Halifax Chief has staffing plans model; No new stop sign
On Tuesday, November 24th the Halifax Board of Selectmen met and held a stop sign hearing, heard from Fire Chief Jason Vivieros about staffing changes, preliminarily approved two Eagle Scout projects and met with the FinCom and department heads to discuss the upcoming budget season.
The board discussed a resident request for a “Stop” sign at the intersection of 12th Avenue and Lingan Street.
The matter originally was referred to the Traffic Study Committee, a committee that advises the Board of Selectmen concerning traffic safety issues such as speed limits, signage, crosswalks and commercial traffic.
The Traffic Study Committee meets monthly, but the Express was unable to obtain minutes from the meeting where this specific request was discussed as of press time.
Police Chief Edward Broderick, a member of the Committee, stated to the Board that the Committee had determined any “Stop” sign would be unenforceable at that intersection, but that they were open to a yellow, triangular warning sign such as “Slow” or “Children Ahead.”
Generally, according to Town Administrator Charlie Seelig, a variety of factors are taken into account when determining signage, including the amount of traffic in an area.
Federal and State laws must be followed as well as Halifax’s own traffic by-laws.
The “Stop” sign was denied, but Selectman Troy Garron asked that a letter of explanation be sent to the residents in the area.
Several other citizen requests for signage have come in, and are now with the Traffic Study Committee, which meets at the Police Station on the second Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m., according to the Town’s website.
Staffing changes at the Fire Department
Fire Chief Jason Vivieros came before the board to present staffing changes that he plans to implement in the coming years.
These changes are being made in consultation with the Fire Study Committee. His stated goal is to fill gaps in fire and EMS coverage, address safety issues, enhance the ability of the department to address administrative functions and to engage and create incentives for call firefighters.
His proposal, according to his projections, will actually reduce taxes while increasing staffing, by increasing ambulance fees and shifting the timing of when full-time firefighters are staffing the station to the busiest times of day.
Currently, Halifax has eight full-time firefighter/paramedics, two of which need to be on duty 24/7 to man an Advanced Life Support ambulance. There are 20 call firefighters, 13 of which are EMTs. Paramedics have more extensive medical training than EMTs.
This current situation does not meet the recommendations of several National fire-fighting associations. The station is unmanned several times a day when staff are out on calls, therefore call personnel are needed. On average, this adds five minutes to a response time.
If no or not enough call personnel “sign-on” to a call, Halifax must rely on mutual aid agreements with neighboring towns. In 2014 alone, no call personnel signed-on to a call 11 times.
Vivieros stated that Halifax “relies heavily” on mutual aid.
Call volume has gone up, as well, as the median age has increased in town. Vivieros projects 1,535 calls for 2015, up from 1,121 in 2006.
The Chief will therefore add two full-time day positions, and shift some night coverage to part-time personnel, increasing staffing during the busiest times of the day.
Any savings found will go back to the general fund or reduce the general tax levy.
FinCom, department heads, and level service
The Finance Committee met concurrently with the Selectmen along with department heads to hash out some numbers for the FY’17 budget.
The focus of the discussion was the unpredictability of the Silver Lake Regional School District budget, and the need to essentially guess certain unpredictable areas of the budget, such as the special education budget.
The idea of telling SLRSD an amount of money that Halifax can live with and insist that Silver Lake work with it was floated.
Department heads were instructed to provide “level-service,” that is, the same amount, or level, of service as last year so that taxes do not have to be raised (or only raised the least amount possible.)
Eagle Scout proposals ‘wow’ the Board
Jakob Burgess, a freshman, and Michael Connors, a sophomore at Silver Lake Regional High School, came before the Board to ask for permission to move forward with their community service projects in order to obtain the Boy Scout rank of “Eagle Scout.”
Burgess is seeking to spruce up the Margaret Meyer Outdoor Amphitheater by repairing the stage, railing and eight benches, all in need of restoration. Connors is seeking to put up new, clearer signs along with some landscaping at the ball fields at the Vaughn Athletic Complex adjacent to the Police Station.
Although the Selectmen expressed their initial approval and enthusiasm for the projects, they also began educating the young men on the subject of municipal bureaucracy.
Both gentlemen will have to seek the same approval as anybody else from various boards, committees and officials in town. Connors was especially cautioned that because his project falls within a historic district, he will have to conform to the requirements of the Historic District Commission.