The Halifax Board of Selectmen held their regular Tuesday evening meeting on August 25 when selectmen tackled the controversial topic of the “thin blue line” flag. Proponents of the flag say it is a show of a support for law enforcement. Still others feel that the flag stands in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. Recently, the Hingham fire chief found himself the center of controversy after ordering the removal of the thin blue line flags from the town’s fire trucks following a citizen’s complaint.
A thin blue line flag was placed at the Halifax recycling center several years ago and was recently taken down once the Board of Selectmen found out. The basis for the decision dates back to 1994 when the Board set a policy stating that all signs, political or otherwise, require permission from the Board.
“From my standpoint, opinions stated on town property, it’s a little odd,” Garron explained. He continued, “I personally don’t think that it needs to be on town property because we are supposed to be neutral. We’re serving everybody.” Millias offered his opinion saying, “There was a time when some banners and/or flags were considered to be innocuous; that’s not the case anymore. Everything is politically charged, or at least it seems to be, and if you allow one flag for any particular purpose, you’ve got to open it up for everybody… to Troy’s point, I think we need to remain neutral.”
Selectman Gordon Andrews offered a slightly different opinion saying that the flag, in his opinion, was not initially intended to be a political statement. He noted, however, “I think it morphed into something different at this point, so I understand the reason for taking it down and leaving the policy in place.” The Board agreed to leave the policy as-is and maintain their position on the flag at the recycling center.
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig told the Board he recently spoke with Plymouth County Treasurer Thomas O’Brien regarding the town’s allotment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The deadline for expenditures is four months away.
Seelig said of all the various town departments’ requests, the big question was if funds could be utilized to pay for the expansion of the Halifax Elementary School parking lot. The expansion is intended to help deal with the expected increase in parent drop off and pick up at the school due to the buses being limited to one-third capacity as a result of distancing requirements.
Seelig said that the town would need to work closely with the school department to craft a narrative to justify why the expansion is necessary in response to the COVID crisis. Seelig explained that if Plymouth County denies the request to reimburse the work, the town will be left to pay for it.
Seelig asked the Board if they would be interested in hearing a presentation on potential charging stations at the town hall parking lot. The Board was not interested in the proposal several years ago but appeared to take a different stance on the issue now.
Selectman Chair Tom Millias said, “I think that would be appropriate. If he has some ideas of how this could be setup and/or work. Certainly, electric vehicles are becoming more prevalent.” He went on to say, “My only concern is as long as it’s not on the back of the taxpayers to pay for the charging.” Selectman Troy Garron said that his biggest concern would be where to place the charging station.
Seelig also asked if they would like to consider a reduction in credit to local businesses for alcohol on premises licenses for 2020-2021. Many other local communities have decided to do so to ease the burden on businesses that were closed for several months in 2020 due to COVID. Millias, who pointed out that these businesses are likely still not at full service, said, “I mean as a general rule I think that’s fair to at least consider doing something for them. I mean we want to help our business owners.” Garron concurred saying, “I would agree with you that it is reasonable for us to do something like that.” The selectmen agreed to table the issue until a future meeting in order to acquire more information.
The Board had an appointment with Steve Bowman of Center Point Safe Company regarding a possible retail marijuana store. Bowman said that while he didn’t have anything formal to present to the Board just yet, he wanted to come before them and introduce himself. Bowman said that he was a Halifax resident for 8 years who only recently moved to Kingston. He said that his children were graduates of Silver Lake. In his own words, Bowman described himself as “… a local resident, a father of Silver Lake students, a former resident of Halifax and someone that is looking to open a business and make money for myself and my partners but also to give back to the community.”
Bowman told the Board that Center Point Safe Company has been working closely with the cannabis industry throughout the state, providing security for their inventory. He said that he hopes to begin serving dispensaries throughout the state by providing delivery services in the next few months.
Bowman told the Board that when he saw Halifax on the list of towns that had licensing availabilities, he jumped at the chance to potentially work within the community. “If the answer is no, I completely understand. It can be a controversial subject in a lot of towns,” Bowman said. Millias encouraged Bowman to come back once he had more details saying, “the town has expressed support in the past for marijuana.”
The final appointment of the evening was a truck exclusion hearing for trucks traveling on Circuit and Laurel streets. Trucks are typically traveling to a site where there are long term plans for a solar field. Millias said that he felt that dead end signs were probably the only option for helping with the at times disruptive traffic. Another potential solution was to work with new carriers to make sure they understand how to get to the site. The Board agreed to leave it alone for now and gather additional feedback.
Finally, Seelig reiterated that town meeting is still scheduled for September 12. The plan is to hold the meeting in the Halifax Elementary School and utilize both the gym and multi-purpose room to ensure adequate distancing.