Only two articles were voted on Tuesday night at the second round of Halifax Town Meeting, after the meeting was practically taken over by debate and votes on rules and procedures, instead of the town business at hand.
Board of Selectmen Chair Troy Garron said this was the most “interesting” Town Meeting he’s been to in the 30 years he’s been involved.
“There were a lot of people who have never been in town meeting or haven’t been involved enough [to know] the ‘rules and regs’,” Garron said, “It was more like Marquess of Queensberry rules.”
The night opened up with consideration of the Wage and Personnel article.
Non-union Wage and Personnel employees will be receiving a 1.5% pay increase across the board after a close majority vote of 186 for to 141 against.
The standing vote was challenged, and the meeting then proceeded with a ballot vote that still passed the wage increase by another close vote of 178 for and 154 against.
Town Accountant Sandra Nolan says over 50% of the town employees have reached the “top step” of their pay grade. ”They’re all on step 6 of their grade which means there’s nowhere else to go,” she said.
Nolan said the employees who have not reached the “top step” will receive the 1.5% increase on top of their step increase. She added that the 1.5% increase will cost the average homeowner in town about $24 for the year in taxes, and will take effect July, 1.
Board of Selectmen Chair Troy Garron says he supports this increase. “We’re paying for services to the town, the people who serve the town,” he said, “We always want to make sure we spend the money frugally.”
At the conclusion of Article 3, Article 2 was reconsidered.
Before the article itself was voted on, about an hour of debate occurred among voters, questioning the reconsideration of the article by referring to town by-laws and Town Meeting rules and procedures.
The Town Moderator continued with the reconsideration, saying that it has been “Halifax tradition” to reconsider a negative vote.
“Although it has been practiced for 30 years, that doesn’t make it right,” Jason Conroy, a Halifax resident, said.
Regardless, voters still turned down the $1.15 million purchase of the “All Seasons Restaurant” for a new Council on Aging Center, for a second and final time.
Like the first night, the article needed a 2/3 vote to pass, but failed by only 19 votes.
“Once it’s been reconsidered, that’s the last of it for this Town Meeting,” Garron said.
Garron added that the debt exclusion on the ballot for this Saturday’s election is basically “meaningless” now. ”The town has spoke,” he said.
Round three of Town Meeting will continue to Thursday night at 7:30p.m.
Voters still have just over 50 articles to consider, including: the operating budget, a Medical Marijuana by-law, and an energy efficiency by-law.