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Monument Mountain Regional High School students Olivia Jaffe, Grace Phair and Carly Terranova make a PowerPoint presentation at Great Barrington's annual town meeting May 7 in support of the ban they were proposing on single-use plastic water bottles.

With petition filed, group ramps up effort to repeal plastic water bottle ban

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By Wednesday, Jun 27, 2018 News 53

Editor’s note: information from town officials on the cost of a special town meeting has been added to this article.

Great Barrington — As promised, a petition to call a special town meeting to repeal the town’s recent ban on single-use plastic water bottles has been filed with the town clerk’s office.

Laura Keefner. Photo courtesy Laura Keefner

Town clerk Marie Ryan confirmed today that she has received a petition with signatures from Great Barrington resident Laura Keefner, who had been active in opposing the bylaw after it was approved by voters at the May 7 annual town meeting.

“I’m glad I did it,” Keefner said in a brief interview. “I received a lot more support than I thought I would — by email, phone and Facebook.” Keefner added that she was harassed by some people on social media who accused her of a number of things she did not want to repeat.

But Keefner did repeat a number of talking points from a letter to the editor to The Edge that she wrote a couple of weeks after the ban was passed. “We were voted the best small town in America,” Keefner wrote, referring to the distinction awarded by Smithsonian Magazine in 2012. “Maybe, but you cannot buy water here.”

Keefner argued instead for enhanced recycling efforts and noted that youth athletic teams often sell bottled water at their games, which they could no longer do after the ban. And she also expressed concern that the ban would pit towns against each other because Great Barrington shoppers would have to travel and spend their money elsewhere for a product that is legal everywhere else in Berkshire County (three other towns in eastern Massachusetts have passed similar bans).

Keefner acknowledged that she did not attend the annual town meeting this year, in part because she was not aware of the proposed bylaw until a couple of days before the meeting. She assumed it would not pass and was later shocked to learn that it had.

Keefner considered trying to get it repealed next year, but ultimately decided she couldn’t wait that long. Other people she has since spoken to have said they thought the proposition would be on the ballot in November, not at the annual town meeting in May, Keefner said.

Plastic bottles of spring water stacked in the entrance of the Big Y in Great Barrington. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Ryan declined to release a copy of the petition because she is not authorized to do so until the signatures are certified and it is presented to the selectboard. She did not want to venture a guess as to when that would be. The board meets tomorrow to go into executive session to discuss pending litigation in a zoning dispute involving Gary J. O’Brien’s trucking company and residents of Roger Road. The petition is not on the agenda. The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday, July 9, at 7 p.m. 

Ryan said Massachusetts General Law stipulates that the petition must have the certified signatures of 200 registered voters or of 20 percent of the total number of registered voters of the town, whichever number is less. The special town meeting must be held no later than 45 days after the selectboard receives the request. Ryan said Keefner’s petition required 200 signatures but the petition contained 337. Ryan will have to certify the signatures. In most petition efforts, a certain percentage of the signatures are disqualified on technicalities, so organizers are urged to collect far more than the minimum.

Gorham & Norton owner John Tracy in the store office, photobombed by a goofy likeness of his wife Diane. Photo courtesy Gorham & Norton

Opposition to the ban sprang up even before the measure was passed by a margin of approximately 2–1. The new bylaw effectively bans the sale of single-use plastic noncarbonated water bottles of one liter in size or less within the town limits of Great Barrington. It will take effect May 1, 2019. 

John and Diane Tracy, who own Gorham & Norton, told the Edge they sell 30 cases a week of Poland Spring during the summer. Diane Tracy said this afternoon she had signed the petition but declined to comment further. 

The approval from residents at the annual town meeting followed a lengthy and impassioned appeal from three Monument Mountain Regional High School students. They pointed to an array of research and data indicating the environmental issues associated with plastic in general, and the single-use water bottles in particular because of the chronic infiltration of microplastic debris into the food chain.

