By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury’s Annual Town Meeting reconvened for a second night May 17 with Article 13 which was brought forth by Town Meeting Member Brian Moss, representing Sustainable Shrewsbury, a grassroots advocacy organization. This non-binding resolution opposes the artificial turf that has already been approved by the School Committee and is slated to be installed at Shrewsbury High School. It was defeated with a standing vote.
Moss, along with colleague, Catherine Rajwani, argued that natural grass is the preferred playing surface because it costs less and artificial turf is not regulated. There are environment and health risks, including MRSA, that are of concern. They cited a similar project that was to take place at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School which was recently rescinded.
School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Sawyer and School Committee Chair B. Dale Magee defended their decision to undertake this project. The rationale, according to Sawyer, is to “provide more access for more students and athletes more times during the year in adverse weather conditions with safe and consistent conditions for players.
“This project was proposed to solve a problem,” he continued. “Our field cannot withstand the use that it gets now and despite the excellent efforts of our parks department, with the limited amount of use it gets, has not been adequate. Many games need to be postponed or moved to another site [at great cost] when playing conditions are poor…This project provides great value for the community.”
Magee explained that they looked at every aspect of health threats and costs. It was their best judgement given the amount of reassurance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Article 14, the final citizen petition, was brought forth by Town Meeting Member Robert Ryan, Precinct 7. This article, which was defeated 136 to 6, would have repealed the Plastic Bag Reduction Bylaw adopted last year.
Ryan claimed the bylaw was an inappropriate “big government” intrusion on the daily operations of the Shrewsbury retail community and puts Shrewsbury at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring communities. He also shared that acceptable bags do not exist. One vendor, Go Green, makes a compostable bag but at a much higher cost.
Article opponents’ response was presented by bylaw creators, Melisa Hollenback and Jason Molina, both Town Meeting members. Hollenback noted that the bylaw is to go into effect July 1 and emphasized that it will reduce litter and that it is easy to do. She has been in constant contact with Town Manager Dan Morgado regarding implementation.
“Since Town Meeting approved this last year, 22 more towns have approved similar bylaws for a total of 53 towns and cities,” Molina said. “People don’t want to see more plastic waste in their streams and they don’t want to see more litter in their towns.”
Neighboring Grafton passed its bylaw last week.
One resident asked what legislation might be in the works on Beacon Hill. State Representative, Shrewsbury Town Meeting member and Finance Committee member Hannah Kane responded.
“There are two bills that are filed, one in the house and one in the senate. One has 21 co-sponsors out of 200 and one has 28 out of 200. They’ll be heard but I do not know if they will be voted out of committee this year…it’s too early to tell and we are still early in the legislative session.”