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Plainfield voters frustrated at postponement of Town Meeting articles

The three articles, which dealt with moratoriums on the development of industrial or large-scale solar and wind energy facilities in the town and an amendment to its right-to-farm bylaw, were among the meeting’s most controversial and were postponed through a process known as “tabling” a motion.

Residents put off the vote on both of the two moratorium articles amid concerns that the criteria for what could be considered industrial or large-scale solar and wind energy projects were not defined clearly enough for an informed vote to be made on the issue.

If passed in September, the articles would prevent building permits from being issued for the construction of any such projects until July 1, 2015.

The third article would amend the right-to-farm bylaw by adding a section that would require anyone applying pesticides to farmland to post signs with the words “Caution: Pesticide Application” and the approximate dates on which the pesticides would be applied to prevent chemical drift onto abutting properties.

According to Selectman Phil Lococo, the Select Board recommended against approving the article because it is unlikely that it would be approved by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office due to the state’s desire for exclusivity concerning pesticide regulation.

Troubled by delay

The voters moved to table the article due to concerns surrounding the enforceability and overall legality of the changes to the bylaw, as well as over the specifics of its implementation, such as the number of signs that would need to be posted and the spacing between them.

“People like the idea, but this was not quite there in drafting for people to feel comfortable with,” said Town Moderator Penn Moulton.

The article’s postponement drew impassioned reactions from some of those in attendance who were worried about their health over the course of the coming spraying season, because the article would not be up for consideration again until it had already passed.

“What happens between now and the next meeting? I have to sit through another spraying season and become sick and not be able to breathe,” said Plainfield resident Sue Flores.

In other business, the two articles that were featured as ballot questions during the town’s elections last week were also approved at the meeting. Both articles pertain to the Highway Department, with the first authorizing the Select Board to borrow up to $150,000 for the purchase of a new front-end loader and the second allowing for the appropriation of $35,000 to hire a fourth employee at the department.

According to the town’s highway superintendent, Murton Taylor Jr., the new machinery is necessary because both of the front-end loaders that the town currently owns were built in the 1980s and are showing signs of age. Voters agreed that repairing them would cost more in the long run than simply purchasing a new one.

“I’m trying to be proactive, and we need a loader that will be reliable,” he said.

Murton said that hiring a fourth employee for the department would provide needed help during the summer and winter months, during which it has had to rely on temporary part-time workers that are not always available. According to Lococo, the department cut its staff to three employees in an effort to save money after the previous fourth employee retired about seven years ago.

Voters also approved an annual budget of $1,768,740.49, which will provide $289,963.99 for general government, $305,675 for highways and roads, $80,491 for public safety, $31,668.60 for health and sanitation and $824,171.32 for education.

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