Asked for comment, the members of the environment committee of the Berkshire Women’s Action Group and Indivisible Berkshires, the panel that had sponsored the successful bylaw, issued the following statement:

We welcome this opportunity to further inform the public about the critical need for this bylaw, and we trust that the broad majority who favored this bylaw at Annual Town Meeting will again express their support at the Special Town Meeting. Here are the main issues.

First, the plastics-recycling markets have dried up. Since China closed its doors, the dollars we used to receive have turned into pennies. Even before that, a paltry percentage of plastic was actually recycled, and the rest went to landfills, incineration, and waterways.

Second, we are concerned about small merchants who might lose revenue. To this end, we propose that merchants install filtered water dispensers in their stores, and sell compostable cups and lids. A composting service, Natural Upcycling, will pick up compostable “plastics” for their industrial composting facility.  

Third, we have focused specifically on water bottles because tap water is a healthy, cheap, and available alternative. In the future, we will expand our mission. In the meantime, we encourage others to tackle other single-use plastic products.

Currently, we are researching grants and private funding of water bottle refill stations in both GB and Housie. We note that this Special Town Meeting will cost the town $4,000, the equivalent of installing one water bottle refill station.

We look forward to working with merchants and town boards and staff to make a seamless transition to this bylaw. We hope the entire community will unite to make this bylaw something our town will be proud of.

On the issue of the cost to the town of a special town meeting, the Edge later received the following from Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin:

I am sending you an estimate for the cost of a special town meeting. Depending on if the Selectboard wishes to mail postcards and place legal advertisements, the cost would range between $2,580 to $4,005. There is not a legal requirement to do a mailing or run advertisements, so it can be determined by policy established by the Selectboard.

The Selectboard will set a date for the special town meeting at its next board meeting. They will also determine policy on the above line items. Please know these numbers are estimates based on prior expenditures. However, they are subject to change depending on the number of hours worked or items mailed etc.

Click here to see the spreadsheet itemizing the estimate.


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53 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Laura Keefner says:

    Where did the cost of the special town meeting come from? That is totally wrong!

    1. Suzie Fowle says:

      Do you have a different number (dollar amount), from a reliable source, to report?

      1. Laura Keefner says:

        Yes the town clerk. And it certainly is not 4000.00.

      2. Brian T says:

        Special town meetings in my town cost ZERO dollars. Elected Town officials like me are not paid hourly. Staff do ATM and STM prep work within their regularly paid hours. I doubt the utilities bill for using a room for an hour or two runs that high, although there may be some modest printing costs. Perhaps the EC could provide a detailed itemized list of expenses to support their claim.

    2. Jennifer Clark says:

      The figure of $4000 was given to us, members of the Environment Committee, in a meeting with town officials in early June.

      1. Suzie Fowle says:

        Thank you. Do you know: does it include all the prep time that Town employees have to put in, or just the costs associated with the meeting itself? (Obviously, there are additional, innumerable costs, like the Selectboard’s time.)

  2. Jennifer Clark says:

    A town-wide mailing of the postcard announcing the meeting comes to around $2000. The balance of $2000 was described as prep time and expenses incurred by Town employees. A lot of work goes into organizing a Town meeting.

    1. Brian T says:

      Why do a mass mailing? Think of the environment! Save a tree and send an e-mail.

      1. Laura Keefner says:

        The town uses the reverse 911System for various announcements. That could be used for alerting people to the STM.

  3. Jerry says:

    I’m not going to attend the special meeting but you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be collecting signatures to petition for another one if something goes on in there that I disagree with.

