Town meeting approves budget and an ordinance
The Litchfield Intermediate School auditorium was nearly full for Wednesday's town meeting. BZ photo
Litchfield has a budget for 2017-18 and a new ordinance banning fracking waste in town after a well-attended town meeting on Wednesday.
Voters were nearly unanimous in approving a propsosed budget of $31,153,449 and the proposed ordinance banning the storage, use or disposal of fracking waste, a hazardous byproduct of hydraulic mining for oil and natural gas.
The approved budget is $785,589, or 2.6 percent, higher than the current budget of $30,367,860. It will take effect July 1.
The new tax rate set by the Board of Finance after the town meeting is 27.6 mills, an increase of nine-tenths of 1 mill over the current rate of 26.7 mills.
Approval of the budget was easy. The matter of the proposed ordinance on fracking waste was a different story as it generated significant discussion after First Selectman Leo Paul Jr. and state Rep. David T. Wilson explained how the state is closing in on its own ban of fracking waste.
The CT House has approved a proposed ban and the Senate is considering the measure, Wilson said. A state ban, Paul said, would render a town ban moot. Paul advised waiting for the state to complete its work on the proposed ban, a measure he said would save the town the several thousand dollars it would cost to implement a new ordinance.
There would also be possible legal ramifications for the town if it approved a ban that differs from the ban the state is considering, Paul and Town Attorney Michael Rybak said.
Under the new ordinance, the storage, disposal, sale, acquisition, transfer, handling, treatment and processing of fracking waste is prohibited in town. The penalty for violating the ordinance is $250.
The ordinance was proposed by a group of residents concerend about health and safety in the community. Litchfield joined 16 other municipalities that have enacted similar bans. Litchfield's ordinance is considered more comprehensive and protective than the ban being considered by the state.
Supporters of the proposed ordinance were able to push through a vote on it during the town meeting. The vote in favor was 127-7.
Fracking waste contains contaminants known to cause cancer, organ damage, neurologial and developmental problems, birth defects and other health issues. Radium is one of the contaminants. It remains radioactive for 4,000 years and is known to cause cancer and leukemia.