The Halifax Board of Selectmen met in-person on Tuesday, April 27. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig provided the Board with a COVID update saying there had been 10 additional cases since April 17 and 18 total cases in the previous two weeks. Those numbers bring the total for Halifax, who moved from the red to the yellow risk zone, to 513 total cases. Seelig also reiterated the Governor’s state-wide update which includes reopening dates. Additional outdoor activities are approved as of May 10 with further reopening occurring on May 29. A full reopening of the State is scheduled for August 1. “Of course, all of that is dependent on case loads and vaccines,” Seelig explained. Seelig said he plans to talk to the Board of Health agent about increasing capacities in the town meeting rooms. He also noted that town meeting is not considered a gathering per the State. Town employees were issued a return-to-work order per the approval of the Selectmen at their previous meeting.
Concerns Over Speeding
The Board had an appointment with Owen Graves, a resident of South St. in Halifax for over five years. Graves attended the meeting in the hopes of drawing awareness to the lack of speed limit signs on South St. and the resulting problems with speeding that occur. “The speed limit is supposed to be 30; people go nowhere close to starting at 30,” Graves explained. He told the Selectmen that cars fly down the street at 40, 50, and even 60 mph. He noted two deaths that occurred as a result in just his first two years living on the street. Graves noted that he drives a lot for his work and said that he sees many signs in other communities alerting drivers to the appropriate speed. Selectman Chair Tom Millias told Graves, “I’ve lived your pain living on South St. and in particular motorcycles are incredibly scary because they come screaming down the street… this is something we can and should refer to the Highway Safety Committee.” He added, “It probably should be looked at harder than it has been in the past and this is a good impetus to do that.”
Another resident also attended Tuesday’s meeting to discuss what he sees as a need for a 4-way stop on Circuit and Laurel streets to force drivers to slow down. While Seelig said that it had previously been determined that a 4-way stop wouldn’t be appropriate for the area, the Board said they would like to see the issue taken up by the Traffic Safety Committee.
Request for a Nips Ban
Another concerned resident Shirley Graf also met with the Selectmen. Graf had previously been named as the Litter Buster of the Year award winner for the entire State of Massachusetts during 2020. Graf asked the Selectmen for their support of an article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant to ban the sale of single use containers for alcoholic beverages in Halifax. Graf provided statistics including that she had picked up 8,443 nips bottles in town since beginning to do so 28 months prior. She also stressed that after speaking to Police Chief Joao Chaves she learned that very few littering citations are issued despite the large amount of litter in town. Selectman Troy Garron said, “Personally, I don’t drink and I can’t understand how so many liquor stores are still selling it knowing the problem that we have.” For their part, both Millias and Selectman Gordon Andrews said they would like to invite the local liquor establishments in to voice their side of the argument before endorsing such an article. Before she left, Millias told Graf, “We applaud you for your efforts… I am just overwhelmed by it.”
Request to Change Marijuana Bylaws
Representatives of the company Colonel Boothe met with the Selectmen to inquire about a change to the zoning bylaws surrounding marijuana and the buffer zone around venues serving alcohol. Currently, marijuana establishments are not allowed within 500 ft of venues that have a pouring license. Colonel Boothe asked the Selectmen if they would support a petition article to ban that portion of the bylaw saying, “there’s an effective ban on a second retail store.” According to Colonel Boothe, there are no lots in town left that are not restricted by the current bylaws. Millias said, “Obviously the town has been supportive of establishments based on the votes at town meeting… I personally think it ought to be a public initiative.”
According to the company, the bylaw most likely exists to prevent people from buying cannabis and then consuming it in a restaurant. They pointed out, however, that it feels redundant as public consumption is already banned by State law. Garron said that the bylaw was originally intended for the protection of the public noting, “the public need to decide whether to change that.” The Selectmen voted not to support an article at town meeting to amend the bylaw.
In other marijuana news, Seelig said that the town attorney had reached an agreement on a Host Community Agreement (HCA) with Flower and Soul on a proposed retail facility. Seelig said that the agreement would soon be posted online in order to receive public comments.
Update on Campus Building Project
Andrews told the other selectmen that the Committee had discussed a possible affordable solution to the problem of a senior center for the short term while they examine the other municipal buildings. “We all know the issues at Pope’s Tavern,” Andrews said. He said that the Committee is working on establishing short term, mid-term, and long-term plans noting that they hope to move forward with a solution for the senior center before tackling an overall campus solution including the Police and Fire stations. Andrews also noted mechanical failures with hot water pipes at the school. ““The one thing I’ve noticed being on the Committee is we’ve gone around to every building in town and every building in town needs work,” Andrews said.
Several residents attended Tuesday’s meeting after seeing the hearing to opt out of the state’s mosquito control program listed on the agenda. Seelig said that the State had issued a letter to all communities saying that there was a possibility to opt out of the program. The Selectmen had wanted to give residents an opportunity to come and speak on the issue. Seelig noted that they had not received any communication from anyone wanting to opt out. One resident spoke during the meeting saying he survived eastern equine encephalitis as a child. He recalled spending weeks in the hospital with frighteningly high fevers. He called it a “terrible idea” to opt out. All residents speaking during the hearing were against opting out.
Silver Lake Assessment
Seelig said he spoke with the Finance Committee about recommending an across-the-board increase for non-union employees. He said, “I understand it’s been a tough year for many including unemployment and under employment for many residents in Halifax however the town’s employees have, in general, worked above and beyond throughout the pandemic with few if any complaints.” Seelig said that the Finance Committee is not recommending approval of the Silver Lake assessment but noted that town meeting would make its own decision. Seelig said if Kingston and Plympton approve the assessment, Halifax will eventually have to as well. The assessment includes a 1.6 increase for Silver Lake employees. This would leave town employees without anything. “If school employees get something, town employees, union and non-union, deserve something too,” Seelig said. Seelig suggested a one percent increase.
Requests for Use of Town Property
The Board approved the use of the town green for the Historical Society plant sale on May 8 from 9 am through noon as well as a Boy Scout bottle drive on Saturday, July 17. Both events will include whatever COVID protocols are required by their respective dates. Seelig also said that line dancing groups were starting at the Great Hall and noted that they had worked with the Board of Health on appropriate safety measures.
Seelig alerted the Selectmen to the passing of longtime resident John Peck. Peck was a longtime member of the Conservation Commission. Seelig spoke of Peck’s charitable work including the annual Thanksgiving meal hosted by his family at the Country Club. Those present at Tuesday’s meeting observed a moment of silence in his honor.
Seelig also told the Selectmen that Finance Committee member Lauren Carmichael had resigned in late March. Seelig said he was appreciative of her service. Seelig also noted some awards that were recently granted including Firefighter of the Year for Jeff Arcieri, Officer of the Year for Matthew Cunningham, and Citizen Hero Award for the Halifax Building Maintenance Staff. In a final piece of good news, Seelig said that Halifax was listed as a top spot to live for communities south of Boston by the Boston Globe on April 21.