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North Canaan joins in calls to discuss railroad spraying

The Board said their primary concern is in regard to preserving the shrubs and greenery that run along the tracks and addressing the types of herbicides that are used by HRC.

NORTH CANAAN — The coalition of towns and representatives seeking answers from Housatonic Railroad Company (HRC) has grown larger.

During their monthly meeting on March 6, North Canaan’s Selectmen agreed to join concerned parties in Cornwall, Falls Village, Kent and Salisbury in their quest to discuss herbicide spraying practices with HRC.

Representatives and residents have expressed concern over the types of herbicides used along the track that runs through the towns and the adverse effects it could have on the surrounding environment.

“We are working on developing a regional approach to the problem of herbicide spraying along the Housatonic Railroad,” said Selectmen Christian Allyn.

The Board said its primary concern is in regard to preserving the shrubs and greenery that run along the tracks and addressing the types of herbicides that are used by HRC.

“It’s been an ongoing issue for years,” added Selectman Craig Whiting.

The Board agreed to set a time to meet with the other towns and State Rep. Maria Horn (D-64) to address this regional concern.

In telephone interviews Friday, March 10, and State Senator Steve Harding (R-30)shared their thoughts on the issue of herbicide spraying along the track. Horn said that a meeting of all relevant agencies was held a few years back that “was quite effective because it did result in an understanding that certain areas would not be sprayed.” Horn added that she was unsure if HRC follows different spraying protocols in Massachusetts than they do in Connecticut but that she “would very much like to get to the bottom of that.”

Harding said also weighed he “fully supports the towns in their effort.” Harding said he will be reaching out to HRC to “see if there’s a way that they can work with these towns” to address herbicide concerns. Harding added he plans to look into legislation to mandate that HRC change their spraying practices if necessary.

Repeated attempts, by telephone and in person, to get comment from the railroad have been unsuccessful.

In other matters, leaders from the North Canaan Fire Company (NCFC) were in attendance of the monthly meeting to request a $50,000 annual increase. If approved, the hike would represent a 62.5% increase on the current $80,000 budget that has remained stable for the past five years.

“In essence, we’ve taken a hard zero as far back as five years,” said NCFC President Steve Hutchins. “Costs have gone up a lot.”

Hutchins said in addition to new equipment and maintenance costs, the department is facing the need to rebuild an outdated pump this year to the tune of $56,000.

“That $80,000 is chewed up pretty quick,” said Hutchins.

Additionally, the company is looking into replacing its 21-year-old ladder truck in the near future.

“If we were to do it today, we’re looking at $1.3 million to replace that truck,” said Hutchins.

The Board indicated that the town’s equipment fund currently sits around $700,000. NCFC said they are pursuing grants and have applied with the state to achieve 501(c)(3) status in an effort to help manage their rising costs.

“When we did the last ladder truck, there was a lot of fundraising that went in,” said Whiting.

Whiting encouraged NCFC to hold a budget workshop to flesh out their proposal.

To conclude their March meeting, the Board approved an ordinance to curtail the freedom of free-range poultry. First Selectman Charles Perotti said the proposal was written up as a result of “problems we were having with chickens roaming the area.”

The new ordinance covers a range of domestic fowl including chickens, turkeys, ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries, waterfowl and game birds. Poultry managers in North Canaan must now make efforts to reign in their free-range flock and keep domesticated birds within the confines of their property.

A first offense constitutes a verbal warning, second offense will be met with a fine of $50, and subsequent offenses will yield a $100 fine with the possibility of the flock being confiscated at the discretion of the Selectmen.

“You can still have chickens, you just have to keep them in your yard,” said Whiting.

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