  4. Suzie Fowle says:

    To me, the costs of this special town meeting will be justified if we GB residents become more knowledgeable about plastics: how to start reducing plastics in our waste stream; and how to minimize our exposure to compounds leached by plastics. For anyone interested, here is a helpful article: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2009/04/29/2555698.htm
    And here is a filter I use for tap water, and have been happy with: https://www.berkeyfilters.com/

  5. Ruairi says:

    Mumbai, a city of 18 million people, has just banned single use plastic bottles. Shockingly, America uses ten times more plastic than India. Please keep Great Barrington on the right side of history, your minor inconvenience is not a huge price to pay for the environment you want your kids and grandkids to grow up in.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Hey Rauri, just curious…where do those numbers come from? Is it all plastics that America uses 10x the amount of, or is it 10x the amount of 1 liter water bottles? How does that number break down locally, can you tell me how many 1 liter and less water bottles are consumed in GB? And how many of those end up in the recycling stream? Any guess how many end up in the oceans? How does that compare to the plastic packaging used in all other beverages? Other food packaging? Other consumable products like laundry detergent and shampoo?
      Look at the info coming out of Concord. Their ban has had NO measurable effect on the amount of plastic used, additionally it has had NO perceptible effect on the amount of plastic used – as noted by the professionals who collect the trash and recyclable material in the town. It has had financial impact on the town and local businesses, however.
      If you are a registered voter in GB, I hope you stay active in the discussion and show up at the STM, and I hope to see you there. I would just ask you show up with an open mind.

      1. Ruairi says:

        the numbers come from the Guardian.
        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/25/mumbai-india-bans-plastic-bags-and-bottles
        Not surprisingly, this article doesn’t give specifics on plastics use in Great Barrington.
        It’s my opinion that we are doing severe damage to the planet with single use plastics. I see reuse as a better solution than recycling (obviously both should be encouraged)
        Earlier this year China stopped accepting certain plastics for recycling and since then Massachusetts has given companies waivers and some 4,000 tons of single-stream recyclables and more than 10,000 tons of glass have been sent to landfills.
        Here’s an article on how our current recycling system in Massachusetts is in trouble.
        https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/3k49q9/your-recycling-might-be-ending-up-in-landfills-because-of-chinas-new-policy
        It’s my opinion that banning single use plastics such as small water bottles is a step in the right direction, not for me but for the next generation and the one after that. I am proud of Great Barrington for taking a stand against these unsustainable plastics.

      2. Steve Farina says:

        Hey Rauari,
        I like the Guardian link…lol, maybe we too should start threatening jail time for people who use plastic bags, bottles, or cups – if the ban alone doesn’t drive down our tourism, busting people on the street for plastic use surely would.
        Yes, the per capita use of Americans is higher, but a major differentiating factor in the pollution can bee noted where the article points out:
        “India has among the highest rates of in the world, according to a 2015 study. Strewn plastic wrappers, cups and bags are a common sight on the streets of Indian cities and beaches and make up part of the mountain-sized landfills on the outskirts of major metropolitan areas such Delhi.”
        I don’t think anyone who wants to repeal the ban (though I don’t pretend to talk for anyone else) is saying “hey, we need to keep harming the environment so let us have our bottles”. In fact this issue seems to be dividing many environmentally concious friends, families, and neighbors.
        This is not India. This is America! (And, frankly, GB is more eco-friendly than most of America) Let people make their own decisions. Influence through education and encouragement. Some oversight at the transfer station, and trash/recycle collection points would have a bigger impact than this ban.
        China stopped taking our “contaminated” recycling by lowering their threshold of non-recyclable material allowed in the bundles. This speaks to our laziness and inattention when sorting and cleaning the items which can be recycled.
        There are also innovations being made in recycling (Google it).
        Though well intentioned, this ban does nothing but divide the community and increase the burden on both business owners and town taxpayers. It has essentially zero environmental impact.

      3. Steve Farina says:

        Not sure why it didn’t paste: the article states,
        India has among the highest rates of mismanaging plastic waste in the world…
        With a link to this:
        https://www.earthday.org/2018/04/06/top-20-countries-ranked-by-mass-of-mismanaged-plastic-waste/
        Which shows India with 87% mismanaged waste, compared to the US at 2%

      4. Ruairi says:

        I wasn’t directly comparing Mumbai and Great Barrington, or advocating for jail time, but you already knew that.
        I was trying to make the point that when it comes to plastics, we’re reaching a tipping point and we can’t rely solely on recycling. We have to start (re start) reusing. We have to set an example for our kids. We can’t afford to be a disposable society any more.

