The Halifax Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, Sept. 22 prior to town meeting. Only a few minutes into the meeting, they had to adjourn to reconvene at the all-purpose room across the street at the Elementary School. Maximum capacity for the meeting room at the town hall is only 11 which was exceeded.
Once reconvened, Seelig explained to the Board of Selectmen that under state law, they could lower the number required for quorum to just ten percent of their regular number due to the state of emergency. It cannot be lowered during the town meeting. “I have mixed emotions about it. On the one hand I don’t care to lower the quorum. On the other hand, there’s reasons that are valid to make some kind of adjustment,” Selectmen Chair Tom Millias said. He went on to say, “There’s always going to be controversy about it, but nobody’s preventing anybody from coming to town meeting.”
Selectman Gordon Andrews said, “My thoughts are that I would consider moving it for the financial issues but any zoning or anything else, I don’t think we should lower the quorum on… that brings up the most contentious articles.” His remarks were met with quiet applause from the small crowd of attendees at the meeting. Andrews said that if quorum was under 100, he would like to see the zoning bylaw articles passed over. Millias said that it was his intention to pass over those articles at town meeting anyway. Andrews said, “I would make a motion that we vote to pass over the marijuana article and the multi-family zoning article,” Andrews said.
Town Moderator Dennis Carman said, “At the risk of being overly critical, this town, in the last number of years has developed some significant problems in the way that we conduct our business. To be honest with you, I think everybody is responsible for pieces of it and I don’t think that town meeting is the place where those things are going to get resolved.” He continued, “On the one hand we want a robust quorum, we want a robust participation, but under the pandemic we have to be careful about not necessarily exceeding that and there goes another $6,000 and another reconvening.” He went on to say that he wasn’t comfortable as a resident with reducing the number required for quorum to only 10, calling it “insane.” He recommended reducing it to 75.
Resident Amy Troup spoke to why she was hearing that many residents chose not to attend the continuance of town meeting that was scheduled at the Kingston Collection. Troup said, “The reason that they didn’t show up is that their kids just went back to school and they had crises at home… and they had all these things going on while they’re trying to do a full time job… so by the time it gets dark at night and they have to travel to Kingston… if it had been in Halifax, we would have been able to get a quorum.” She called the decision to hold the meeting in Kingston “bad planning.”
Andrews responded to Troup saying that because of the delay with the budget at the state level, the best option for the town was to initially recess town meeting. He pointed out that they still don’t have official numbers from the state but rather “numbers that they said they would try to make.” Referencing the nearly daily calls that the elected officials in Halifax have had since March, Andrews said, “The Board has been putting in more time than anyone thought.” He continued, “I understand everybody is confused. I’m confused. I wake up, I look at the town’s website and find out what’s going on that day and I try to attend that meeting. I totally understand the confusion and that last week was the first week of the hybrid.” He said that the decision to move it to Kingston was to allow for more space and thus more people. Millias added that they were trying to move ahead as quickly as possible to ensure that tax bills go out.
One resident suggested polling residents in the future to see what day/time works best for them in order to ensure quorum would be met. Yet another resident said that he felt that the selectmen weren’t considering younger residents with families when scheduling town meeting. Selectman Troy Garron said, “The door is open for anyone that can come and I do understand that people have kids and babysitter problems; I sent four kids through the school system while I was doing things for the town so I can appreciate the hardships but at the same time you have an obligation, just like to go and vote, to come to town meeting and stay until it’s over with.” Still another resident said that he felt that quorum shouldn’t be lowered since some of the articles require a two-thirds vote.
The Board ultimately voted to temporarily reduce the quorum for that night’s town meeting to 75. Carman said, “As a parting statement, there are, from what I’m hearing from some of the feedback here, recognizing there are a lot of other people not here… we probably can improve a lot of the things that we’re doing with some support and help from the townspeople.” Millias agreed saying, “absolutely.”
Following the discussion and vote on lowering quorum, the Board met with Alex Mazin of Bud’s Goods and Provisions. Mazin asked the Board to consider amending the host community agreement he has with the town for his marijuana cultivation facility. He asked that the agreement include marijuana product manufacturing. “There’s a lot of benefits to both us as an operator and the community with that and it allows us to sort of make Halifax our base instead of our initial plan which was to grow here and move everything to Lakeville,” Mazin explained. Seelig said that he would recommend having another community forum on the subject before deciding to amend the agreement. The selectmen agreed to set something up, most likely virtually on Zoom.
The next appointment was with a representative from the South Shore Children’s Museum who was there to speak on two drive thru movie nights at Walmart in the back parking lot.
She said that they have previously held five of these showings in local towns.
“We’re trying to keep in touch with our families until we can figure out our plan b,” she explained. She said the hope was to host a Hocus Pocus themed drive-in on October 16 and October 23. She also said they would be looking for a police detail and noted that they have used a Boy Scout Troop out of Weymouth to assist with the parking. They are looking to limit the number of cars to 60.
Millias advised that she touch base with both the Board of Health and the Fire Department.
Garron asked about the possibility of disruption to neighbors and was told that speakers can be taken away to minimize the noise and cars can listen to the sound on their car radios. Andrews made a motion to approve pending approval from the Board of Health and Fire Department.