Wendell residents adopt 8 Town Meeting articles, including PFAS remediation

  • From left, Wendell Selectboard members Gillian Budine and Dan Keller, Selectboard Chair Laurie DiDonato, Moderator Katie Nolan, Town Clerk Anna Wetherby, Finance Committee member Al MacIntyre and Finance Committee Co-Chair Thomas Richardson sit at the front of the room in Wendell Town Hall on Wednesday night for a Special Town Meeting. The 33 voters in attendance adopted the warrant’s eight articles. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Planning Board member Seal LaMadeleine, left, and Chair Molly Doody stand at Wednesday’s Special Town Meeting to speak to an article to amend the language of the town’s zoning bylaws. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Liam DiDonato, 17, voted in his first matter of town business on Wednesday at a Special Town Meeting. The town voted in 2017 to lower the voting age to 16 for local elections and town meetings. DiDonato went with his mother, Selectboard Chair Laurie DiDonato, to Town Hall on Wednesday night but wasn’t expecting to participate until Town Clerk Anna Wetherby told him he just had to show his driver’s license to register to vote. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 10/27/2022 5:07:56 PM
Modified: 10/27/2022 5:07:41 PM

WENDELL — Voters at Wednesday’s Special Town Meeting gave their blessing to transferring money so Swift River School can rid its water of some forever chemicals and to amending zoning bylaws.

Thirty-three people showed up at Town Hall to have their voices heard on eight warrant articles in a meeting that started at 7 p.m. and lasted approximately 35 minutes. All articles were adopted.

Residents overwhelmingly adopted the article to transfer $50,000 from the stabilization fund to pay for PFAS6 remediation at Swift River School in New Salem, which serves students from that town and Wendell. The state Department of Environmental Protection last year ordered the school to remove from its water the substances used in common consumer products like food packaging and outdoor clothing. The contaminants — also found in carpets, soaps, detergents and anything containing a fire retardant — are the result of groundwater seeping through cracks into the well under the school. Tests of the school’s tap water in the fall of 2020 revealed elevated PFAS6 levels, though no state drinking water regulations have been violated.

The Wendell and New Salem selectboards voted earlier this month to accept the engineering firm Tighe & Bond’s bid to assist in the final design of the remediation work as well as with all permitting, bidding assistance and construction phase services. Both boards opted to accept Tighe & Bond’s $49,200 bid, which will be split between the two towns. This bid does not include the remediation work itself.

Wednesday’s vote appropriates $50,000 that could be put toward costs not covered by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money controlled by New Salem for use at Swift River School. Wendell Selectboard Chair Laurie DiDonato previous said New Salem received $40,000 and about $25,000 of it has been spent to have Tighe & Bond conduct alternative analysis — the evaluation of various choices available to achieve an objective — and camera work in the well.

Resident Nina Keller stood up to remind her neighbors of when the school had to remediate excess salt in its water years ago and said this situation is much more serious. She told everyone she believes the filtration “might not even do the trick” but that she would still vote for the article. However, after a couple of other residents spoke, Keller stood up again to say she had changed her mind.

“I just can’t stand voting for technology … (that) might not solve our problem,” she said.

Finance Committee member Al MacIntyre — who sat at the front of the room with Committee Co-Chair Thomas Richardson as well as the Wendell Selectboard, Moderator Katie Nolan and Town Clerk Anna Wetherby — told Keller his committee supports her position, “but we do feel like we’re up against the wall, to a certain extent.”

Selectboard member Dan Keller, who is married to Nina Keller, mentioned a camera snaked down the school’s well found a break in the well casing. He said much of the contaminants come from the parking lot, as the forever chemicals are used in car wash solutions. DiDonato mentioned the hope is for the filtration system to be installed by the beginning of the next school year. Nina Keller was the only participant to vote against the article.

For the meeting’s final warrant article, Planning Board Chair Molly Doody and member Seal LaMadeleine stood up in front of fellow voters to explain the language proposed for the zoning bylaws explains that the bylaws’ purpose is to promote and protect all inhabitants’ health, safety and welfare, and preserve and conserve the value of land and buildings and the town’s rural character. Doody told the Greenfield Recorder this language will give the town a bit more self-governance regarding state regulations. She said the language now goes to the state Attorney General’s Office for approval.

Most of the Special Town Meeting warrant articles pertain to paying municipal bills from a prior year. The full warrant of approved articles can be viewed at bit.ly/3TSDUyD.

First-time voter

The Special Town Meeting was the first town business that Liam DiDonato, the Selectboard chair’s 17-year-old son, has participated in. The town voted in 2017 to lower the voting age to 16 for local elections and Town Meetings. The younger DiDonato said he went with his mother on Wednesday night but wasn’t expecting to take part until the town clerk told him he just had to show his driver’s license to register to vote.

“I realized I was able to vote, so I wanted to,” he said. “It was definitely interesting. I’ve heard a lot about meetings from my parents before, so I’ve known about it. But … I’ll definitely go to meetings now that I know I can vote.”

Liam’s father is Ray DiDonato, who sits on the town’s Municipal Light Board.

When he registered to vote, the younger DiDonato became the town’s 741st voter.

Wendell’s quorum for a Town Meeting is 10.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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