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Cornwall raises concerns over railroad spraying

CORNWALL — Year after year, the Housatonic Railroad Company (HRRC) submits a proposed vegetation management plan that includes the spraying of herbicide along its scenic railroad track. Despite health concerns raised by residents and conservationists over the years, these plans have remained largely unchanged.

In response to this year’s HRRC vegetation management plan, the Cornwall selectmen have penned a letter of requests and demands related to the spraying of herbicide. Among other things, this letter demanded a precise spraying notification process including types of herbicide and dates, requested the removal of Method 240SL herbicide due to its EPA warning label, and urged increased mowing and reduced spraying.

“I like the idea that you’re suggesting they do something more environmentally sensitive,” said Selectwoman Priscilla Pavel.

The letter also requested the arrangement of a regular meeting between HRRC, DEEP, ConnDOT, and state and local representatives for ongoing discussion of these matters.

“I’ve already talked with Maria Horn, and she is in favor of meeting,” said First Selectman Gordon Ridgway. “I think our legislators are interested in trying to improve on what are the state regulations.”

The board approved a motion to send this letter to HRRC. Ridgway hopes that the first meeting can be held within the next month, well before spraying season begins for the year. Attempts to reach HRRC for comment were unsuccessful.

The selectmen provided an update on the town’s composting program and presented rough draft designs of the proposed plan. Ridgway reviewed plans with Zoning Enforcement Officer Karen Nelson prior to this meeting.

When reviewing the plan, Ridgway said, “Karen had no problem with this. These are all intrinsically harmless materials and we’re doing something positive by getting a good byproduct here in town.”

If approved by the state, the program would mix leaves and lawn clippings with food waste brought by residents. After being moved through a three-phase system, the final product would be locally sourced compost that Cornwallians can take home. The board’s goal is to have this program up and running by Earth Day this year, Apr. 22.

Cornwall’s Building Official for the past two decades, Paul Prindle, has stated he plans to retire and will not be seeking recertification.

“Over 20 years I’ve gotten no complaints, only praise,” Ridgway said regarding Prindle’s tenure as building official.

Local contractor Peter Russ has begun the certification process to replace Prindle through a training course in Hartford. In the interim, Ridgway motioned to appoint Prindle as the temporary building official. During this time, Russ will serve as apprentice and complete his certification to replace Prindle.

Two additional appointments were approved: Christopher Sampson to the Economic Development Committee and Kimberly Valkenberg to Park and Recreation.

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