  6. Laura Keefner says:

    I am in contact with the town clerk and one board member to determine the cost of the meeting. Whatever the outcome, I am entitled to call a special meeting regardless of the cost.

    1. Jerry says:

      Givin that you were not present at the regular town meeting, I am worried that you will not fully appreciate just how special the special meeting is.

      That said, thank you for stating your willingness to spend town resources to exercise your rights.

      1. Laura Keefner says:

        Jerry, I would like to know your last name. And yes it is a right of every town citizen to ask for a special meeting regardless of the cost as told to me by one of the Selectboard.

      2. Jerry says:

        No one said you don’t have the right. You also have the right to attend the town meeting and join the discussion there. That would incur no additional costs to the town. Instead, you prefer to sit it out and then spend everyone’s tax dollars to reverse a ban that they voted for.

        All for a great cause though, saving the business community the lost revenue of bottled water sales, a real economic driver. How will local businesses ever come up with a way to replace the lost sales, like selling other beverages, with only a year to prepare?

    2. Steve Farina says:

      And apparently over 300 people agree with calling for a STM, including myself, though my signature is not on one that was turned in. Had the original ATM not been cut short, perhaps there would not be a need for a special meeting and the cost would have been averted. At the very least it is partially the blame of the select board member who halted discussion .
      Hopefully will will have a FULL discussion of the topic.
      In Concord, they are a town still divided over the issue after 8 years. The facts show there is NO measurable impact on the use of plastics, and there are still not “watering stations” throughout the town. There are many additional facts which we still need to discuss and fortunately we have the ability to look at Concord 5 years after they passed their bylaw (there were 3 years of failed attempts before the narrow passage, which occurred after a 2 hour discussion at that 3rd meeting ).
      I hope to see you all at the STM!

    3. George Grumbach says:

      Entitled is exactly the right word.

      1. Laura says:

        Does that term offend you? Too bad. It’s a fact.

    4. Brian T says:

      Laura is 100% right. People, including several from other towns, are trying to silence a Great Barrington voter and that’s not right.

      1. Laura Keefner says:

        Thank you. I have received a lot of verbal abuse over this entire matter but I am not backing down.

  7. Laura Keefner says:

    I am sorry if that term offends you but it is a fact.

  8. dennis irvine says:

    The cost of the democratic process should be borne by all citizens. Blaming specific citizens for the cost of a legally required STM is akin to advocating a poll tax and implying that the exercise of democratic rights should only be available to those who can pay for them.

  9. Janice Storti says:

    My problem with the ban involves the items in a typical grocery store that are encased or bottled in plastic. For safety’s sake and convenience, there are few glass containers left. Is no one drinking soda or sweet non-carbonated beverages any more? Most now come in plastic. Was water selected due to the high levels of usage? Why not place a deposit on water? Water is a much healthier alternative to soda or even juice. As much as I dislike plastic in the environment, it is here to stay until something biodegradable can be substituted. Wouldn’t it be more productive to find ways to discourage people from discarding plastic items improperly? Why not enforce the littering laws and and issue a healthy fine on people who are guilty? Why not place recycle bins around areas where these bottles are littering the area? Is there anyway to limit the brands that businesses can sell in Great Barrington so that some of the poorer quality and less expensive brands will be weeded out. I live in Housatonic, and I drink a great deal of water for health reasons. The water at my house is potable, and that is all. I dislike reusable bottles for sanitary reasons. At my age I don’t want to be dealing with gallon size bottles. They are heavy and unwieldy.

