The Halifax Board of Selectmen met in-person on August 20 for one of their emergency management meetings. Selectmen Chair Tom Millias noted that it would likely be a longer than usual meeting as they were trying to shorten their regular Tuesday night agendas in order to allow maintenance into the town hall earlier to disinfect.
The meeting began with a discussion of the guidelines being followed and protocols being implemented for youth sports. Pete Barone, President of both the Halifax Youth Baseball and Halifax Youth Softball leagues was in attendance as was Board of Health agent Bob Valery. Barone spoke about some of the safety precautions put in place during the summer’s baseball and softball activities in town. Players were kept physically distant from one another through markers on the ground as well as individual buckets that players used as their designated spot for the game. Bright signs were also hung advising spectators to maintain distance and wear a mask.
According to those present, while sports such as basketball and softball simply need to adhere to the state’s guidelines, soccer is also subjected to specific guidelines as laid out by Mass Youth Soccer. Those guidelines include specific modifications in order to be able to play as a moderate risk sport under Phase III. Modifications include a kick-in to replace throw-ins, a ban on all intentional contact, a ban on heading the ball, as well as a whole host of other changes to soccer as it is usually played.
The Board also discussed changes in EEE risk level. Halifax is now deemed to be at critical risk due to the first human case in town. All outdoor activities are banned on town-owned property from dusk to dawn. Such locations include Vaughn Field, the Elementary School playing fields, Summit St. soccer fields, HOPS Playground, and the beaches at Lingan St. and Holmes St.
Regarding COVID travel restrictions, Valery said he was waiting to hear back from DPH about the proper protocols should the need to fine violators arise. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said that they would also need to find out where the jurisdiction lies if a violator worked for the town of Halifax but resided elsewhere. The final piece of COVID related news from Valery was regarding Cumberland Farms closing down the self-serve areas including coffee and soda. Valery said that he had fielded a number of calls regarding the decision but said it was the corporate offices of Cumberland Farms and not the local Board of Health that made the decision.
Fire Chief Jason Viveiros told the Board he was looking to find out how many masks were needed by the schools. Selectman Gordon Andrews, who is also chair of the Halifax School Committee, asked if any masks were ordered in child’s sizes. Viveiros said that none had been ordered in that size but did say that FEMA had given them 6,500 N95 masks, 6,500 surgical masks, as well as 800 face shields in addition to goggles and glasses. Millias asked if families were expected to supply the masks for their children. Andrews said that while they were, masks would need to be on hand at the school in the event that something were to happen to a student’s mask during the school day. Valery said that he believed that he had 500 child size masks.
Seelig asked the Board if they wished to schedule a special town meeting for September 12, the same date as the annual town meeting and if so, what matters they wished to be placed on the warrant. Seelig said that such issues as the $65,000 needed for a new Council on Aging van would be taken up at the special. Other potential issues include heating and air conditioning, unemployment, traffic enforcement, and Cranberry Drive. Millias pointed out that in terms of cost, it is cheaper to hold the special town meeting concurrently with the annual. Seelig agreed saying that given the logistical hurdles that are occurring to hold the meeting, it would make sense to combine them. Chair Troy Garron made a motion to hold the special town meeting within the annual.
Seelig also told the Board they would need to make a decision regarding the annual recycling fee and whether or not to make changes to the abatement process. Seelig asked if the Board wished to maintain the $50 recycling fee. Seelig said that if the Board wished to eliminate the abatement process, they were going to need to come up with a plan very quickly for running the solid waste and recycling program in the future. Millias said, “the problem as I see it is if the recycling program collapses, if you will, it also affects curbside pickup. I don’t think I’m ready to make that decision today.” Millias went on to say that he felt the best approach would be a “comprehensive, all inclusive” meeting with residents and all concerned to discuss the issue. A debate ensued amongs the selectmen about whether to extend the abatement deadline. Andrews, as he has done in the past, argued against charging people for a service they were not receiving. Andrews made a motion to set the recycling fee at $50, the due date in 30 days, and the abatement deadline in 60 days. Garron seconded the motion though noted he disagreed with the premise. “I still see people that no matter what you do, they’re going to be late or not going to pay it, or put it aside and forget it,” Garron explained. Andrews’ motion failed but Millias’ motion that kept the $50 fee but set the due date and the abatement deadline both for 30 days passed.
Seelig brought up the complaint from the previous week’s meeting about non-residents causing problems on the beaches of Monponsett Pond. He told the Board that he had spoken with Police Chief Joao Chaves about the problem. Chief Chaves, who was in attendance, told the Board that there was an officer there often and said that a number of parking tickets had been issued to non-residents. He noted that it was difficult for the force to do anything about jet skis and boats coming into the swimming area as they don’t really have a way to access the water.
Amy Troup showed the Board a petition from residents asking for signage indicating that the beaches are for Halifax residents only. Troup said that currently the signs only say no parking which she said people are circumventing by parking at Wal-Mart and walking over. She also mentioned the problem with trash being left behind as well as other disrespectful behavior by non-residents. Chaves said that he wouldn’t want to ask beachgoers for identification to prove residency. Seelig said he would check on the possibility of additional signage. “Thank you, this is something that has come up and as a Board we’re aware of it and we’re just trying to figure out what to do about it,” Millias told Troup.
Seelig said that the Board received a lawsuit from Gordon C. Andrews to the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, and the Zoning Board of Appeals and four named individuals. Seelig said it was a civil damages case and noted it is being referred to town counsel and to the town insurer. He said there was no action to be taken at the moment.
Seelig asked the Board if they were ready to vote on the new animal control officer (ACO). Interviews were held a few weeks back with a number of applicants. Chief Chaves recommended Amanda Feighery and Garron said he agreed. “I think that she’s a good choice in that she’s had experience not only with vicious animals as well as dealing with people and the public,” Garron said. Millias agreed citing her local ties as well as Feighery was born and raised in Halifax. The Board voted to name Feighery as the new ACO.
Seelig told the Board that he had received a letter from a concerned resident regarding traffic concerns on Monponsett St. and Route 58 from Lakeside Villa to the intersection with Plymouth St. The resident said she saw a number of trucks violating the speed limits and using engine brakes. Seelig told the Board that given the number of houses on that stretch, it would be possible for the Board to set the speed limit at 30 mph as the area being considered is thickly settled. He also told the Board that the town could vote on a bylaw at a future time to prohibit engine brakes except for emergency purposes. The Board agreed to send the issue to the Traffic Safety Committee to take it under consideration.