Revote set for Aug. 6 on Great Barrington plastic water bottle ban

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the number of towns with pre-existing bottle bans and the date that such a ordinance would go into effect in Great Barrington. 

GREAT BARRINGTON — The fate of the town's plastic bottle ban will be determined on Aug. 6. The Select Board on Monday set a special town meeting for 6 p.m. on that day for a public vote on whether to rescind the recent law that would ban the sale of small plastic water bottles.

The ban would be the first in Berkshire County, and the fourth in the state and the U.S., to prohibit the sale of single-use bottles of still water, 1 liter or less. It would begin May 1 and be lifted for emergencies.

Town voters approved the policy in May at annual town meeting after a sustained campaign by the environment committee of the Berkshire Women's Action Group, backed by research that shows the ubiquitous bottles are contributing to a spiraling plastic garbage crisis worldwide, partly because of low recycling rates.

But store owners who sell the bottles say that these frequent sales are a source of steady income, and the ban poses a serious economic threat to them in an already challenging rural economy.

 Laura Keefner, an opponent of the measure, led a petition drive that gathered 337 signatures — well above the 250 necessary to force a special town meeting.

Keefner told the board Monday she hoped for a secret ballot at the August re-vote. That will be determined at the meeting prior to the vote. "I've been taking real heat for this," she said.

Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said the cost of holding another meeting had been pegged at between $2,500 to $4,005, but will probably land on the low end. Select Board Chairman Stephen Bannon said the cost is lowered because the issue has drawn enough attention to make advertising unnecessary.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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