HALIFAX – There was a great deal of public participation at the Halifax Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, July 23. A public hearing was held regarding National Grid’s proposed tree removal. The majority of the 144 trees to be taken down on town property are located on Elm St. There are several more trees located on private property that have been designated for removal or trimming.
Trees with a blue ribbon are marked for trimming while red ribbons indicate removal; trees with both a ribbon and a notice are located on town-owned property. Trees under 8 inches in diameter are considered brush and are not included on the list of those designated for work. The trees in question are not of a “wire friendly” species and their proximity to transmission lines can potentially cause service interruptions as well as safety concerns.
Several residents were on hand for the hearing to voice their questions and concerns regarding affected trees either on or near their property.
Longtime Halifax residents and Elm St. inhabitants Leslie and Herbert Hawkins agreed that some of the trees on or near their property should be taken down as they have grown up and over the wires, however, they feel that they should not have to incur costs related to replanting.
Mrs. Hawkins said, “I want to know who’s going to do some restitution or take care of my taxes that I’m paying because it’s going to destroy the whole front of my property. Will it be somebody who will come and plant a shrub that will take care of it and deaden the noise like the trees did or is it just something that’s going to be stuck to the taxpayers again?”
National Grid, for their part, believes that since they are incurring costs for removal of trees that they do not own, they should not also have to pay additional expenses such as stump grinding or replanting. As explained by a contract arborist for National Grid present at the meeting, “As of now, National Grid does not have a tree replacement program in place. We are viewing it as we are laying out the money to mitigate any hazards from the line to maintain reliability as far as any replanting on private properties or town properties that would be the responsibility of the town or the homeowner.” National Grid further stated that nearly all towns and homeowners that undergo hazardous tree mitigation do not bother with stump removal and replanting.
Halifax resident Peter Beals, also of Elm St., expressed his displeasure about having to pay out of pocket to grind stumps and replant trees on top of what he sees as a devaluing of his property. “I’m not expecting you to solve all my problems and I’m not trying to be unconscientious of the need and the fact that there’s a problem here that the town’s got to address,” Beals said. “I’m just saying that it seems to me that in addition to losing what I’m going to be losing in the process, which is quite a lot to the enjoyment of my property, it shouldn’t also cost me money,” Beals continued.
Selectmen Tom Millias, while sympathetic to residents’ concerns, said that the dilemma for him was that the town is always after National Grid to maintain power and restore power quickly after an outage, something the tree mitigation would improve.
Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said that a possible option would be to work with Highway Surveyor Steven Hayward to use the town’s small tree budget to replant some trees in the town right-of-way. Selectmen Gordon Andrews suggested getting an estimate for grinding down stumps from private property and bringing it to town meeting to be paid.
Regarding a timeframe for the mitigation, National Grid said that work is currently underway in East Bridgewater. Once completed, Pembroke would be next on the list and then Halifax.
The best estimate that could be given was a month and a half once the permit from the tree warden is received. The Board agreed to procure and review a copy of the policies pertaining to the tree removal prior to the next meeting. A motion was passed to continue the hearing to the next Board of Selectmen’s meeting at 7 p.m. on August 13.
The Board also discussed the state of recycling and waste management in the town. After considerable discussion, the board voted to reinstate a committee dedicated to recycling and solid waste as the previous committee had been disbanded many years ago.
Municipal Assistance Coordinator Todd Koep attended the meeting and said that of the 31 communities he represents, nearly all of them have highly active recycling committees. Koep cited Kingston as having a particularly active and effective committee, suggesting that Halifax might benefit by taking a page out of their book. It was agreed that the committee should be comprised of five to seven members and would likely need a volunteer from the public at large.
The goal of the committee would be to review the current trash and recycling program and research alternatives that could be presented to the town. The hope is to assemble the committee as soon as possible so that any proposed changes could be presented to the board by January.
