Halifax voters showed their support for their senior residents by voting $2 million for renovations and an addition to the current Pope’s Tavern Senior Center at the annual town meeting Monday night, May 8.
Articles 21 and 22 were talked about heavily leading up to Town Meeting. The funds to repair and add to the current Pope’s Tavern would be expended under the discretion of the Halifax Municipal and School Building Committee. Repairs, renovations, and expansion include but are not limited to architecture, engineering, and administrative work associated with this project.
A citizen speaking in favor of the article said of the present building, “There are no elevators. The stairs are very steep. I have witnessed women with canes going up and down the stairs.”
Council on Aging Director Barbara Brenton recognizes that the building is not currently up to code, but with these changes the newly refurbished building and addition will be up to code and fully handicapped accessible. Other improvements to the senior center include handicapped bathrooms on the first floor, a function room that seats more than 70 people, and additional office space.
Proponents argued that the longer the town postpones much-needed upgrades, the more expensive it will be.
The Finance Committee recommended the project and reiterated that there will not be a tax increase until 2019. The spending for the project is also within the levy, so there will not be a debt exclusion for the project.
Since the article required borrowing, it required a two-thirds vote. Article 21 passed.
Article 22 was then passed over because it was a contingency plan in case Article 21 were to fail. It would have transferred $70,000 in funds for repairs to Pope’s Tavern.
In all, voters were able to dispatch 50 warrant articles on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant and another 13 articles on the Special Town Meeting Warrant Monday night.
Article 18 passed, but only after a standing vote. Article 18 allows the town to appropriate $205,000 of available funds for a large dump truck needed for sand in the winter by the Highway Department.
The highway surveyor could not attend the meeting, so Selectman Kim Roy spoke to the article. She told the assembly that the truck currently used is a 1987 model in poor condition. There is rotting on the inside and is not safe to drive.
Also, any money which is not spent will be returned to the town. $205,000 is the maximum the Highway Department can spend on the truck.
Dave Ross spoke from the floor, asking that this article be tabled to give the town an opportunity to look at multiple vehicles. He said he thinks the town should be looking at other options. Ross also claimed he spoke with the Highway Surveyor and he is stuck on one option. Another gentleman voiced that he would also like to see the article passed over for now.
Steve Heyward from the Highway Department told the meeting, “The doors don’t open and it breaks down all the time.” He later added, “We shouldn’t be using it. It’s not safe.”
Jared Smaller also added, “How many people drive a car that’s 30 years old?” Smaller also said there’s a bidding process and the department can’t just buy a truck without three bids at minimum. Ultimately, Article 18 passed on a roll call vote of 133 to 44.
Article 2 was voted on in parts. The article would amend seven parts of the Wage and Personnel Bylaw. All parts of the article passed except for part 2.
Part 2 of Article 2 asked the citizens to vote to create a Human Resource Manager position at a Grade 10 pay scale. This ultimately failed after much debate.
Selectmen Vice Chair Thomas Millias said this position would save the town money in the long run doing things the right way. He believes it could protect against potential civil liabilities.
The secretary for the Wage and Personnel Board said that as a taxpayer, she doesn’t believe creating this position is needed. She added, “The money should be spent in other ways.”
Marie Cote agreed, saying that similar sized towns like Whitman and Dighton do not have a Human Resources Manager.
Another citizen in support of adding the position claimed it will save the town in unemployment and potential lawsuits.
Millias also said, “There’s no coordinated personnel records.” He said they are scattered. Marie Cote added that the records are kept with department heads.
Millias’s concern is that if a lawsuit came about, the records should be in the Treasurer’s office; they won’t call department heads. This part of the article ultimately failed.
The other five parts of the article passed. Part one gave a 2% raise to all non-union Wage and Personnel employees across the board.
Part 3 made it so that in the event of there only being two members on the Wage and Personnel Board, a member of either the Board of Selectmen or Finance Committee wouldstep in and vote.
Parts 4 and 5 affected merit increases and put more of a focus on years of service. Part 5 in particular adds a chance for a salary increase after five years of being at a position’s highest step.
Article 48 sought to zone where recreational marijuana facilities can be built. It proposed to zone them the same way as medical marijuana with requirements for how far away a shop must be from schools or where children congregate.