    The final point I want to make involves the previous town meeting. The vote on this matter came late into the evening and the discussion was shut down before everyone had a chance to speak. In this vein, all I hear is that if you don’t attend the town meeting, you are out of luck. For various and sundry reasons not every can or does get the annual town meeting. Illlness, old-age, work, young children, etc., are just some of the reasons people may not attend. I commend the publicity that comes before the town meeting and the old-fashioned democratic ideals that accompany such a community event. But, if people pay taxes, there should be some sort of an outreach for them to vote on items if they cannot attend.

    1. Joseph Method says:

      I disagree with you on the first part but agree with you on the second. Town meeting is one of my favorite events of the year (maybe I’m weird…) but I’m afraid it has the effect of disenfranchising people. We should try some other things out, like maybe holding it on a weekend or splitting into multiple days, or only using it to discuss the budget and leaving any citizen petition issues for the ballot.

      1. Laura Keefner says:

        Many people thought this was going to be a ballot question. There was some confusion over this. Splitting the meeting into two separate days is a great idea but sadly people do not want to come back for a second day. Unfortunately some articles are left to the end when a lot of people have left.

    2. Laura Keefner says:

      Well spoken Janice. Thank you. Let me know if you need a ride to the meeting.

    3. Steve Farina says:

      Hi Janice,
      I agree with much of what you are saying. I especially agree with your assessment of the wide use of other plastic containers. In fact, 1 liter or less plastic water bottles are only 3% of the total beverage packing in use (I get this number from a Berkshire Mountain Spring water executive who posted it on the Edge prior to the ATM – I take it at face value, as it seems about right). Taken as a whole of all plastic packaging for food, beverages, and other consumable items it would account for only a fraction of one percent of the entire plastic use. So, at best a safe low ball estimate is that even if this ban stays the impact is that 99.5-99.8% (and probably higher) of all plastics are still in use.
      The Town of Concord officials tell us they see NO measurable and NO perceived reduction in plastic usage – this is why.

      The issue of an “absentee” voting mechanism is an interesting idea. The problem with instituting it, as well as making it a ballot initiative, is that the ATM allows for floor modification of the items proposed. Short of live streaming with secure login to allow only registered voters to vote on the modified issues, there are few options to handle to floor amendments.
      I am not against the non budget items being ballot initiatives as this would require better due diligence, while also allowing for a broader vote (not just the 350 – 400 people who can/do actually attend ATM).
      Had this particular bylaw been a ballot initiative I suspect it would have failed as the professionally prepared, and High School girl delivered, presentation would not have been able to be used to sway emotional opinions. Had it passed as a ballot initiative, It would have banned ALL 1 liter and less containers of water (glass, plastic, and cardboard), would be taking effect on the 1st of January, and without the rediculous exception for 1st responders (who will have nowhere to purchase the bottles).
      I encourage you to find a way to attend the STM to help repeal this useless, “feel good”, bylaw that actually does NOTHING to help the environment, yet INCRRASES the burden on the taxpayers of Great Barrington.

  10. Terry Cowgill says:

    I just got off the phone with Great Barrington Town Clerk Marie Ryan. She did not have a firm figure for how much it costs to hold a special town meeting. The printing for the meeting can be done in-house. The meeting would have to be noticed or advertised. A police officer would have to present for the meeting and would need to be compensated for his/her time. None of those items are expensive. Collectively, they would not cost anywhere near $4,000.

    The big question mark is whether town counsel would attend. That would be up to the selectmen. The law firm the town uses, KP Law, is one of the preeminent municipal law firms in the state and is not cheap. It’s based in Boston, though the firm has a small office in Lenox. Town counsel David Doneski is based in Boston and so would presumably have to travel to Great Barrington and would bill the town for his time and expenses. Even in that case, Ryan does not think the total would add up to $4,000.

    Ryan suspects the $4,000 figure may have been the result of some confusion between an election and special town meeting. Elections are more elaborate involve far more labor and time than a special town meeting. Elections typically cost between $4,000 and $6,000 to stage.

    Hope this helps. Sorry I could not get a more conclusive answer.

