ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health plans cap the number of tobacco-selling establishments in town and will hash out the details in the coming months.
The board was in consensus Wednesday that it wanted to limit the amount of stores that can sell tobacco but were not quite sure on the specifics.
"We want to minimize and reduce underage smoking and obviously it would be better if no one smoked from a health perspective," Board member David Rhoads said. "But we want to hit a target and get the number down and that is a tough thing to figure out."
With the proposed cigar lounge, Rhoads said the town will have 11 establishments. He first suggested allowing the addition of one or two more but other board members were hesitant to pin down a specific number yet.
"I am not comfortable with committing to a number at this point," Laura Grandchamp said.
Rhoads also asked if the board wanted to decrease the number through attrition. He said Pittsfield set a cap of one establishment per thousand people and has been slowly bringing down the number as businesses close.
"It's pretty simple how they do it. I think they have around 56 now and as they go out of business a license is lost," he said. "They want to get it down to 44 or 45 ... so do we want to put a target on it to get it down to a certain level?"
Rhoads said if they go by population, the town would want to shrink down to about eight establishments.
Grandchamp said she wanted more information before she committed to a per capita cap.
"I need more information, like why did Pittsfield decide to pick one per thousand people and what are the pitfalls when trying to do this?" she said. "If a community has done this and has that experience, maybe we can get some information from them to better make a decision."
Code Enforcement Officer Mark Blaisdel, who worked for the Pittsfield Health Department during the transition, said the big issue the city faced was public awareness. He said people purchased businesses without knowing they could not sell tobacco.
Adams has a good process in place to inform new businesses of regulations and restrictions, he said, and as long as it continues to be upfront, he does not foresee any issues.
"When we start making new regulations and the public is not aware that is when things start to fall through the cracks," he said. "We don't want people to ... start businesses when all of the information is not given to them but I don't think we have that problem here anymore."
Selectman James Bush was in attendance and felt a cap may not help the town's efforts to become more business friendly. He was specifically concerned about Cumberland Farms, which plans to relocate somewhere in town from its cramped Commercial Street site.
Blaisdell explained that Cumberland Farms should not have an issue. He said the town can only eliminate a license if a store outright closes. If the business is sold or transferred that license will still exist.
Rhoads added that the board is trying to walk a fine line between public health and bettering economic development.
"We need to balance it between ... in some cases our public health concerns are going to be in conflict with the select board," he said. "We want to do what is good for the town."
Rhoads asked if the board wanted to lift the cap on adult use stores such as the proposed cigar lounge or the vape shop. Patrons must be 21 to enter these stores and Rhoads thought this would be a good concession to make to not hinder economic development in town.
The board members thought they should invite James Wilusz, executive director of Tri-Town Health Department, to a meeting to help them iron out the details with a template.
Blaisdell said the town really did not need Wilusz and he could get them the same template.
The conversation then turned to Wilusz's involvement in the town and Blaisdell thought they really did not need his services.
"He is Tri-Town and that is where he should operate, where there are no inspection services," he said. "You have those here, so they should not be in this community."
Rhoads defended Wilusz and said the town does enjoy the surveillance service he offers.
"We may not need it but we are part of it. We don't pay for it and it is an extra check," he said. "I don't want to leave tobacco awareness and he is a good source of information."
Wilusz helped the town adopt Tobacco 21 regulations.
Blaisdell said that may be fine but Wilusz needs to let the town know when he is coming and actually report the information.
"When we go into another jurisdiction, we are obligated to inform that inspection service ... that never happens with Jim's crew," he said. "When I was in Pittsfield, he never informed us and he does not report anything."
Rhoads said Wilusz often reports back to the board when there is a violation in town but Blaisdell responded that there is no record of anything in his office, which is a problem.
Bush spoke up and agreed that the town should not bring in outside help when it doesn't need it.
"Isn't that why we hired Mark to enforce these regulations?" he said. "Why do we have another person coming into town undermining what they are trying to do in town."
Board member Peter Hoyt said although he has had good experiences with Wilusz,this communication gap needs to be improved.
"I think we can reach out to Jim and make sure when he is here he tells Mark and if there is a violation Mark is notified," he said. "If the miscommunication continues then we will let him know we do not need his services. I have nothing bad to say about my relationship with him but there has been some miscommunication and that needs to change."
The board asked Blaisdell to provide them with a template and agreed to ask Wilusz and representatives from the Pittsfield Board of Health to attend a future meeting.
"I am not in a hurry here but I want to get this right," Rhoads said.
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Pending its blessings, the articles will then move to annual town meeting for final approval. The board passed on all 28 articles unamended but some came under brief scrutiny, mostly for clarification purposes.
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Gary Munson went 2-for-3 with a triple, and the Adams Aces exploded for nine runs in the third inning en route to a 12-2, five-inning win over the Berkshire Thunder to capture the Berkshire Adult Baseball League 35-and-over division championship on Thursday night. click for more