Article 49 proposed a 2% sales tax on any recreational marijuana sales in Halifax. Selectman Kim Roy said that Halifax voted in favor of Proposition 4 to legalize recreational marijuana, so this was the next step. Both of these articles passed unanimously.
Article 50 passed by a majority. Town Administrator Seelig explained the origin of the article saying he received complaints about abandoned foreclosed properties not being maintained by banks and mortgage companies.
This warrant forces banks and mortgage companies to register their foreclosed properties and maintain them. If the [properties] are not maintained, the bank or mortgage company will be fined $300 per week by the town until they are brought up to code.
The town would send inspectors from the building department. One citizen, Kevin Rodgers, asked if the banks will have to pay for the monthly inspections. If that’s not the case, Rodgers added he’d like to see that as a warrant article at the next Town Meeting.
Seelig says there is an annual $100 fee the bank or mortgage Company must pay for the inspections. He did say Rodgers’ idea could be a good idea for the future.
One gentleman brought up that he didn’t believe the article was constitutional because there are tenants sometimes still living in a foreclosed home. Seelig says the tenants would be informed and it would be the bank that’s fined not the tenants.
Town Counsel also said if they or the bank or mortgage company refused, a warrant would be the next step. This they believe, avoids illegal search and seizure concerns.
Article 19 was a vote to appropriate and/or borrow $977,000 for a new fire suppression system for Halifax Elementary School. It was passed over at the Special Town Meeting in March on the advice of Selectmen Vice Chair Thomas Millias because the price was much higher than expected. After looking into the matter further, Millias said this is the best price the town could get. All borrowing will be within the levy, meaning there will be no debt exclusion. According to the Finance Committee it also won’t be reflected on the tax bill until 2019. Article 19 passed unanimously.
Other Article Votes
Articles are in the order in which they were presented. With the exception in this case of Articles 1 through 4, Halifax uses a lottery system in order to decide the order in which the articles are brought before the meeting.
Article 1 is an introduction to Town Meeting, reading, “To hear and act on the reports of the Town Officers and Committees.” The article included an introduction to the importance of Town Meeting and citizen’s role in direct democracy by Selectmen Vice Chair Thomas Millias. The Finance Committee also explained that the large articles being voted on that required the town to borrow funds would not affect the 2018 tax bill, but increases would come in 2019 and 2020.
Article 3 was a vote on the salaries of the Town Moderator, Town Clerk, the Selectmen, Treasurer, Assessors, and the Highway Surveyor. There were increases for the Town Clerk, Treasurer, and Highway Supervisor. Passed unanimously.
Article 4 put to a vote the operating budget for Halifax. It was voted on in parts such as General Government, Public Safety, Schools, etc. The total projected operating cost for the 2018 fiscal year is $22,621,613. Article 4 passed unanimously.
Article 15 asked the town to approve an appropriation of $150 to be used by the Trustees for County Cooperative Extension Service. It also authorizes the Selectmen to appoint a Town Director within 15 days. Selectmen Chair Troy Garron says that this is an annual article and is used to support 4-H programs. Article 15 passed unanimously.
Article 44 asked citizens to vote on accepting Bourne Drive and Danson Road as accepted town roads. Because the water department was not comfortable yet, the article was passed over.
Article 29 asks the town to appropriate $27,145 to replace the apparatus bay door openers at the Fire Department. Fire Chief Jason Viveiros says, “The garage doors are over 20 years old,” He added that the doors don’t all have proper safety devices installed. Passed unanimously.
Article 34 appropriated $9,500 to replace the furnace at the Town Hall. Passed unanimously.
Article 41 appropriated $3,500 to support South Coastal Legal Services, Inc. Selectmen Chair Garron says, “This allows people without funds to get legal services at a minimal cost.” Passed unanimously.
Article 30 appropriated $9,000 for the Fire Dept. to update phone systems to a fiber optic service. Passed unanimously.
Article 40 asked the town for $28,100 for new computer servers. Town Administrator joked saying, “My daughter is a junior in college. The servers we want to replace are about as old as she is.” Passed unanimously.
Article 23 gives permission to the Water Department to use $49,435 of its retained earnings to purchase a new truck with a snow plow. Passed unanimously.