    1. Ed Abrahams says:

      Quick correction: When a KP Law attorney travels to GB, even if coming from Boston, we are only charged for travel time from their closest office, Lenox.

      Lawyers still aren’t cheap, but that’s a savings the town negotiated.

      1. Terry Cowgill says:

        Thanks Ed.

  11. Terry Cowgill says:

    At last night’s selectboard meeting, I asked about the costs. Chairman Steve Bannon said he would get the costs of the annual town meeting and send them out. It’s not a perfect comparison but it could serve as a guide. He also indicated town counsel would almost certainly be present for this special town meeting. The petition could not be presented last night because it only arrived yesterday. The board will review it on July 9.

  12. Joseph Method says:

    To address one of Steve’s talking points, the information about Concord’s article, based on the article that he shared on a different post, is *inconclusive*. The officials who provided the information didn’t try to estimate the amount of plastic in their mixed recycling, let alone plastic *from* plastic bottles or single use plastic bottles. Then in the same period of time the town grew substantially. The result is the “no measurable impact” that Steve keeps citing. I think it’s a legitimate data point, to say that we don’t have evidence from the Concord case that a ban would reduce overall plastic in the recycling stream. But it’s important to keep in mind that we don’t have evidence that the ban *didn’t* work. Maybe the town would have used much more plastic without the ban as it grew in population. Maybe increases in the amount of plastic packaging made it a wash. We just don’t know. This is all to say that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Hi Joseph,
      Yes there is evidence the ban has not worked. In the comment stream you mention, Cynthia LaPier didn’t like my “right wing” source and provided this link to an article dated June 5th of this year:

      https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2018/06/05/a-look-at-concords-plastic-water-bottle-ban-five-years-in

      Please note this paragrapgh:
      “This year alone they’ve added five new, modern filling stations at a cost of about $5,000 a pop. Most of those have gone in near parks and athletic fields, where plastic water bottles remained ubiquitous for years, even after the ban on their sale went into effect.”
      So water bottles were and are still being used in Concord. And 8 years after the discussion of the topic began they are just now putting “watering stations” in parks and near athletic fields where plastic bottle use is ubiquitous. By the way, these “station” installations are being at least partially paid for with TAXPAYER (Community Preservation Fund) money, counter to the assertions made in GB. No mention is made of who drains them in winter, and maintains them throughout the year…I suspect more taxpayer money used for that. Plus, the increased burden on the water treatment/delivery is not going to be paid for by the tourists who use these stations, the costs for the tourists to utilize these will be bourne by the Concord taxpayer.
      And:
      This is what the recycling truck drivers say about plastic bottles, 8 years after the discussion started, 5 years after the ban took effect:
      “”We ask the people who are driving the recycling trucks, ‘What are you seeing,’ and they say ‘We’ve definitely seen a decrease,'” she said. “But it’s hard to measure. So, I can’t say how many bottles we’ve saved, unfortunately.” – Erin Stevens, Concord Public Information Officer

      The ban sounds pretty ineffective to me. It clearly can’t be measured by the “tonnage” numbers provided by the Town to the State, and used by the supporters of the GB ban to indicate a significant (less than 4%) drop the year after inception. In fact in subsequent years the recycling tonnage skyrocketed and dipped with no rhyme or reason, as rightly noted by Concord officials.
      So, our recourse is to check the feet on the street, the truck drivers who see what is in the bins they empty. And, well, they can’t say they’ve noticed much of a change, if any at all – 5 years later.

      And this link was provided on The Edge by a supporter of the ban because she didn’t like my “right wing” source which came to many of the same conclusions.

      1. Joseph Method says:

        Steve, that’s a very selective reading of that article! Even the quote you select says “we’ve definitely seen a decrease and “it’s hard to measure” which you turn into “they can’t say they’ve noticed much of a change.” That’s my point. If you can’t measure something you can’t say there is a decrease and you can’t say isn’t a decrease. You can’t really say anything based on the numbers. Meanwhile the subjective opinion of most people in the article is that it has made a difference!

