Chairman of the Planning Board Gordon R. Andrews attended Tuesday’s Halifax selectmen’s meeting to ask questions of the selectmen and air his grievances with the procedures for hiring the department’s secretary.
According to Chairman Andrews, the planning board asked to be involved in the hiring process for the new department secretary but were not given that opportunity and never even saw the job description.
“I came in here before the secretary was hired and I was told we’ll have a meeting with you; well it’s now September and the secretary has already been hired. I think that we’ve been like walked over. We tried to participate in it, we tried to find out what was going on and we got blown off and it’s frustrating,” Andrews said. He went on to point out that the finance committee, another elected board, actually selects their own secretary. In response to Andrews’ inquiry as to who the secretary reports to, town administrator Charlie Seelig answered that as has been done for the last fifteen years, the secretary answers to the building inspector, in this case Rob Piccirilli.
Chairman Andrews listed a myriad of issues faced by the Planning Board in the recent past. After the last secretary resigned but agreed to stay on in the interim, Andrews claimed that there were three separate meetings where the secretary was unable to attend at the last minute. Additionally, at one of the meetings, the board was locked out of the room.
Selectman Tom Millias said that the planning board should absolutely have their own key to the meeting room. Andrews said, “We’re an elected board, if a secretary doesn’t do what we have to have done, we’re at stake, not Rob.”
Piccirilli, who was also in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting said, “As far as direction, it’s up to the board to give direction, not me.”
Seelig interjected that while directions to the secretary should come directly from the board, the board’s grievances should go directly to Piccirilli. Another area of dispute was who should handle the performance review of the secretary. Currently, Piccirilli handles that task and does so without reaching out to the planning board for comment. Piccirilli said that if there were complaints, it would be up to the board to bring them to his attention. Selectman Gordon C. Andrews felt that the planning board should be writing the review for their secretary or at the very least, Piccirilli should be reaching out to them for their thoughts.
After a great deal of discussion, the Selectmen and Chairman Andrews agreed that it would behoove all involved to have a meeting with Piccirilli, a representative from each of boards, and one of the selectmen to go over the various job descriptions and put some procedures in place to avoid future issues of the same nature. “I think that will satisfy everyone moving forward,” Millias said. “I believe it will,” Chairman Andrews agreed.
Fire Chief Jason Viveiros, Police Chief Joao Chaves, and highway surveyor Steve Hayward met with the selectmen to discuss ideas regarding ways in which the needs of the fire department, police department, and highway department, among others, may be met.
In August, concerned residents attended the selectmen’s meeting to share their concerns over the Council on Aging (COA) space including residents being unable to attend certain programs because they are located on the second floor. During that time it was suggested by Director of Building Maintenance Scott Materna that a possible solution might be to move the COA to the current police station and build a new combined police and fire station. Viveiros said that the current fire station is short on space as well as having potential liability concerns while Chaves said that although the police station has ample space, the floor plan is not really conducive to their needs. The highway department could also benefit from more space.
Senior Services Regionalization explored
As was discussed in August, a potential fix for the COA issues might be to regionalize with some neighboring towns. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig met with some of the neighboring towns’ administrators to discuss the possibility. Collectively, they decided that a good first step would be to publicize their offerings to one another’s residents to gauge the level of interest.
Long-term goals requested from each town department
The selectmen asked each department head to come up with list of their long-term project needs. “We’re starting from scratch. All the ideas are on the table and all ideas from anybody are on the table,” Seelig said. He continued, “My hope is that we don’t say to somebody, ‘sorry we don’t want you saying something; we don’t think it’s your lane and you shouldn’t be participating in this.’
“At this point, a good idea is a good idea wherever it is coming from.”
Selectmen Chair Troy Garron asked, however, that any idea that is presented be put in writing and be thoroughly researched first.
Garron also said that with so many departments all having varying needs, it will be necessary to prioritize the order in which needs will be met. Millias pointed out that the upcoming town meeting will be too early to present anything but said that all possibilities should be explored between now and next year. Seelig said he is also going to ask the school and the library to provide a report on their space needs as well.
Permission to replace old batting cages granted
The final appointment of the evening was Halifax youth baseball president Pete Barone. Barone was there to ask for the Board’s permission to replace the old, portable batting cage at Vaughn field with an updated, permanent one.
The existing structure had been blown across the parking lot during previous storms and at this point, poses a safety concern.
The new cage will be paid for entirely through fundraising efforts.
The hope is to make the change this fall so that it will be ready for use in April.
Millias said, “This looks nothing but good, so I don’t have any issues.” Garron agreed acknowledging that it is a positive for the kids in the town.
Barone also asked for permission to build a small, fenced in playground next to the grass near the skate park. Barone said that it would be a 30 ft. by 25 ft. area meant to serve smaller children who may have a sibling playing in a game on one of the fields. Barone said that there is a clear view of both fields from the area.
The Board approved both requests.