Great Barrington Raises Sewage Fees and Defends Cannabis Impact Fee Consumption


Opening the session in her additional role as canal commissioner, the selection committee heard good news about the city’s infrastructure.

“We are facing a major modernization of the wastewater treatment plant for a subset, somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 million US dollars. We got our approval from DEP a year ago. After consulting with Bill and our engineers and looking at the data from last year, we find that we are actually complying with our approval. At least for now, we’ll be able to avoid a major upgrade with tens of millions of dollars in savings, ”said Sean VanDeusen, Superintendent of the Department of Public Works. “However, we still have to make upgrades there, including an aeration tank that will be worth millions of dollars. And we have debt service we owe from previous upgrades. So come to you tonight to increase the rate on the sepage received from the facility. We collect septages from all neighboring cities, private residents who get their sewage treatment plants pumped. We have seen a significant increase in consumption, which I presented to you in the summary, we expect a further increase in consumption. There are costs associated with processing. Percent and the costs continue to rise, so our current contract has increased significantly. “

VanDeusen formulated the proposed fee increase as a way to pay for upgrading the city’s sewer system while getting new users to pay their fair share.

“It would be 11 cents a gallon or $ 110 per 1,000 gallons,” he explained. “The increase would be $ 143 per 1000 gallons.”

The examination board unanimously accepted the application with effect from November 1st.

Ed Abrahams, the chief executive officer for the city’s legalized cannabis companies, addressed public criticism of the community fee levied against the industry. The Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association called the 3% tax, which is designed to offset the potential negative local effects of the legal marijuana trade, “legalized extortion” – a concept Abraham rejected.

“Our local cannabis retailers didn’t call this ‘legalized extortion,’ and at this point they weren’t shy about paying the agreed fees,” Abrahams said. “On the contrary, they were great neighbors and partners. Theory built this new building that we collect taxes on. They were very responsive to the early traffic problems in the beginning. Calyx has this beautiful mural on their building, they were also a main sponsor of Berkshire Busk. And Farnsworth and Rebelle both spruced up older buildings in town, they are doing well. I just want to let the constituents of Great Barrington and this board of directors know that the hosting agreements we have approved are legal and that the money we have spent is actually, among other things, used to help parents and teenagers fight drug use. “

Abrahams noted that the presence of the cannabis industry required city police to be trained in new DUI assessment methods, citing a study by the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine on the increase in health problems related to legal marijuana use in Colorado. But according to Abrahams, Great Barrington is most concerned about the impact on young people.

“The South Berkshire Health Coalition conducts a survey of 8th-12th grade students every two years, and this is their latest survey,” he said. “And this is only for high school students. You were asked how wrong do you think it is for someone your age to drink alcohol? 11% said there was nothing wrong. Same question about the pot. Twice as many, 22%, said nothing was wrong. How wrong do your friends find it if you have to drink one or two drinks almost every day? 69% said it was wrong or very wrong. When asked about their daily use of cannabis, only 38% said they thought their friends thought it was wrong. And that’s what I find most amazing. How many adults have you personally known in the past year who have used marijuana or other drugs? 63% said at least one and 17% said five or one. So there is very little good research on the long-term effects of cannabis. But we know for sure that marijuana use in people under their mid-20s can have a lasting impact on the developing brain. Legal marijuana makes it very important to pass this on to teenagers. “

So far, that concern has dictated where the allocations of the millions of dollars in community activity fees that Great Barrington has earned to date have ended up.

“Last year, which was the first year that grants were awarded, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District received money, the Railroad Street Youth Project, the Berkshire South Community Center, Volunteers In Medicine and Construct received that money,” Abrahams said.

At the meeting, the selection panel also learned that a section of Route 71 that runs through Great Barrington will be paved by the state before the end of next June, saving the city $ 750,000.