The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Monday, November 9 for one of their extra meetings they’ve been holding each week since the onset of the pandemic. Board of Health agent Bob Valery told the selectmen that Halifax continues to be in the yellow for COVID risk level. Valery said that he visited all local food establishments and hair salons the previous week to place notifications regarding mask guidance in their windows, remind them about the new hours of operation, and ask if they need any assistance with anything COVID related. Both Fire Chief Jason Viveiros and Police Chief Joao Chaves were in attendance but neither had a specific COVID related update.
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said internal policies outlining action steps should a town employee test positive for coronavirus needed to be updated. Seelig said there was considerable confusion with department heads and employees regarding what individuals, including close contacts, should be doing. Seelig acknowledged that back in June when the policies were initially drafted, there wasn’t enough thought given to the effect a positive case would have on other employees. The new draft of the policy that Seelig shared with the selectmen and Chiefs will include a flow chart with instructions for how employees should proceed.
Andrews asked if someone can work from home if they test positive but are asymptomatic. Seelig said he could make that change as currently employees testing positive were being asked to take leave.
If employees exposed to the infected individual elect not to get tested and remain asymptomatic, 14 days would need to elapse before that individual could return to work. Should a close contact elect to get tested, they would need to produce a negative test at least 3 days after the date patient zero tested positive before returning to work. If an exposed employee is deemed essential and they have not tested positive, then the employee can return to work at the discretion of the department head. Chaves asked who is responsible for paying for the tests and Seelig told him an individual’s health insurance.
Seelig also asked the Board’s approval to update the mask policy to indicate that everyone has to wear a mask in municipal buildings at all times even when the building is closed. Exceptions will only be made for eating and drinking or where documentation of medical exemption is provided.
DEP Municipal Assistance Coordinator Todd Koep is meeting with representatives virtually from Halifax, East Bridgewater, and Holbrook about a potential regionalization of recycling processing services. The processing would take place after the recycling was collected. “The idea is if we can team together, because our individual contracts are ending in June, we might be able to bargain a better price from one outfit with having all three towns combined,” Seelig explained.
The selectmen approved a few more requests before adjourning. The first was for a socially distant wedding on the town green on Saturday, November 21. The second was to approve the town allocating $445.15 of their CARES Act funds to South Shore Regional Technical High School to account for the share of Halifax students attending the school.
November 10 Meeting
As has become customary at the Halifax selectmen meetings, the selectmen had a number of recycling abatements to deal with at their Tuesday, November 10 meeting. Regarding the requested recycling abatements Selectmen Tom Millias said, “Unless you be consistent, you have nothing.” The Board has been of the mind to deny nearly all such requests.
Resident Ryan Scott had an appointment with the selectmen to discuss one of these denials. Millias stressed his distaste for dealing with recycling abatements saying he dislikes them even more than dog hearings. Scott’s request was denied because his abatement was stamped October 2 instead of October 1. “Our only issue is trying to be consistent,” Millias said to Scott. Selectman Troy Garron called Scott’s case “unique” and said, “My motto is to try to be fair, firm, and consistent.” The selectmen agreed to speak with the appropriate parties at town hall about the possibility that the wrong date was stamped.
Another case came before the Board for a house that has been abandoned for 15 years. Millias said, “we’ve given abatements for abandoned houses before.” Selectman Gordon Andrews said he would take the opposite approach and pointed out that as of late they hadn’t been issuing abatements to anyone. In the end the selectmen voted to deny with Millias adding “with regret.”
“This whole thing is getting somewhat dysfunctional, so we have to come up with a new plan or at least handle it differently… there’s so much controversy and so many issues surrounding it, that it’s becoming ridiculously time consuming,” Millias said. Seelig suggested, “Do we say to the residents… to make sure the recycling center is open when they need it, do we pay the property tax rather than the recycling fee?” Seelig said that doing so would eliminate the need for abatements.