Hadley Town Meeting opts out of mosquito control

Staff Writer
Published: 10/17/2021 8:28:50 PM

HADLEY — Hadley is opting out of the state’s mosquito control program following a majority vote by residents at fall Town Meeting Saturday.

“While opting out doesn’t guarantee we’ll not be sprayed, not to apply would say it is OK to expose all of us, fish and essential beneficial pollinators, to hazardous chemical control of mosquitoes,” said Roberta Kamen of Mount Warner Road and a backyard beekeeper.

Kamen said there are potential risks to pollinators and fish from the chemical applications from truck and aerial spraying, and opting out gives the town time to develop a comprehensive and complete opt-out application.

The last of 14 articles on the warrant was passed by a majority vote following significant discussion, taking up about 30 minutes of the 90-minute meeting that began late due to lack of a quorum

Voters passed all other articles on the warrant, including a series of capital and Community Preservation Act spending proposals.

In voting to opt out from the spraying, voters went against a 4-1 advisory from the Select Board to stay in the program to combat mosquito-born illnesses

Sharon Parsons of Mill Valley Road said there are risks to not spraying or having an alternative plan in place, reflecting on her sister-in-law falling ill to mosquito-borne encephalitis.

“It’s like closing the barn door before you put your horse in,” Parsons said. “We should not opt out until we know there is another plan to opt out with.”

Board of Health Chairwoman Dr. Susan Mosler said her board is perplexed by the Select Board’s stance on both mosquito spraying and policies surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations.

“The Select Board appears to be in favor of spraying large areas of our town with toxic pesticides,” Mosler said.

Select Board member Amy Parsons, who recommended the town stay in the program, disputed that opting out would prevent spraying.

“Opting out doesn’t mean that we’re not going to get sprayed,” Parsons said. “We’re going to get trumped by the state.”

Most of those who spoke, though, favored opting out.

Beth Epstein of Hockanum Road said there are alternative treatments that can be used. She compared the toxins in spraying to the herbicide used during the Vietnam War to clear vegetation. “If you look at the history of Agent Orange, it took 40 years before everything was known about that chemical,” Epstein said.

Voters approved $629,954 in spending on capital projects, with no Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion overrides needed. Among these are $199,654 for public safety communications equipment, including desktop radios for dispatchers, $130,000 for pipe lining and sewer repairs, and $75,000 to acquire a drum asphalt roller for the Department of Public Works.

From the Community Preservation Act account, $218,600 was spent, with $100,000 targeted to the Hadley Affordable Housing Trust.

Dan Dudkiewicz of Hockanum Road said he was concerned about $75,000 going to the Hadley Housing Authority to put in new windows at the Golden Court public housing complex, replacing original 1950s-era windows. The state, he said, should have enough money to do this on its own with rents collected from the residents.

“Why in the heck would we be picking up the bill for this?” Dudkiewicz asked.

Mary Thayer, chairwoman of the CPA Committee, said the state, though, has encouraged housing authorities to seek CPA funding to meet their missions.

Another $31,000 from CPA supplements $35,000 appropriated at the May 2018, annual Town Meeting for preserving and rehabbing the historic columns at the 1840 Town Hall. And $6,400 will buy eight picnic tables for the pavilion at the elementary school, and $6,200 will go toward restoration of the John Gnatek “Old Hadley” mural.

Voters also approved a revision to the transfer of development rights that allows the bylaw to be used at more commercial and industrial locations, the transfer of Goodwin Memorial Library to town ownership and moving $750,000 of the $1.36 million in free cash to the town’s stabilization account.

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

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