By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Contracts will dominate the docket, but a proposed plastic bag ban and a possible fire department staffing increase may steal the show as voters weigh in on 19 articles at Hudson’s town meeting later this month.
Scheduled for Monday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the Hudson High School auditorium, 69 Brigham St., the town meeting will, first, feature a discussion and vote on the bag ban, which has been in the works since at least the beginning of October.
“The idea is that we want to eliminate single-use plastic bags,” said Diana Andrews, a representative of the advocacy group, Green Hudson, which first pitched the ban to the town. “[We want to] encourage people to use reusable bags and hopefully even ones made from recycled materials.”
Should the measure pass, local merchants will have until June 1, 2020 to phase out single-use plastic bags in favor of recycled paper or reusable ones.
In that sense, this proposal mirrors those crafted by area municipalities including nearby towns Northborough, Westborough and Shrewsbury. It differs, however, in its specific wording, as Westborough allowed “marine degradable” plastics, while both Westborough and Northborough cracked down on Styrofoam takeout containers in tandem with their plastic bag restrictions.
“That is definitely on our radar,” Andrews said, specifically on the issue of takeout containers. “The concern was that we didn’t want to go too big and run the risk of not getting anything passed. [But] that’s definitely something that we’re looking into. Maybe that’s one of the next steps.”
Though area grocery stores did not respond to Community Advocate requests for comment for this story, Conservation Agent Pam Helinek said local business reaction to the proposal has been positive. She added that some had even assumed that the ban was already in effect.
“I think pretty much everybody has been expecting it to come,” Helinek said. “Especially the big retailers, they kind of already have it all figured out.”
However, for the ban to pass, it will need a majority vote at Town Meeting. That’s something Hudson’s neighbors have, at times, struggled to obtain through their respective plastic bag banning processes.
Northborough’s first attempt to enact a ban failed outright. Meanwhile, Shrewsbury’s ban, which was one of the first in the area back in 2016, ignited fierce debate culminating in a failed attempt to strike down the bylaw in 2017.
Aware of those struggles, those pushing Hudson’s proposal hope voters will err on the side of environmental consciousness, citing the destructive impact of the estimated 10 million bags the town churns through every year, according to Green Hudson.
“We’re just trying to make Hudson more environmentally friendly and healthy,” Andrews said.
Among other articles, voters will also debate two petitions requesting more firefighter benefits and an additional firefighter position. Those come after a spring and summer of frequent and at times heated confrontations between local firefighters and the Board of Selectmen over the department’s management and budget. In line with that, the town Finance Committee named those two petition articles as the only ones it opposes on this meeting’s warrant.
The Hudson Firefighters Local 1713 advocacy organization did not respond to a request for comment.
Finally, voters will vote on a series of three collective bargaining agreements with town employees and decide whether to grant the school committee the right to extend its existing transportation contract when it ends in two years.
“It’s a no-brainer which means this is an easy warrant for us,” said School Committee member Michelle Tousignant Dufor. “We’re not even asking for money, just the ability to negotiate when the time comes.”
The entire warrant, including all 19 articles, can be viewed at www.townofhudson.org/home/news/special-town-meeting-monday-nov-18-2019-time-730pm-hudson-high-school-auditorium.