Selectmen Vote Not To Recommend World Flag, Table Proposed Styrofoam Ban

Annual Town Meeting is now less than a month away and on Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen recommended nearly all of warrant articles that will go before Town Meeting voters.

Among the 27 warrant articles on this year’s Annual Town Meeting warrant, the Board of Selectmen discussed their motions for recommendation on 17 on Tuesday, unanimously recommending 15.

The only warrant article they voted not to recommend was Article 17, a petition to support a Westford resident’s World Flag.

Most discussion on the flag was given at the Selectmen’s last meeting, where a recommendation ended in a 2-2-0 deadlock due to Andrea Peraner-Sweet’s absence.

Petitioner Chaitanya Hiremath briefly discussed the petition again to the board, indicating that it would not incur any cost or liability to the town.

Mark Kost on March 8, 2016

Mark Kost on March 8, 2016

Despite this, Peraner-Sweet joined Mark Kost and Scott Hazelton in voting not to recommend the warrant article.

Previous petitions for the World Flag failed at Town Meetings in 2011 and 2014.

The Selectmen also began discussion on Article 20, a petition that would ban the use of Styrofoam in town.

However, how far-reaching the ban would go was a matter of some confusion to the Selectmen, as they indicated to petitioners Richard Coleman and Anastasia O’Malley.

In particular, they indicated that certain parts of the petition contradicted other parts, making it unclear whether the ban applied just to town government departments or to businesses as well.

Coleman told the board that the petition would apply to any entity requiring a license to handle food from the Board of Health, although there was still confusion over whether Westford’s public schools would be allowed to opt out of the ban.

During deliberation on the petition, Coleman told the board that school officials supported his measure in theory, although additional fiscal research was needed as the measure would add 15 cents to each school lunch.

For Kost, applying a law to private enterprises but not governmental bodies appeared to be a double standard. Additionally, he and other Selectmen were reticent to take any position on the petition due to the lack of financial impacts the measure would have on local business and the town’s budget.

The Selectmen tabled any motion related to the petition until obtaining a recommendation for or against the petition from the Board of Health, who would ultimately be tasked with enforcing the ban if Town Meeting decided to make it into a bylaw and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office found it to be consistent with state law.

Among the other warrant articles, only a portion of Article 7 had more than a brief discussion. That part of Article 7 discussed recommendation of funding for water main renovations on Main Street.

Those renovations, scheduled to begin next year, became the subject of controversy from several residents in the area after they posed opposition to bike lanes being added onto the project and later the addition of simultaneous construction of sidewalks.

The funding for the sidewalks was not approved by the 2015 Autumn Special Town Meeting, although some neighborhood residents hoped the Selectmen would use the water main renovation to pursue a more limited sidewalk construction project.

As what they saw as a compromise, these residents recommended that the sidewalk extend only from Tadmuck Road to the Tedeschi’s Plaza on Main Street, facilitating walking for local children and teenagers who frequently walk to the plaza.

While the Selectmen did not take any action for or against the proposal, there was a general viewpoint that the matter should first be investigated more thoroughly by the Pedestrian Safety Committee and that the large number of projects the town has to take on made taking on new projects difficult, even ones that might be obtained at a discount.

“In my point of view, we’ve already compromised a fair amount,” said Selectman Don Siriani. “At this point, it’s not as much about compromising as much as prioritizing.”

That part of Article 7, and all other capital appropriations within other parts of Article 7, were recommended unanimously.

The Selectmen are expected to conclude all recommendation motions for the Town Meeting warrant at their next scheduled meeting on March 22.