      2. Steve Farina says:

        I suppose it depends on what they are seeing a decrease in. The wording seems to reflect water bottles, not plastic in general. Other places in the article note the continued use of water bottles, even after the ban.

        “Most of those [ the 5 watering stations installed THIS year] have gone in near parks and athletic fields, where plastic water bottles remained ubiquitous for years, even after the ban on their sale went into effect.”

        If this was actually an effective ban, wouldn’t the drivers say something like, “we definitely don’t see water bottles anymore”? Or maybe, “water bottle are virtually eliminated from our recycling stream “?
        They don’t. And it is 5 years after the ban.

        Wouldn’t athletic fields and parks have been places where a noticeable absence of water bottles would stand out? Instead they have been in continued use even after the ban.

        Of course with the ban there will be at least some decrease in plastic water bottles in the recycling stream. At only 3% of bottled beverage packaging and a minute percentage of plastic packaging in total, even on its best day the ban has essentially no environmental impact.
        Additionally, the merchants in Concord have figured out ways around it by selling 1.5l water bottles, or even the cardboard boxed water containers (which substitute one type of recyclable for another – which the Chinese have also “banned”).

        As I have stated elsewhere, it has made a difference. It has kept the Town of Concord divided over an issue for 8 years.

        They still have to deal with the same plastic proliferation of our society, the same recycling challenges – as China demands that we stop throwing our trash in (as an aside, in my trip to the GB xfer station today I found lawn chairs and window shutters [contaminants] in the comingled bin, and soda cans and nip bottles in the paper bin), and the added burden on the taxpayer.
        The GB bylaw has essentially no environmental impact, adds burden to small local businesses, and increases the burden on the taxpayers. It would be most beneficial to repeal the bylaw at the STM. Our efforts can then be spent on educating, encouraging and overseeing a more effective recycling program – which by the way will have to happen anyway if we are to truly improve the plastic dilemma.

      3. Steve Farina says:

        And hopefully that is something we can all agree on.

      4. Mary Ellen Foster says:

        Why are we so willing to believe that we are such a backwater that something really big, something truly important to the environment can’t begin here? That it’s such a daunting problem we can’t imagine our town being part of the beginning? Even if the impact is minimal the act of simply trying is monumental. What a beautiful lesson to teach our children.

        I remember the days as a non smoker when I would have to endure second hand smoke everywhere. Absolutely everywhere! On the job, in public offices and the worst, in restaurants. You couldn’t finish your salad when someone was puffing smoke in your face. “Cigars, cigarettes, Cigarellos!” Who would ever have thought back then that smoking would be banned? That it actually could be banned? My goodness, what a novel idea. Did the restaurants go out of business because of it?

        Why can’t we see the better we that our town can be? We have to start someplace. Why not here in Great Barrington?

      5. Steve Farina says:

        Mary Ellen, Thank you for commenting. The unfortunate truth is this is not big, not in terms of impacting the environment anyway.
        This also is not smoking. Banning cigarettes in restaurants is not even close to the same thing, eben as an analogy. Cigarettes were not being replaced with some form of alternative at taxpayer expense.
        Why not start here with the system we already have in place – recycling – and teach people what is actually recyclable, encourage them to actually recycle on purpose, with forethought, and have our paid attendant at the transfer station trained to provide oversight to ensure we don’t continue to contaminate our recyclables. Maybe we could even have some High Schoolers volunteer to help out with it.
        Rather than repeat myself again, please reread my comments they really do make sense. This ban does not.

      6. Mary Ellen Foster says:

        Steve, Taxpayers, whether local, state or federal, are footing millions for a downtown makeover but placing a couple water fountains or “refill stations” is beyond affordable. What did we ever do before plastic bottled water?

        We have to start someplace. Why not in Great Barrington?

