Holyoke City Council members were divided at their Tuesday, July 15, meeting on whether or not to include a question pertaining to marijuana facilities in Holyoke for the November general election.
City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson informed council members that while they had until Sept. 5 to determine the language of the ballot questions they planned to submit for the ballot, the questions that were going to be included needed to be decided Tuesday night.
In December of 2012, an ordinance was adopted that prohibited the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities or retail marijuana stores within the city. It also stated that the issue would be up for vote on the November 2014 coordinated ballot.
Council member Kevin Scott voiced his opinion that the question should go on this year’s ballot to get it over with. His sentiment was echoed by fellow member Brian Akey, who stated he thought the marijuana issue should go on the ballot as the city council had agreed to do so in the past.
After a vote, Scott’s motion for the issue to be included on the November election did not pass as the council was deadlocked at 3-3. Scott, Akey and Scott Murray were in favor of including the question, and Mayor Orville Tonsing, Steve Moore and J.C. Peckham voted in opposition. Council member David Churchwell was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
After the motion failed, all six men voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that added two years to the 2012 amendment on marijuana facilities in Holyoke. The issue will return in 2016, at which time the city will coordinate a ballot issue for approval or rejection in the general election.
Ordinance No. 5 is set for final reading and passage at the Tuesday, Aug. 5, meeting.
Term limits and lodging tax questions approved for November general election
Ballot questions on eliminating term limits and adding a lodging tax will appear on the November ballot.
Term limits for council members was briefly discussed at last week’s meeting.
Scott noted that every other office in the county has no term limits. Tonsing pointed out that the government works slowly. Those only around for eight years may start multiple projects but only have enough time to see one all the way through.
Tonsing also noted that it is difficult to find someone dedicated to the position, and when someone is found, it would be beneficial to hold on to them.
The group unanimously decided to include a question on the ballot to eliminate term limits for council members.
For the lodging tax, council members were very vocal about including hotel owners in the discussion process.
“I think if we get them on board, we’ll have a lot better chance,” Akey said.
Moore agreed, stating, “I think if we can’t get the people at the hotels on board, there is no reason to include it on the ballot at all.”
Moore suggested a work session with representatives from area lodging facilities to determine how to approach the lodging tax. Council members agreed that where the money from the tax would go and what it would be used for need to be addressed.
Council members voted unanimously to include a lodging tax question on the ballot with the cooperation of the area hotels.
City Superintendent Mark Brown reported that there had been one power outage since the July 1 meeting. The outage occurred on West Howitt Street due to a broken wire in the wind Friday, July 11.
Water crews have been busy working on leaks in the sprinkler system at the cemetery, and street crews have been picking up branches and clearing storm drains. Street crews also have been patching streets and just recently started seal coating streets.
Brown also mentioned that the updates scheduled for the airport this year likely won’t take place. Contractors hired for the job are now so far behind due to the weather that it is unlikely that the airport will receive upgrades this season.
Brown stated that he is hoping the project is shovel-ready by the spring.
Holyoke Police Chief Doug Bergstrom reported that from June 26-July 9, the department generated 81 calls for service. In that time, they made one arrest, wrote five reports, issued three citations and gave out 10 warnings. Through code enforcement, there were three animal complaints, five dog-at-large complaints, one junk ordinance violation and one miscellaneous ordinance violation.
Bergstrom also noted that Sgt. Damon Ellis had recently hurt his leg but was able to complete code enforcement work.
In other business July 15, the council:
—agreed to allow Melissa Memorial Hospital Foundation free use of the swimming pool and to provide lifeguards on Oct. 11 from 8-11:30 a.m. for the MMHF Amateur Triathlon.
—approved a donation request from Baby Bear Hugs for 15 one-day swim passes for prizes.
—accepted the resignation of Holyoke Police Officer Dwight Thompson.
Holyoke Enterprise July 24, 2014