Hilltown Voices: The dos and don’ts of burning season

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For the Gazette
Published: 1/25/2020 2:04:32 PM
Modified: 1/25/2020 2:04:17 PM

From Jan. 15 to May 1, residents in the Hilltowns and throughout most of Massachusetts will be allowed to engage in the open burning of brush provided that they first obtain a permit to do so, and follow the regulations that pertain to burning season.

The burning season is designated during these months to prevent woodland fires from starting and spreading.

“This time of year is the best time to burn because the environment is much more protected with snow on the ground,” Plainfield Chief David Alvord said. “When the spring arrives and the winds come up, it can become more dangerous.”

According to state regulations, only brush may be burned. This includes cane, fruit tree and bush prunings, and trees and brush from agricultural land clearing. It is illegal, however, to burn grass, leaves, hay, stumps, furniture of any kind or building debris.

Local fire departments issue burn permits, but Alvord says residents should understand that it is the MassDEP that has the final say as to whether burning may take place on any given day based on the current air quality.

“Some people have a hard time with that because I may have issued a permit, and it can look like a beautiful day here in Plainfield, but the air quality may have been determined to be unacceptable for burning,” he said.

There is an Air Quality Hotline (800-882-1497) that can be called to find out if burning is acceptable on a given day, or people can also visit MassAir online.

Alvord said towns may have different regulations with regard to things such as specific times for open burning, fines and how to obtain a permit.

Permits can generally be obtained by calling your fire department, although for residents in Williamsburg and Goshen, permits can also be applied for online.

In Plainfield, violating the open burning regulations will result in a fine of $100 for the first violation, $500 fine for the second and $1,000 for the third and any further violations.

“Some people will try to burn stuff that they don’t want to pay to get rid of,” Alvord said. “In general, people respect the rules, but every year we have a few people that we have to speak to.”

Alvord said that the burning of illegal materials will result in the immediate termination of the fire and a fine. The following is a list of fire department numbers in the six hilltowns of Hampshire County: Chesterfield 296-4049; Cummington 634-0333; Goshen 268-7161; Plainfield 634-5470; Williamsburg 268-7233; and Worthington 238-4445.

Vote on subsidies for broadband connections

CHESTERFIELD — There will be a special town meeting Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. to vote on using existing town funds to subsidize the cost of connecting each house to the new broadband network.

The cost associated with connecting the network from the street to individual homes was not included in a previous debt exclusion vote to construct the network, as state officials assumed subscribers would pick up that cost.

That cost, however, turned out to be $500,000, or roughly $600 for each subscriber. Therefore, the Chesterfield municipal light plant has asked the town to use existing funds to subsidize this cost.

Funds will be requested from three town resources in three separate warrant articles. Voters will be asked to consider $300,000 from Free Cash, $100,000 from the General Stabilization Fund and $100,000 from the Capital Stabilization Fund.

According to Broadband Chesterfield Committee, if the articles pass, this could mean that all residents of Chesterfield who subscribe to broadband service would be eligible for a subsidy to connect their home to the broadband network.

The committee says that 99 percent of subscribing homes would also “receive free installation, including interior wiring and router, during the subscription period.”

Should the articles fail to pass, each homeowner who wishes to subscribe to broadband service would be responsible for paying their own installation costs.

“This is long overdue,” said Chesterfield resident Matt Barron. “I certainly don’t think there is going to be any problem getting a quorum on February 4th !”

The special Town meeting will take place at the Chesterfield Community Center, at 400 Main Road. A snow date of Feb. 5 has been arranged in case of inclement weather.

Planning ahead in Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG — The public is invited to an open community meeting to discuss the future of Williamsburg regarding vulnerability in a changing climate, open space and conservation, and public safety infrastructure.

Residents are asked to come and contribute their opinions and priorities on these important issues Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Willliamsburg Town Offices.

This event will be hosted by the Williamsburg Mill River Greenway Committee, the Open Space Committee, and the OPM Steering Committee, which is overseeing the Public Safety Complex planning process.

The meeting is being held as part of the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness planning process, funded by a grant from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.




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