LEE — Facing opposition from PCB dump opponents, town officials have backed off plans to hire regional planners to update the town's master plan and instead will put the project out to bid.
The town was prepared to sign a $65,000 contract with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to update the 20-year-old master plan and the more recent open space and recreation plan. State law allows a town to directly contract with a regional planning entity without going out to bid.
But opponents, led by Selectman Robert Jones, complained that the commission is too closely tied to the waste facility plan, which remains the subject of a legal challenge in the community.
In February 2020, Lee and four nearby towns joined with the General Electric Co., the Environmental Protection Agency and other parties to sign on a deal that would remove PCB-contaminated sediment from the Housatonic River south of Pittsfield. The so-called Rest of River cleanup plan, which was facilitated by the BRPC, would allow all but the most toxic materials to be buried in a landfill in Lee.
"The people of Lee feel they were used and abused ... and Regional Planning was part of that process," Jones said at Tuesday's Select Board meeting.
Jones and Selectman Sean Regnier, who was the swing vote, backed the bidding process. Chairwoman Patricia Carlino voted no.
Carlino noted townspeople have been clamoring for an updated master plan.
"We've been told to address this and get the master plan done," she said, "but if you want to delay it ... ."
BPPC Executive Director Thomas Matuszko said his agency would only offer technical support to the town and not make any decisions regarding the master plan just as it did for Rest of River.
"I and my organization shouldn't be the focus of this," Matuszko said during the Zoom meeting.
Nevertheless, dump opponents find hiring the BRPC would be a conflict given the people in town who are legally fighting the landfill.
"I say don't sign this [BRPC contract]; it would be a slap in the face to the town," said Jim Castegnaro, an outspoken dump opponent.
Lee Youth Commission Chairwoman Kathy Hall came to the BRPC's defense.
"They have done some wonderful work in Berkshire County and they focus on the big picture and as a facilitator they don't take a position on an issue," Hall said.