Published in the March 30, 2017 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Article 28 on this year’s Annual Town Meeting warrant will ask voters to ban “thin-film” plastic bags from being offered at any retail or grocery store within the town. The article was placed on the warrant as the result of a citizen petition signed by 10 registered voters.
The idea was initiated by Caitlin Bracken, who appeared before the board of selectmen this week to talk about her reasons for requesting the ban. She said that as a ninth grader at the Winsor School in Boston she has learned a lot about the environment in biology class.
“I’m really worried about global warming and especially plastic production because plastic never goes away,” she said. “If I had my way I’d ban all plastic, but I figured that this was the best way to start.”
After her dad, Sean Bracken, passed a handout to the selectmen, Caitlin explained some of the details of how a plastic bag ban would work. She said that a first offense would result in a written warning. The second offense would carry a $25 fine and any subsequent offenses would result in a $50 fine.
She said that some other types of plastic bags would not be affected, including those used to contain dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods and wet items.
Bracken’s handout presented a series of “Facts about Usage” and “Facts about Effects.” She claimed that four out of five grocery bags in the United States are plastic and that 50 percent of the plastic used is only being used once before being thrown away. She said that an American family uses 1,500 plastic bags a year.
She maintained that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic for every square mile of ocean and that thousands of marine creatures die due to plastic entanglement.
Bracken maintained that if Wakefield banned plastic bags, it would save approximately 7,772,000 bags a year. If the world continues to use plastic bags, she said, it could have dire consequences on world temperatures and sea levels by the year 2100.
Bracken said that her proposed ban would effect Wakefield stores like Shaw’s and CVS. She said that she wasn’t sure if Farmland’s thicker bags would be covered by the ban.
The handout listed 42 communities in Massachusetts that have banned plastic bags.
Individual board members congratulated Bracken and said that they were impressed with her presentation.
In other business this week, the Board of Selectmen:
• Approved a Town Meeting warrant article to fund the Debt Service Account at $4,252,000.
• Approved a warrant article for $877,975 from the Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department for their FY 2018 payment to the town in lieu of taxes.
• OK’d a Town Meeting article to fund a new police contract.
• Approved $20,000 from Free Cash in a Town Meeting article to indemnify police officers and firefighters against injuries in the line of duty.
• Approved a $165,000 warrant article to cover a deficit in the Fire Department overtime account.
• OK’d $180,000 in a warrant article for upgrades to the police and fire radio system.
• Approved a request from Town Treasurer John J. McCarthy, Jr. to transfer $275,338.38 from the capital projects account to the general fund to make bond payments due by April 17.
• Approved a request from Library Director Sharon Gilley to accept and expend $1,371 in gift from various donors.
• Appointed Beverly Milward, Kenneth Stache and Kevin Nichols as the town’s official animal inspectors for the state. The Division of Animal Health requires a municipal animal inspector for every city and town in the Commonwealth. The primary duty of the Animal Inspector has recently become rabies control in the domestic animal population. Municipal Animal Inspectors are also responsible for barn inspections and may be called to assist with domestic animal disease quarantines in the event of an outbreak.