Selectmen vote to send plastic bag ban to voters

by | Sep 12, 2018

Following Monday night’s second public hearing on Selectman Tristan LaLiberte’s proposed town-wide plastic bag ban, the Board of Selectmen voted to leave the decision to the voters.

The public hearing portion of the meeting lasted for about 45 minutes, with 9 Auburn residents in attendance. Six people offered their view on the proposal, which would ban single use plastic shopping bans within the Town of Auburn. Three spoke against the ban, while three spoke in favor.

Resident Tim Lebel argued that the ban was just another regulation imposed by government that restricts freedom.

“We already have other options” said Lebel. “There are cloth bags, reusable plastic bags, and the dingle use shopping bags are recyclable. Banning these bags restricts our freedom of choice.”

“It’s not right that a certain group of people to determine and ban what they think is good for everyone else” said resident Doug Nelson. “It’s about freedom. Reusable bags get dirty. Paper bags rip. People should be allowed the choice, and we should encourage them not to use plastic bags that will make a mess, but I don’t think it should be enforced upon them. ” he added.

Speaking in favor of the proposal, Lisa Rocheford, a volunteer on the Solid Waste Advisory Committee stated, “I have seen how these [single use plastic] bags clog the machinery at our recycling facility. They are very disruptive to the process.”

Robert Kearns, a Sierra Club Executive Committee member spoke in favor of the ban on behalf of the Sierra Club’s approximately 200 members who reside in Auburn, according to Kearns.

“The cost to the environment exceeds the cost to retailers. Plastic bans are a danger to wildlife. They also degrade into microplastics which, once in the ocean, cannot be removed and cause significant harm to marine life.”

The BOS members themselves were split on the matter. LaLiberte – the proposal’s sponsor – was obviously in favor. Lionel Berthiaume and Ken Holstrom both expressed reservations about the proposed ban.

Said Berthiaume, “It’s a difficult topic. I support what the ban is trying to do to help the environment, but I don’t feel more regulation is the answer.”

Holstrom echoed, “The Town has come a long way through education, and I think that is the way to go, I am not sure regulation is the answer.”

Doreen Goodrich supported the proposal, but felt the decision is best left to Auburn voters. “Me, personally, I support this idea. But I was elected to speak for everyone, so I would support a ballot question in the next annual Town election [May 2019] to let the voters decide.”

All of the Selectmen were in favor of this approach, and unanimously voted to place the question on the next Town election ballot in May 2019.

In other business, the board voted to accept the Hazard Mitigation Plan that has been in the works for a number of months. Spokesperson Adam Menard with the Central Mass Regional Planning Commission gave a brief overview of the plan, which makes Auburn eligible for non-emergency federal disaster assistance. This could include snowstorms, severe thunderstorms, wind, or flooding.  The BOS voted unanimously to accept the plan, which will now be sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for approval and recording.

The BOS voted to appoint Peter Jones as an alternate on the Zoning Board of Appeals for a term through 6/30/21.