John Johnson Remembered

BOS Meets November 18, 2015

by Nancy Farrell
November 19, 2015

New lower kilowatt rate for electricity, new lower tax rate, and the approval of the new business development of a cannabis cultivation facility...

Town Administrator Jeff Ritter announced that a deal had been negotiated with Global Montello Group Corp. that lowers the kilowatt rate for all residents, businesses and public buildings to .0898 per kilowatt, reduced from the Eversource kilowatt rate of .10804, an estimated annual saving of approximately $70 per residential home.  Ritter pointed out that the deal fits in with the Town's proactive approach toward energy conservation -- the entire supply of electricity will be provided by wind power in Texas. When Chair Jay Marsden commended Ritter for the good deal the agreement achieved, Ritter replied, "We played hard ball." The Town will be sending out a mailing in the next month to all customers, with an opportunity to opt out, but questions regarding the program go to Global at 800-735-1705. Kudos go to Jeff Ritter!

Robert Weidknecht, chairman of The Rail Trail Committee, working towards the acquisition of the rail trail from Church St. to the Sherborn line, got the board's approval of an Environmental Consultant Agreement not to exceed $15,000 to do the environmental sampling on the property required for the purchase. Since this section of trail includes the Eight Arch Bridge, Weidknecht pointed out the importance of Mary Greendale's fundraising project for work on this historic landmark.

John Cronin and Kathy Peirce presented the Tax Rate Hearing. The Board of Assessors recommends the continuation of a single tax rate for the town -- the new rate is $18.79. Cronin encouraged residents to follow through the department's web pages for information about tax exemptions, relief and abatements.

Two weeks ago local businessman Fran Colantonio addressed the Board of Selectmen to ask for a letter of support or non-opposition for a medical-use cannabis cultivation facility he is developing at Hopping Brook Industrial Park. The facility is designed to be split up among 8-10 growers with 50,000 sq. ft. for operation. This letter of support or non-opposition is for the first prospective grower, non-profit Health Circle, Inc.  Each new grower will require a separate letter.

Colantonio's attorney Valerio Romano (middle, above) presented a good case for support: increased tax revenue, potential for 300 or more jobs, and a carefully regulated and secured operation. The long process of approval and compliance for these operations makes it difficult to identify gross revenues, but Romano says the community host agreement, to be negotiated at a later date, will be fair "because that's just how we operate."  Romano estimates that each grower will require between 30-50 employees for the 24-hour operation, with the fully-realized development of the facility requiring about 300 employees. All employees must be over 21 years of age and will have a thorough background check. Romano pointed out that the Department of Public Health regulations for the operation of the facility are very strict and enforced -- saying that in the highly regulated jurisdiction in Massachusetts, medical marijuana cultivation and dispensing is akin to plutonium.  He made it clear that the facility will have no retail sales, no dispensaries on site; there will be no marketing or advertising, no indication to passersby that marijuana is being grown.

For all the discussion, online and around town, about this topic, only a few residents came to the meeting to share their views. Ann Chipman (above) strongly urged the board to oppose the project, expressing concern for the complexities of negotiating the agreements, determining revenue, the non-profit status of the growers and utimately, whether this project opened doors for the anticipated legalization of recreational use marijuana.  Town resident Vasu Brown, M.D., who prescribes medical marijuana for the treatment of many medical conditions, urged the board to support the project, saying that we are falling behind in meeting the need for the healing benefits of marijuana. The fear factor surrounding the drug, she said, has created enormous bureaucratic hurdles to developing access to marijuana for pain management and other palliative uses. Jay Leary compared the difference between medicinal use and recreational use marijuana to a pharmacy where there are prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs.

Leary also pointed out that a majority, 65%,  of the town voted in 2012 in favor of medical marijuana.  Jay Marsden said that the specific request under discussion has no relevance to recreational use marijuana. All selectmen expressed faith in the regulatory process for creating cannabis cultivation facilities and the process of negotiating community host agreements. They unanimously voted to send a letter of non-opposition from the Town of Holliston for Health Circle, Inc. to develop a medical-use marijuana growing facility. 


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Comments (3)

Can someone fix the banner about the Selectmen's position? In the banner it says the Selectmen "support the facility", while the article says the Selectmen voted unanimously to "not oppose" the facility. I know in some people's minds this is the same thing, but it's not. Let's try reporting the news, not just flinging out opinions.... As for the agreement, it's not something you can write up and agree to at this point, because nobody has any numbers to support anything. It's like the old math problem... A farmer has 12 chickens and 15 goats. How old is the farmer? You can't answer it because you don't have the relevant information yet.

- Hungry Hippo | 11/20/15 11:51 AM

Can someone fix the banner about the Selectmen's position? In the banner it says the Selectmen "support the facility", while the article says the Selectmen voted unanimously to "not oppose" the facility. I know in some people's minds this is the same thing, but it's not. Let's try reporting the news, not just flinging out opinions.

- Hungry Hippo | 11/20/15 11:48 AM

While I'm in favor of the cultivation facility (pot farm is so much easier to say!), this part scared the bejeezus out of me: "because that's just how we operate." While I don't know them, and have no reason not to trust them, an agreement like this can't rest on such a statement.

- Mark | 11/19/15 9:45 PM



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