BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said the organization is still working out the details of the presentation.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents have questions about the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline. And the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is trying to give the company, Kinder Morgan, a chance to answer.
However, when the Franklin Regional Council of Governments tried to do the same, it got hit with Open Meeting Law complaints
, needed to switch venues to a larger auditorium, was accused of violating civil rights by restricting areas for protesters, and had to call multiple police forces in to keep the peace.
"There were some folks there who got well out of hand there," said BRPC Director Nathaniel Karns.
The company has agreed to make a presentation on Sept. 18 and Karns and the BRPC are now trying to craft a way to allow Kinder Morgan to provide information without the disruption that controversial issues tend to create.
"This is an information-gathering meeting," Karns told BRPC's executive committee. "As we're envisioning it, we won't have people marching up to the microphone to make statements."
The meeting is currently looking to be two hours long and will include representatives from the pipeline company answering questions BRPC will have specifically written ahead of time. It is eyed to be held at Berkshire Community College and BRPC would like college President Ellen Kennedy to moderate.
Karns specifically said it isn't a public hearing the organization is proposing but more of an opportunity for more details of the plan to be shared. Public input sessions would be further along in the process and having passionate people in opposition "in the back of the room shouting doesn't accomplish much."
"We are not proposing to hold a public hearing and we do not intend to hold one," Karns said.
The planning commission has not taken a position on the proposal.
"There are plenty of groups that are voicing a lot of concerns," Karns said. "But, let's just hold off for right now. I think we are very much in an information gathering stage."
Karns added that written questions may be gathered from attendees to be passed onto company representatives for answering at a later date.
"We are trying to emphasize that this is a part of information gathering," said BRPC Chairwoman Sheila Irving.
In other business, the executive committee approved the grant application for the Berkshire County Boards of Health Association to craft a guideline for towns to handle hoarding issues.
Many of the larger municipalities have health departments knowledgeable and experienced in such cases. But, in the smaller towns, officials will deal with a case every five or so years, according to Karns. Typically in those towns, volunteer Fire Departments ultimately discover the unsanitary or unhealthy conditions.
The Berkshire County Boards of Health Association is hoping to receive a few thousand dollars to develop a plan for those towns and boards of health to follow.
"This is really intended to be a template of 'this is the issue and this is how to handle it,'" Karns said. "It is a very small grant but it is enough to hopefully make some progress."