Halifax: Senior center article fails; town meeting continues tonight

Over 300 Halifax residents gathered at the Halifax Elementary School Monday night for Annual and Special Town Meetings.

The majority of the night was taken up by debate and the ballot vote on Article 2 of the Annual Town Meeting, seeking approval of a $1.15 million purchase of the “All Seasons Restaurant” for a new Council on Aging Center.

Finance Committee Chair Gordon Andrews said if this project were approved, the average homeowner’s tax bill would increase by about $39.51 for fiscal 2016.

But, after 20 years of waiting, the Senior Citizens in town may not actually be getting a new Senior Center.

Of the 377 residents who voted, 233 said yes, just under the 2/3 vote needed to pass the article.

Council on Aging (COA) Director Barbara Brenton said people need to “get serious” about coming together for the seniors.

“I don’t think they still are yet,” Brenton said, “I’m disappointed. It was very close…the town needs to come up with a plan, what are they going to do for the seniors?”

Board of Selectmen Chair Troy Garron said he’s “really disappointed” as well. “I was hoping that the town would finally, after 20 years, give credit to the seniors who’ve formed the foundation for the town of Halifax all these years,” he said.

Many of the voters left after this article was voted on, leaving behind just over the 100-person quorum to vote on the 14 articles of Special Town Meeting.

Maureen Rogers, Halifax resident, proposed an article that will allow Town Meeting to choose articles by a “lottery” system, effective January 2015.

“I’ve talked about it for years…I finally put my money where my mouth is,” Rogers said.

Rogers also thanked the Town Administrator  and the Town Moderator for helping put the article together.

In the amended By-Law, the Town Moderator or his or her designees will determine the lottery “mechanism.”

Rogers said she is “thrilled” the article was passed. “If we put the articles in a random, so-called ‘lottery’ idea, then no one can say, ‘well, I’ll only go such and such a night because my article [will] come up,’” she said.

Under the new amendments, the only articles that would still have an order and be acted on first in the following order are: reports of town offices and committees, amendments to the Wage & Personnel By-Law, salary determinations, and determining money appropriations.

Board of Selectmen Chair Troy Garron said if people wanted to come to Town Meeting, they would come regardless.

“I hope that it will increase attendance,” Garron said, “It’s a shame that we only have a few people who vote the  taxes and the other things within the town, but it effects everybody.”

It’s our tax dollars. It’s our town,” Rogers said, “If you care, than you need to be here and vote.”

John Brenton, Halifax resident, placed the town “on notice” that he will be asking for reconsideration of Article 2, the new COA Building article, when the meeting continues tonight.

If the article is reconsidered and passes with a 2/3 vote this time around, a debt exclusion to fund the purchase with a 20-year bond must be approved at the annual election Saturday.

Round two continues tonight at 7:30p.m. at the Halifax Elementary School with just over 50 articles left to consider, including the operating budget and a Medical Marijuana By-Law.

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About Samantha Tracey

Samantha Tracey graduated from Salem State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. She has been reporting on local issues in a variety of towns: Bridgewater, Abington, Carver, Weymouth, East Bridgewater, Hanson, Halifax, etc. She says growing up on the South Shore has made it interesting now to be covering news in such familiar places.