Needham selectmen are not supporting a change in the town’s land management policy that would require departments to use organic materials to deal with pests such as mosquitoes and invasive plants and insects.
The board voted 5-0 on Tuesday, April 24 against endorsing an article that appears on the May 7 Annual Town Meeting warrant. Submitted by citizen’s petition, the article seeks to require organic lawn and garden care on all town-owned properties in an effort to create a healthier environment for residents.
On Tuesday, selectmen heard a presentation on the town’s existing Integrated Pest Management program from representatives in the Public Health, Public Works and Park and Recreation departments as well as Parks and Forestry Superintendent Ed Olsen and Director of Conservation Patty Barry.
Olsen said the town already uses few pesticides, often turning to these chemicals only as a last resort to deal with serious problems. But, he said, departments reserved the right to use chemicals if needed, such as by the Norfolk County Mosquito Control Project or to deal with poison ivy, bees or plant-damaging insects such as Japanese moths.
Board of Health member Stephen Epstein said there were actually risks in not using pesticides in some cases, pointing to fatalities that have occurred in Massachusetts from the mosquito-borne West Nile virus.
Later in the meeting, selectmen said they were satisfied that the town was already doing what it could to reduce the application of harmful pesticides and chemicals on town properties.
“I do believe the goal of trying to get to a point where we’re not using pesticides at all is a good goal and an admirable goal, and we want to do it,” Selectman Jerry Wasserman said. “But I don’t believe we can meet the requirement for this article right now and still maintain our fields and the safety of our fields.”
Selectman Moe Handel said the town was already working toward a more organic approach to pest control.
“I think the article is unnecessary with respect to our current policy,” he said.