Orange Special Town Meeting voters table proposed animal bylaw

From left, Orange Selectboard member Jane Peirce, member Richard Sheridan, Clerk Pat Lussier and Vice Chair Andrew Smith sit at the front of the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium in Orange Town Hall during a Special Town Meeting on Thursday.

From left, Orange Selectboard member Jane Peirce, member Richard Sheridan, Clerk Pat Lussier and Vice Chair Andrew Smith sit at the front of the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium in Orange Town Hall during a Special Town Meeting on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Moderator Christopher Woodcock during the Special Town Meeting in Orange on Thursday.

Moderator Christopher Woodcock during the Special Town Meeting in Orange on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 01-19-2024 6:38 PM

ORANGE — Voters at Thursday’s Special Town Meeting opted to table a proposed bylaw regarding loose animals until more people have had an opportunity to contribute input.

Residents who gathered at Town Hall voted overwhelmingly to take no action on a warrant article prohibiting anyone from allowing a goat, sheep, cow, equine, pig or fowl to go at large on any street, sidewalk or other public place in town. Livestock can cause disturbances and impede traffic, and the town has learned agriculture and farm practices are exempt from public nuisance law.

But John Moore III, who chairs the Orange Agricultural Commission, stood up to voice his opposition to the proposed bylaw because his commission had not been consulted about it. Police Chief James Sullivan then took to the microphone in the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium to say he would like some time to meet with the Agricultural Commission and town counsel to help improve the warrant article’s wording.

“We need more time to sit down to talk about this,” he said, suggesting the matter be revisited at Annual Town Meeting.

Adoption of the article as written would have allowed the police to issue non-criminal citations for loose animals. The restriction would have extended to private property without the express permission of that property owner.

Hazel Hulse, of 31 Look N Good Farm, stressed that animals can get loose through no fault of farmers, such as when weather, downed trees or wild animals destroy fencing.

“But without these farmers producing what they do for us, what do we have?” she said. “There are not enough in this community for us to survive without them.”

Janelle Caron, an Orange resident and the assistant animal control officer with North Quabbin Regional Animal Control, then stood up to give an explanation behind the logic that went into the proposed bylaw.

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“It’s not for the occasional loose animal. We own animals, we understand accidents happen,” she said. “It’s very similar wording to what is in the bylaws regarding loose dogs. We understand accidents happen, weather happens, wildlife happens.”

Caron said her agency has received several complaints about specific farms that allow their livestock to roam freely “and it has become a traffic hazard.”

Resident Robert Michaud argued that the bylaw was necessary because it would financially incentivize farmers to better monitor their animals.

“You need a penalty,” he said. “You’ve got to make it too expensive to be lackadaisical. You’ve got to make it worth their while to fix the problem.”

After 91% of the 107 voters present chose to table the proposed animal bylaw, Selectboard Vice Chair Andrew Smith made a motion to take no action on the next article, which would have designated the Orange Police Department or animal control officers as the enforcing agents and assigned a $50 fee as the punishment for all offenses. This motion passed overwhelmingly.

Athol-Orange Greenway

Residents voted 76-29 in favor of transferring $100,000 from the Community Development Stabilization Fund and authorizing the town treasurer to put that money toward a consultant tasked with developing a shared-use path from Riverfront Park in Orange to the Daniel Shays Highway intersection in Athol.

Walker Powell, Orange’s community development director, explained the town received a MassTrails grant two years ago for the design of the two trailheads and other key points.

“Now this is the next step,” she said, “which is to fund the design of the Orange portion of the trail and a small way into Athol.”

Powell said Athol will eventually apply for a MassTrails grant for its portion.

Denise Andrews, president of the Orange Revitalization Partnership, voiced her support for the greenway project, as did Michaud.

Other matters

Voters adopted all other articles, including one to certify the contract agreement agreed upon by the town and clerical unit employees represented by SEIU Local 888. The unionized workers will receive a 3% cost-of-living adjustment, which will cost the town $42,361, transferred from free cash. Town Administrator Matthew Fortier had said this article was the primary reason the Special Town Meeting was called.

Before the meeting began, resident Ann Reed acknowledged it would be the final Special Town Meeting in office for longtime public servant and Selectboard member Richard Sheridan. She read a prepared statement thanking him for his decades of hard work and Andrews, who once represented Orange in the state Legislature, presented him with an official citation. Sheridan looked surprised and humbled by the acknowledgments and thanked everyone in the audience.

“I’ll still be around,” he said. “I’ll be on the other side, causing problems.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-930-4120.