Petersburg resident Barry Bracken, brought a problem to the Petersburg Borough Assembly regarding the spraying of herbicides and pesticides on public borough lands during the June 3 regular meeting and this discussion continued during the regular Monday evening meeting.
A letter was drafted by Bracken, with the assistance of the Petersburg Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht, for Assembly approval opposing this issue.
The letter outlined all points that Bracken discussed at the June 3 meeting and also states that the Borough should a plan to adopt an ordinance with land use restrictions that will ban large-scale application of herbicides and pesticides within the Borough boundaries and at the very least, any plans to apply these chemicals should require a public review process and approval by the Assembly before application could occur.
“We had our attorney go over this to make sure we were not saying anything illegal,” Giesbrecht said. “The Mayor has signed this and if any changes are made to this letter, we will amend it and have the Mayor Pro-Tem, Sue Flint sign.”
Petersburg Borough Assembly member John Hoag asked if any communication had taken place with the State on this issue.
“We have not had any communication with the State at this time,” Giesbrecht said. “Our attorney suggested that the land use restrictions are the more powerful of the points taken but also stated that the State can override anything we do at any time.”
According to Giesbrecht, it was promised to the residents living outside of service area 1, that any Borough-wide restrictions of land use, in particular, would seek their input.
“Going through this process will definitely take some time,” he stated. “But it can be done.”
He also stated that if the Assembly decided to send the letter that some contact be made with the Department of Transportation asking if they would hold a public hearing on this matter.
“They do not have to do this,” Giesbrecht stated. “I don't think it would hurt to see if they are willing to talk to us about this.”
Petersburg Borough Assembly member John Havrilek stated that the effects of this type of spraying would be a disaster for the native style of life of subsistence that takes place throughout the Borough.
“I would like to hold off on any further action at this time though,” Havrilek stated. “I believe we need to get some feedback from this letter before adopting an ordinance of any kind. I am concerned with the expense that may go along with this type of action but I am in favor of sending the letter and it can't be worded strongly enough.”
Petersburg Borough Assembly member Nancy Strand asked if any other communities had come up against this action due to spraying being implemented statewide.
“I am unaware of any other community doing this at this time,” Bracken stated. “I am hoping this will be precedent setting because based on the amount of concern that there are many questions regarding this issue.”
Assembly member Hoag voiced concern regarding the time and expense of adopting an ordinance that could easily be trumped by the State.
“I would suggest that we amend this letter in order to get a more positive response,” he stated.
The wording of the letter was amended to read: The Borough hopes that it does not have to consider adoption of an ordinance and land use restrictions that will ban the large-scale application of herbicides and pesticides within the Borough boundaries and at the very least, any plans to apply these chemicals should require a public review process and approval by the Assembly before application could occur.
“We can hope that this will send enough of a message to the State to pay attention to this matter,” Hoag stated. “We can get their response before being out the expense of ordinance adoption.”
Bracken showed concern that if the Assembly was not going to adopt any strong action because it could be overruled by a higher power then there would never be any regulations adopted at all.
“I understand where you are all coming from on this,” Bracken stated. “But there needs to be language in this that tells the State that you mean business and if they won't do something, then you will. It is your obligation to the citizens of this Borough to do what is best for them.”
The Assembly unanimously voted to send the letter with the amendment to the State regarding the spraying of herbicides and pesticides within Borough boundaries.