Whately Town Meeting approves regional ambulance plan, medical marijuana moratorium
WHATELY — Residents voted Tuesday night to back a regional 24/7 paramedic ambulance service with Deerfield and Sunderland, and separately approved a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation centers.
The special Town meeting voted 80-8 to join an inter-municipal agreement with Deerfield and Sunderland to form the South County Emergency Medical Services. Voters also added $54,665 to the ambulance fund account approved at last spring’s annual Town Meeting to support the town’s portion of the cost for the rest of the fiscal year.
Whately’s portion is $82,735. Sunderland would pay $155,366 and Deerfield $255,488.
For more than two years, the three Select Boards and EMS directors have developed a proposal to create Franklin County’s first municipal regional paramedic service.
A full-time staff based at the South Deerfield fire station and a backup ambulance at the Sunderland Public Safety complex would provide coverage for the 66 square miles of southern Franklin County.
Whately residents differed with EMS Director Gary Stone who spoke and voted against the regional service. But Stone said in the past he would support the regional service if it is approved by all three towns.
Sunderland will hold a special Town Meeting at 7 p.m. Friday in the Sunderland Elementary School. Deerfield will be the last to vote Oct. 28. All three towns made their funding contingent on approval by their partners.
Also Tuesday, residents voted 75-4 for the temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation centers. That came despite recent lobbying by Whately potato farmer James Pasiecnik and his partners, Nicholas Spagnola of Revere and Joshua Sodaitis of Somerville, to drop the proposal. They did not attend the special Town Meeting.
The moratorium will last until May 30, 2014, to give the Planning Board time to review state Department of Public Health regulations and consider new zoning bylaws. The town follows about 150 other communities which have enacted various moratoriums.
“There’s an awful lot to know. That’s why we’re asking for time,” said Planning Board member Judy Markland.
Pasiecnik has proposed opening a dispensary in Whately and a growing center on his farm property at 207 River Road under the nonprofit group JM Farm’s Patient Group.
The Pasiecnik group fears a moratorium could kill its chances for a state license.
The state will consider applications more favorably if the not-for-profits can distribute the marijuana product within 120 days after getting a license, Sodaitis said.
To address this, the Planning Board altered the original deadline of Sept. 30, believing the shortened time limit would not hamper Pasiecnik’s plans.
Some residents argued the moratorium would prolong some patients’ wait for medical care.
“I think it’s a detriment to the one proposed for the community,” said Fred Orloski. “We all know who’s proposing these facilities. Why postpone? The state will look to other places in the county.”
Pasiecnik and his partners are seeking one of the 35 available state licenses for a registered medical marijuana dispensary. He is one of five applicants vying for a Franklin County license.