Article 24 would allow the town to spend $80,000 for two new marked police vehicles. Passed unanimously.
Article 32 allows the town to use available funds of $12,500 to repair chimneys at the Museum of Halifax, the Old School House, the Blacksmith’s Shop, and Pope’s Tavern. Passed unanimously.
Article 35 appropriates $7,200 to make significant repair to the two rear garage doors at the Recycling Center. Passed unanimously.
Article 7 is an annual bill to add reserve funds to the Water Department. Due to the condition of the well, an additional $75,000 was appropriated from available funds to cover extraordinary costs. Passed unanimously.
Article 27 gives the Fire Department $10,000 from available funds for new turn-out gear. Passed unanimously.
Article 47 changed language in the Codes of Halifax requiring for all inclusions on a warrant, public hearing, filing of plans, notice, and damages to be given public hearing and notice no less than 30 days before the next Annual Town Meeting. It also requires two successive weeks of newspaper coverage beforehand. Passed unanimously.
Article 46 requires the tax collector to give a list periodically to the licensing authority (any department that issues licenses) of any person, corporation, or enterprise who has neglected or refused to pay taxes and other charges for over a 1 month period. Passed unanimously.
Article 38 appropriates $5,000 of available funds for improvements to the town’s boat ramps on East Monponsett Pond. Passed unanimously.
Article 16 appropriates $269,658 for the town to improve bridges, county ways, sidewalks adjacent to these ways, and bike ways. This is an annual article. Passed unanimously.
Article 17 appropriates $150,000 for the maintenance of town roads. The funds will be overseen by the new Highway Surveyor. Passed unanimously.
Article 36 appropriates $12,000 for the Assessors’ Triennial Revaluation Account. Passed unanimously.
Article 31 appropriated $10,000 for new IV pumps for the fire dept. Passed unanimously.
Article 28 raised $280,000 to purchase and equip a new ambulance. Passed unanimously.
Article 43 appropriates $70,000 for the second year principal payment of the Water Tower Painting and repair debt and another $5985 for the second year interest on the same debt. Passed unanimously.
Article 14 raises Fire Chief Viveiros salary to $103,000. Selectman Kim Roy said this brings his salary closer to the national average while balancing what Halifax can afford to pay. Passed unanimously.
Article 10 funds the collective bargaining agreements between the town and AFL-CIO Union Council 93 and Local 1700 (Highway/Cemetery). passed unanimously.
Article 6 amends the Codes of the Town of Halifax by adding a new section which authorizes revolving funds for use by certain town departments, boards, committees, and agencies. Passed unanimously.
Article 5 will continue 16 separate revolving funds including inspector wages, CPR classes, and the bus for the Council on Aging, Passed unanimously.
Article 9 allows Halifax to appropriate funds for agreed upon collective bargaining between AFSCME AFL-CIO Union Council 93 and Local 1700. Passed unanimously.
Article 20 approved appropriation and borrowing of $50,000 for repairs and renovations to the Halifax Elementary School. Passed unanimously.
Article 37, proposed by the Conservation Commission, asked the town to transfer $7,500 for additional hours for the Conservation Commission Secretary to protect wetlands. Pased unanimously.
Article 11 appropriated funds for agreed upon collective bargaining with Local 459. Passed Unanimously.
Article 39 appropriates $6,500 to refurbish the door and replace the locks at the Town Hall. Passed unanimously.
Article 25 transfers $16,000 of available funds to purchase and equip two ATVs for the Police Dept. Unanimous
Article 33 appropriates $7,000 of available funds to replace office lighting with LED lights in the Town Hall. Unanimous
Article 13 approves agreed upon collective bargaining between the town and Police Chief Edward Broderick. Unanimous
Article 45 was passed over because the proponent of the article, Richard Springer, did not attend Town Meeting. This article would have made Heron Road an accepted town road.
Article 12 appropriated agreed upon funds for collective bargaining between Halifax and the Halifax Association of Police Patrolmen. Passed unanimously.
Article 42 appropriated $3,500 from available funds to support the South Shore Women’s Resource Center for domestic violence intervention and prevention services for its residents.Passed unanimously.
Article 8 passed unanimously and approves agreed upon collective bargaining between Halifax, IAFF, and Local 3159 (Firefighters). Passed Unanimously.