        “The scales of nature will always seek equilibrium. A feather can tip the balance.” Terry Tempest Williams

      7. Steve Farina says:

        What exactly do you think this “starts”, Mary Ellen?
        If the whole world banned these water bottles, it would still only be a fraction of a percent of the plastic in use.
        Please note also, at the ATM Article 23 passed without an issue. This added to the polystyrene ban and banned polypropylene food packaging – not a word has been heard since…why? Because it makes sense.

        The water bottle ban does not.

        We still have to deal with the same plastic proliferation of our society and the same recycling challenges –even more urgently as China demands that we stop throwing our trash in.

      8. Mary Ellen Foster says:

        Sending our crap to China let us put a fake happy face on a devasting environmental hazard. Blame China and blame ourselves. Plastic lasts forever. Ban bottles today and tomorrow, who knows, perhaps mayonnaise jars. Oh . . . . and credit cards too. That will really save us some money.

        As previously mentioned, we’ll just have to agree to disagree and attend the Special Town Meeting.

      9. Steve Farina says:

        Mary Ellen, I can sense your frustration when being faced with the truths of this. And, this ban is not about mayo jars or credit cards, or the keyboard you probably typed that on…
        It is about 1liter and less water bottles.
        You seem to have bought the emotional argument and are ignoring the facts, which i have previously presented.
        For your sake and others still reading, let me ask:
        What are the next steps?
        Concord is 5 years into the 1L water bottle ban and their next step is that they are still trying to catch up to it by using taxpayer money to install and maintain watering stations around town. Nothing else is banned…yet 8 years after the discussion started the town is still divided on the issue and they still need to educate people on how to separate recyclable material – which by the way, we all need better education on – we still have 99% of the plastic dilemma to figure out, plus other recyclable materials.
        It is time for Great Barrington to repeal the ban and UNITE in finding the solution to the true problem, not continue to be divided over just a fraction of a percent of the problem.
        Over 300 people signed the petition to call for a STM – far more than the number who voted in favor of Article 22. Hopefully, they all show up and voice their concerns. I happen to be currently watching a documentary on Amazon Prime called Divide in Concord which shows how organized the proponents of the ban were. A lot of effort went into convincing people to support the ban. Fortunately, we can look at the effects 5 years down the road and see it does not live up to its hype. And we can see just how politicized this issue is. It was more about “being right” than actually figuring out what the best course of action is.
        I do hope to see you at the STM, maybe you will introduce yourself to me, I enjoy meeting others who are willing to share comments, even if they do not often agree with me.
        Of course, I also hope to see and hear from those who want to see this repealed.

  13. Terry Cowgill says:

    Just received the following from Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin:

    I am sending you an estimate for the cost of a special town meeting. Depending on if the Selectboard wishes to mail postcards and place legal advertisements, the cost would range between $2,580 to $4,005. There is not a legal requirement to do a mailing or run advertisements, so it can be determined by policy established by the Selectboard.

    The Selectboard will set a date for the special town meeting at its next board meeting. They will also determine policy on the above line items. Please know these numbers are estimates based on prior expenditures. However, they are subject to change depending on the number of hours worked or items mailed etc.

    Click here to see the spreadsheet itemizing the estimate.

    1. Laura Keefner says:

      I see no reason to send postcards. The town uses the reverse 911 System for other announcements, so,why couldn’t they use it for this purpose? I plan on going to the meeting on the 9th and will express my idea on this. Thank you for the information.

      1. Tom Blauvelt says:

        Hi Laura, not everyone has signed up for the reverse 911 system so the town needs to do a mailing.

  14. Laura Keefner says:

    Special town meeting set for August 6th at 6 pm at MMRHS. No postcards will be sent out and no advertising will be done, so that will help keep the cost down. Pleas come and make your voice heard!

  15. Denise says:

    Disabled American that can not get to watering stations that we do not even have in Great Barrington, that can not lift or carry at 1.5 liter of bottled water !! the Americans Disability ACT where are you on this issue??? does anyone have any concern for the disabled and elderly?

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