The board also voted to retain the current recycling rate of $50 per household per year for the time-being. Currently, Halifax employs a single stream method of recycling. Koep said that while the single stream commodity is not clean enough in general, Halifax actually does a pretty good job in comparison to other communities.
Among the issues Koep cited with single stream is residents placing their recyclables in plastic bags prior to placing them in the recycling bin as they will end up in the trash. Koep also mentioned that some communities have gone from single stream to separating recyclables.
The final item on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting was a dog hearing regarding an altercation between two dogs on Natureway Circle. Paula Spaziani of 6 Natureway Circle reported that while walking her shih tzu on June 30, a pit bull belonging to neighbor Roland Florio ran at them biting her dog.
Florio testified that his dog was on a slip leash in his yard when Florio noticed that she had escaped the leash. Florio said that he immediately chased her but was unable to reach and restrain the dog prior to the altercation.
In addition to Spaziani and Florio, Animal Control Officer Noreen Callahan, responding Patrol Officer Michelle McIntyre, and a third resident of Natureway Circle also testified.
Both Callahan and McIntyre said that they witnessed no visible wounds such as scratches or punctures on the shih tzu. Spaziani said she brought her dog to the veterinarian following the incident due to “trouble in her left hind leg.” She further testified that the dog needed to be sedated in order to be examined and refused to leave the house for several days after the incident.
According to Spaziani, the veterinarian attributed the limping to a pulled muscle and sent the dog home on medication. Both dogs were up-to-date on their shots but neither was licensed in the town of Halifax although both have since obtained licenses.
A neighbor, Nancy Sheehan, testified as to Spaziani’s state after the incident saying, “To say the dog and Paula were shell-shocked, would be an understatement. She was shaking; the dog looked very distraught. She felt that the owner really didn’t give her her due as far as the fact that she was very dramatically upset.” Florio testified, “By the time I got across the street she had already picked up her dog, I leashed my dog, and asked her if the dog was okay and then I left.”
When asked by the board what she hoped to come from the hearing, Spaziani said that at the very least she would like Florio to compensate her for the veterinarian bill. Chairman Troy Garron, who said he used to breed shepherds and has dealt with dogs his whole life, shared his opinion saying, “I think it’s a fair asking that you pay the medical bill, but that’s just my opinion.”
Garron further stated that given that there are no reports of any prior incidences with Florio’s dog, he believes that if the dog were truly vicious, someone would have likely been seriously hurt.
Andrews asked McIntyre if she had anything to add. According to McIntyre, “There were no apparent injuries. Bailey, the Shi tzu, was in Paula’s arms when I went into the home; she did seem shaken up and as a dog owner myself, I’d be nervous too. I have a yorkie but I also have an old English bulldog so kind of both ends of the spectrum. When I went to see the pit bull she was very friendly with me. Both dogs were; they were great. Neither dog was something that I would be concerned about with people.”
Callahan reported observing the same things.
Millias said, “I don’t believe we have the authority to force anyone to pay any medical bills. Seelig responded that he “would have to check.”
The only other action agreed upon by the board was to draft a letter from the Board of Selectmen to Florio requesting him to keep his dog leashed.
A variety of other issues were also discussed throughout the meeting including the retirement of the Council on Aging Director Barbara Brenton. Seelig said that the board would have to appoint an interim director upon her retirement as the position likely won’t be filled until late September or early October.
Additionally, an attorney for the Happy Dragon restaurant asked for approval to change management. New manager Lily Mai was referred to as the “heart and soul of the restaurant” and the board voted unanimously to approve the request.
The board also discussed the possible revocation of Davis Automotive’s storage license. Seelig said the business recently brought themselves up to date on their property taxes but still have thousands of dollars of backed motor vehicle excise payments. Millias said, “We obviously want to give them every opportunity but we also want to be fair to everyone else.”
A unanimous vote by the board set the revocation of the license to be effective on August 14. Seelig said that the date was set in order to give the business sufficient time to start making payments allowing the board to rescind their vote for revocation.