The Board of Selectmen delayed a decision on lifting the prohibition on dogs until its next meeting.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A half-dozen residents, including the town's animal control officer, urged the Board of Selectmen on Monday to rescind last year's decision to ban dogs from town parks.
After pointing out that the board was meeting on National Dog Day, Animal Control Officer Jason Costa argued that excluding dogs from three town parks is unfair to the 470 registered dog owners in the town of about 3,000.
Several residents either addressed the board or murmured support for Costa's point that the town had overreacted to isolated complaints about dog waste and dogs bothering small children on the playgrounds at the parks.
Selectmen Hank Sayers and John Goerlach, the two holdovers from last year's board, said it only took action after learning that there was a problem with the animals.
"We had people not picking up waste," Sayers said. "We had people from the highway department using a weed whacker and it sprayed up in their face."
"We had concerns for their safety and health," he continued. "We had people playing on swing sets, and dogs are let run free around 3- and 4-year-old children. Dogs are coming up sniffing, jumping on them, and the parents don't know if those dogs are friendly or not."
Costa said park users ignoring the leash law is a separate issue, and it does not require banning dogs to address it.
He argued that since dogs were banned, the town has removed the dog waste disposal stations, and that has made any feces problem worse than it needs to be.
"You had all those stations up, and it didn't work," Sayers said.
"It did work," Costa replied. "You had one complaint from the DPW, and you had a knee-jerk reaction."
Sayers cited a dog biting incident last year and a child who ended up with dog feces in his facemask on the football field at Laston Park as further evidence of the problem.
Sayers advocated for the town to create a new park near the landfill, a solution that Costa countered for several reasons.
One, Costa said a designated dog park at the landfill would be less convenient than a heavily used neighborhood park where residents can walk with their dogs. He also argued that creating and maintaining a proper dog park would be more costly than enforcing the existing leash laws in the town parks.
"If you're going to [create a dog park], let's do that first before we ban them from the current facility," Costa said. "If we're going to do that, we have to do it right with a proper fence. Don't put a rinky dink spot in the corner for outcast dogs. Maybe have a water source and a fenced in area."
Animal Control Officer Jason Costa addresses the Board of Selectmen in favor of the town's dogs.
Marc Bellora, who serves with Costa on the town's Recreation Committee, told the Selectmen that committee voted unanimously to recommend the town rescind the ban on dogs in town parks.
Resident Jen Lyon told the board that the town needs to be more dog friendly, and that doing so actually would attract residents. She also said the town cannot prohibit dogs in town parks, like Laston Park, that abut waterways because it violates federal statute to have such a prohibition on public land.
Goerlach asked Lyon to come back to the board with a citation for the federal law she referred to.
The board's newest member, Gordon Hubbard, said he was inclined to vote to allow dogs back into the parks, but Goerlach and Sayers clearly were not ready to take that step.
Goerlach suggested that the board table the question until its next regular meeting on Sept. 9.
The three selectmen did agree to put a dog waste station back at the entrance to Narragansett Park.
In other business on Monday, the board decided to make the town clerk a full-time position.
Town Manager Kelli Robbins told the board that the town's recent effort to hire a part-time assistant to the clerk were unsuccessful.
"We got four applicants, and a couple were promising," Robbins said. "The one we picked got offered a full-time job … after she accepted this position."
She asked the board to consider taking the money designated for the 10-hour part-time position and add seven more hours to the current 18-hour work week of the town clerk.
She said it would be more efficient to get the extra work from an experienced clerk who knows Town Hall than to have the clerk train a part-timer.
After getting assurances from Robbins that the new strategy would not break the budget in terms of salaries or benefits, the board voted 3-0 to increase the position to 25 hours per week.
Robbins also reported Monday that the town had received four responses to its request for qualifications to do a needs assessment and feasibility study for a new police station. She said the documents, which are not public, would be provided to the Selectmen for their consideration.
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Police Chief Timothy Sorrell will be retiring after serving five years in the position.
Sorrell was appointed chief in 2015 after serving in the Police Department for 28 years. He started full time in Lanesborough in 1987 as a patrolman. He served as sergeant for 12 years and was a finalist for the chief's position when the town decided to hire Mark Bashara. He then served as an investigator for twelve years under Bashara before getting the spot spot upon his retirement in 2015.
When asked for comment on Sorrell's departure on Monday, the Board of Selectmen said almost in unison, "he will be missed" and they all wished him luck along with Town Manager Kelli Robbins.
The process of finding his replacement was started immediately as the board wasted no time in forming a search committee.
Last month's 26-6 win over Essex County, N.J., qualified the Berkshire County champions to face some of the top teams in the country in their age group at the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. click for more