HALIFAX– Halifax Selectmen held a special meeting on Tuesday, March 30 in order to meet with Robert Bergstrom regarding a music event he is planning for this summer, as well as meet with FinCom members regarding a proposed meals tax. They also held a public street acceptance hearing.
Forking over more money for meals?
The Selectmen are planning a warrant article for this May’s Annual Town Meeting asking voters to approve a .75% meals tax. The small tax, common among neighboring communities, according to Town Administrator Charlie Seelig, would add 75 cents to a $100 dinner bill.
The tax would simply be added to the 6.25% sales tax already paid on meals, the two combined raising the excise tax to an even 7%. The meals tax would be collected with the sales tax by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, and redistributed back to the town. No extra burden would be put on restaurant owners, other than reprogramming point-of-sales systems to charge 7%, rather than 6.25% in tax.
The small tax is unlikely to drive restaurant dinersfrom coming into town to eat, nor locals leaving for towns without the tax as it is becoming increasingly hard to find nearby communities without a meals tax.
In fact, Seelig recounted a story of a certain franchised coffee shop, whose owner was so accustomed to working in communities with the meals tax, simply assumed Halifax had imposed one as well and thus programmed the point-of-sale systems to collect 7% sales tax. A sharp-eyed resident noticed the extra .75% being charged on their coffee or doughnuts, and Seelig had to go notify the coffee shop that Halifax in fact does not have a meals tax.
The ultimate decision is up to voters at the Annual Town Meeting, but Selectmen and FinCom members were already discussing the meals tax as if it had passed. When they present the article, both boards hope that there is a clear understanding of where the money raised from the tax would go.
Chairman Roy is leaning
owards the capital planning fund, although there will be ongoing discussions with FinCom.
A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, April 19 at 3 p.m.
Questions remain about ‘Music Event’
Robert Bergstrom, known for his MudFest truck racing events, was again before the board to discuss his plans for a possible yet-to-be-named two-day concert that he is planning for the summer. The board seemed as skeptical as ever, and several town officials were present to express their concerns.
The concert, which according to Bergstrom might attract up to 5,000 people per day, is still in its infancy in terms of planning. Kim Roy, Selectmen Chairman noted that the board had asked Bergstrom to begin meeting with different town departments to discuss plans several weeks ago, and he had only begun the process yesterday, with the Police Chief.
He had prepared a preliminary information packet, including names of possible bands, a security expert that he knew– but did not, according to his résumé have experience with crowd control at a concert, and an aerial map of Fieldstone Farms, where he plans to hold the event.
Major concerns that have still not been addressed by Tuesday night’s meeting include working out a public health plan with Health Agent, Cathy Drinan, coordinating with the Police and Fire Departments, and as well as the Building Inspector.
The Building Inspector, Robert Piccirilli had numerous reservations, including whether or not such an event could even be held in an agricultural zone. He also noted that because the owner of Fieldstone Farms has a legal agreement with the town exempting him from certain zoning by-laws, but that in his opinion this event would not “count” for those exemptions because it is not related to agriculture.
Roy said she had been cautiously optimistic that Bergstrom could pull off the “ambitious” proposal, but that she needed to be convinced, a sentiment echoed by other Selectmen, Troy Garron and Tom Millias. All agreed they wanted detailed plans, much more detailed than those provided thus far.
“You’re going to have to sell me,” said Selectman Millias.
Despite Bergstrom and the board having worked well together in the past for MudFest, this event would be on a different scale.
“We can’t just throw the town’s liability to the wind to throw a party,” said Roy. “This is not ready. When you’re ready, come back.”
Apparently because of his good history with the board, Bergstrom was added to the agenda for the April 12 scheduled meeting.
He stated that he could “absolutely meet that date.”
The board’s change in tone from the last time Bergstrom appeared before them did not seem to phase him. It appears, though, that Bergstrom will have to plan very carefully and quickly to appease the Selectmen.
On The Road To Acceptance
A public “street acceptance” hearing was also held on Tuesday, for two roads in the Two River Farm development, off of Walnut Street. This type of hearing comes up less frequently than other types of hearings in Halifax, for example, dog hearings, and therefore Chairman Roy was a bit confused as to how to start the hearing, but Seelig was able to walk her through it.
“We don’t accept many streets in these parts,” she joked.
A two-step process, first the Selectmen and then the voters at Town Meeting must approve any new roads so that the town can take responsibility for their maintenance. Traditionally, the developer comes before the board to address any questions from the Selectmen or the public.
No members of the public were present for the hearing.
A representative of GF Engineering was present, though, and he addressed a concern from the Water Department posed by the Town Administrator. They were concerned that several “water gates” needed to be raised to grade level. Other than some topsoil that needed to be removed, the Selectmen appeared satisfied and voted to accept the road on the condition that the two minor issues were resolved.
Bourne Drive and Danson Lane are now half way down the road to being accepted. Welcome, and best of luck at Town Meeting!