment call regarding restrictions based on available water and water being used.
Selectman Tom Millias said he spoke with Swanson and was told there is a decent cushion currently between what is available and what is being used.
Selectman Andrews called into question why some communities such as Whitman and Brockton don’t have restrictions on water usage when they are drawing from the same aquifer.
Seelig said that he would speak to DEP to find out what the limits are for Brockton under their water withdrawal permit.