Hadley Town Meeting approves ban on single-use plastic bags

  • In this 2013 file photo, a plastic shopping bag liters the roadside in Sacramento, Calif. At Hadley Town Meeting on Thursday, residents adopted an article that bans the use of single-use plastic ban in town. AP PHOTO

  • Annual Town Meeting begins at the Hopkins Academy gymnasium, May 5, 2022. —Scott Merzbach

Staff Writer
Published: 5/6/2022 1:36:13 PM

HADLEY — Hadley is joining several of its neighboring communities in prohibiting businesses from using single-use plastic bags, foam containers and plastic straws.

By a majority vote at Thursday’s annual Town Meeting, and after about 30 minutes of discussion, residents adopted the plastic reduction bylaw, to go into effect Jan. 1, 2023, that is similar to ones in place in Amherst, Northampton, Easthampton and South Hadley.

“Communities all over the United States and all over the world are speaking up to say we want a sustainable world, we don’t want oceans to be filled with toxic chemicals, we don’t want our food to be filled with toxic chemicals,” said Erika Hollister of Middle Street. “For us to be able to say to all those fast-food restaurants on Route 9 please help us to improve the situation, I think it’s a good thing.”

“I would like my town to be known as one that cares about the environment,” said Dina Friedman of Barstow Lane.

Bruce Brewer, a member of the Climate Change Committee who drafted the bylaw, said there is a serious plastic waste problem the bylaw will address. “You can’t ignore it any longer,” Brewer said.

Others, though, spoke against the bylaw.

“I oppose this with all vim and vigor,” said Kirk Whatley of Huntington Road, comparing use of plastic bags to the decision given residents whether or not to wear a mask at Town Meeting. “I don’t want it rammed down my throat what I do,” Whatley said.

Tony Fyden of Cold Spring Lane said the bylaw won’t accomplish what its supporters believe it will, and could have unintended consequences that will increase the use of plastics, while Select Board member Joyce Chunglo, who represented the 4-1 majority of her board against the bylaw, said it is anthithetical to Hadley values.

“We don’t govern what restaurants and other places do on their own,” Chunglo said.

Other votes

With no discussion, residents approved a $19.42 million operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, though Finance Committee Chairwoman Amy Fyden expressed concern that $400,00 in American Rescue Act Plan funding, of $1.5 million coming to the town, is being used to balance the budget.

The only spending that was defeated was a $255,000 payloader for the Department of Public Works, by a 75-53 vote in favor that was 11 votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority to authorize borrowing. That vote came after William Kelley of Stockbridge Street, who is also an employee of the water department, said the town should not be paying back borrowing using water reserves. “We use this machine very little,” Kelley said. Instead, he advocated for the reserves to go toward water projects in town.

Sharon Parsons of Mill Valley Road told townspeople the quality of water in her neighborhood is poor. “It’s about time water was fixed on Mill Valley Road and South Maple Street,” Parsons said.

Though Kelley expressed similar concern about using water reserves to pay back borrowing for a $400,000 plow truck, that article passed by a 114-35 vote.

A handful of residents also voted against $100,000 in Community Preservation Act spending for the First Congregational Church steeple, part of a $110,000 project, with concerns coming from John Silvestro of Rocky Hill Road that this project might be a violation of the separation of church and state, though KP Law Attorney Jeffrey Blake said his opinion is that this is a proper use of funds.

“It’s an iconic structure,” said Alan Weinberg, a member of the town’s Historical Commission. “I don’t think we’d want to see that steeple fall on Town Hall.”

An additional $24,100 in CPA is going for playgrounds, benches and gazebo at Zatyrka Park. “Really we want to make the park where it’s functional and usable,” said Parks and Recreation Director Greg LaSage.

Finally, $90,000 between CPA money and the transfer of development rights fund will preserve farmland and woodland owned by the West family on South Maple Street, and $18,000 in CPA will go toward a cemetery fence at the Hocaknum Cemetery.

Residents approved clarifying the name of Old Mountain Road, accepting Maegan’s Way as a town street, giving the building commissioner more leeway to remove temporary signs and clarifying the special permitting process. The Planning Board requested an article to allow stand-alone battery storage systems be passed over because it needs to be revised.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence for residents who have died and for the situation in Ukraine, Town Meeting began by recognizing three residents for their contributions to the town.

The annual town report was dedicated to two late residents. Janine Giles, who co-owned Hadley Garden Center with her husband, Tom Giles, and gave generously to the community, including wreaths that decorated the Town Hall doors during the holidays, and John Kieras, who served as commander of the American Legion post, co-owned Kieras Oil, was a regular participant in the Memorial Day parade and proclaimed Hadley the world’s asparagus capital.

The W. Fred Oakley Award for community service was given to Jean Baxter, a church, Girl Scouts, PTO and parade leader. “In Hadley, when you say ‘volunteer,’ Jean Baxter probably comes to mind,” is how Select Board Chairman David J. Fill II put it.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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