The Tuesday November 26 Halifax Board of Selectmen meeting began with the Board hearing a complaint by a town employee against one of the selectmen. Chair Troy Garron suggested moving to executive session but Gordon Andrews asked to remain in open session. Former Planning Board secretary Terri Renaud said that Andrews had accused her both in email and in public meetings of destroying documents.
The documents in question are the April 10 site plan for Amanda’s Estates. Andrews said he made a public records request in February or March and was told the documents were available. According to Andrews, however, when he went to the Planning Board he was told the only available plans were the approved ones from September. Andrews said that he explained that the minutes showed that the records should exist and claims that Renaud told him that older plans are destroyed once newer ones are approved. Andrews said that he told Renaud that plans that were displayed during a public meeting cannot be destroyed and must be kept as part of the public record. Renaud said she had no recollection of saying that she got rid of previous plans when newer ones become available.
Renaud brought her direct supervisor, Building Inspector Robert Piccirilli, as well as her colleague, current Regulatory Board secretary Arlanna Snow to testify on her behalf. Snow said that she did not want to make a statement but would answer any questions directed to her. Piccirilli said that he recalled seeing emails in which Andrews asked Renaud to sign something acknowledging that the records were lost. Piccirilli further said that at some point the accusation escalated from the files being missing to the files being destroyed.
Andrews was able to secure a copy of the plans from the town clerk’s office. Andrews said that when he reviewed the signed plans from the Planning Board from September 14, there were post-it notes on the plans. Andrews expressed concern that the missing Planning Board plans from April would have had similar notations on them.
Selectmen Chair Troy Garron asked Andrews what motivated him to ask for the plans. Andrews then recused himself and sat with the public before stating, “I asked for a copy of the plans because of the lawsuit I have against the town which prove that the original plans that came in, which Charlie’s memo discusses, shows everything on one lot.”
Selectman Tom Millias asked Andrews if his accusations were malicious to which Andrews replied, “Was it malicious? I don’t think so, I think it was declaring the facts. She told me that she gets rid of plans when new ones come in. I told her you can’t get rid of plans, it’s a violation of public records.”
Millias asked Renaud if there were various people going through the folder containing the document in question due to the litigation involved. Renaud acknowledged that there was and pointed out that the door to the office is open during the day. Millias said, “so literally anyone could have misplaced them, misfiled them, taken them.”
Garron asked Renaud what her expectation was to which she answered, “I wanted to state my case. Something was said against me and I just wanted it to be brought forward and prove my innocence that I did not do this.” Garron said, “It’s a difficult situation. We have two town employees who represent the town and to my knowledge who have done good work … my feeling right now is to take no action on it because there is no right or wrong in this particular situation at least from my standpoint.” Millias agreed saying, “I don’t think we can come to any conclusion here. I don’t see an action being taken other than airing it out.”
Renaud said she was satisfied with the opportunity she was given to speak her mind. Andrews asked that the process for viewing public documents be reviewed suggesting possibly signing out documents.
Seelig said that Fuller Street resident Melissa Sheridan had requested that stop signs be placed in the intersection near Fuller, Cedar, and Wood streets. Sheridan said that she had seen several accidents at the intersection during her time living there. The Police Chief and Highway Surveyor were also in agreement that stop signs were needed. The Board approved the installation of two stop signs in this area.
The Police Chief and IT Specialist notified Seelig about the Video Surveillance Registration Program. It is a completely voluntary program that enables residents to register any cameras they have with the police department. If an incident were to occur in the vicinity of a registered camera, the police could use the footage as part of their investigation. Seelig stressed that registration is optional and even if registered, residents are not required to surrender footage.
Drew McGlincy appeared before the Board for an appointment to the Finance Committee. McGlincy, who had the recommendation of the Finance Committee, said that he has internship experience both on Wall Street as well as internship and job experience at IBM. His degrees are in finance and information systems engineering. The Board voted to appoint him. The next step will be for McGlincy to be sworn in as the newest member of the committee.
Seelig gave an update on the budget process saying he met with the Finance Committee and most of the department heads the previous week. According to Seelig, the town should be able to do a level service budget with most of the departments. “We’re not going to encourage them to submit for increases and such… but keep the number of people you have, the number of hours, the service level,” Seelig said. The Board and the Finance Committee said that departments should submit alternate budgets beyond the level service if they felt there were needs that were not being met, etc. Seelig said, “There’s no guarantee obviously that we’re going to have the money for that but at least that may continue the conversation about what the town’s needs are.”
Seelig also shared that Silver Lake had indicated that the salary budget might be going up $700,000 which represents roughly $200,000 for Halifax. “I don’t like telling a department, in essence, and saying we can’t afford you… but not saying so gets us into a position in March where we’re having this argument then.” Seelig said that he attended the Silver Lake Regional School Committee meeting in October to ask them to submit a revenue driven budget.
Andrews also shared with the other Selectmen and Seelig that a large group of parents turned out for the previous night’s Halifax School Committee meeting to request that an additional teacher be added to support the large class size for Grade 3. The Kindergarten class has only 65 students, but Grade 3 has 100. As a result, the class size for Grade 3 is 25 students. Parents asked that either another teacher be added, or one transferred from elsewhere. Andrews said that he recommended to the parents in attendance that they attend town meeting as the mechanism to fund an additional teacher would likely be an article at town meeting. Andrews also pointed out that negotiations are scheduled this year for much of the school staff including cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, and teachers.
Highway surveyor Steve Hayward spoke to the Board and Seelig regarding a fee list for cremation. The costs are not for cremation itself, but for a spot to store the ashes similar to a burial plot. Hayward said that he had reviewed the fees charged by other local communities while preparing his list. Hayward said that the single pillars would cost the town $180 but the purchase price would be $500. The Board, who act as cemetery commissioners, approved the concept and fee list.
Eagle Scout projects
Three Boy Scouts from Troop 39 met with the Board to review their plans for their Eagle Scout projects. Connor Burgess plans to build a 20 ft. by 20 ft. pavilion for the HOPS playground.
Scott McKee’s project will be the revitalization of the Harry Brown Nature Trail. McKee told the Board that the trail was originally constructed by one of Troop 39’s first Eagle Scouts. “I’m hoping to bring it back to some of its former glory by re-clearing the trail and adding benches and a bird watching area at the end for people to go out and enjoy nature,” McKee explained. He went on to say that he plans to build a walkway over some of the wet marsh lands.
Joseph Boardman intends to refurbish the Ruth Perkins reading garden outside of the Holmes Public Library. In addition to pressure washing and staining the pergola, Boardman plans to mulch and edge the garden area and sand and finish the benches. Boardman also plans to remove the cracked concrete and add a purple martin birdhouse.
Garron thanked the scouts for beautifying the community. Building Inspector Robert Piccirilli added, “I would just like to say I’ve had the pleasure of watching some of these guys. I’m looking forward to working with you guys. Anything you need, please come see me.”