OSWEGO, NY – After debating for nearly 45 minutes whether to rescind Resolution No. 131, dated April 11, 2016, the Common Council took no action Monday night.
While that decision protects the city from potential legal action, many residents feel it leaves them and future generations open to a plethora of health problems.
Resolution 131 approved transferring $12,000 from the Contingency Fund to the 440 Contracted Services Garage Fund for weed control at Wright’s Landing, City Hall, East Linear Park, DPW Garage, east and west side fire stations, Legends Fields and all city parks.
The contract was awarded to Chase Enterprises for the 2016 season.
However, since the resolution was adopted (5-1-1, Councilor John Gosek voted no and Councilor Nate Emmons was excused) a groundswell of opposition has arisen.
Councilor Pat McLaughlin made a motion to rescind the resolution.
City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli told the council that it was “an improper resolution” and it would set the city up for financial liability.
The resolution to rescind, he said, should be withdrawn.
According to the city attorney, the resolution (to rescind) is in violation of the 2016 Rules of the Common Council.
The contract was created and accepted, he pointed out.
“The only thing that hasn’t been done yet is the actual application of the herbicides,” he said.
In his opinion, any attempt to rescind the resolution “would result in a negative outcome for the city of Oswego.”
As the lone no vote on the Resolution No. 131, Gosek said it was his responsibility to speak for the residents who are opposed to spraying herbicides in the Port City.
If the spraying were to occur, he said there needed to be proper warning signage and no spraying should be within 150 feet of places like playgrounds and schools.
He called upon Mayor Billy Barlow to meet with Chase and work out some sort of alternative “for the health and well-being” of the citizens of Oswego.
The mayor said he was looking for a consensus from the council on how to proceed. The motion to rescind came about a month after the council vote don the contract and the contract was signed, sealed and delivered, he added.
By outsourcing the spraying it frees up city DPW workers to get more things done, he explained.
Councilor Robert Corradino said he could see both sides of the issue.
“Yes, there is possible danger. But on the other side, if it’s used responsibility we can work with it. This particular issue is no different than any other stuff that you have in your medicine cabinet,” he said. “We’re not talking about an airplane that is going to fly over and spread an Agent Orange type dust all over the city.”
Spraying will be done along fence lines and light posts for example, he said.
As for Councilor Gosek’s concerns at the last meeting that herbicides would make the parks toxic for children, Corradino said that when he used to take his children to the park they ran to the playground area, not the fence line.
“So if you use your common sense here, work with the contractor, work with the (DPW) commissioner … this is a doable project,” he said. “Again, we’re not spraying every green space in the park.”
He’d have no problem going to the park, putting a blanket down on the grass and having a picnic, he added.
As an alternative for next year, he proposed hiring high school and college age kids to clear the weeds.
As the discussion wound down, Gosek acquiesced and moved to withdraw the motion to rescind.
At the public session prior to the meeting, several speakers voiced opposition to the use of herbicides.
Jonathan Ashline provided councilors with a petition signed by residents against the spraying.
He urged the council not only rescind the resolution but enact an outright ban of all herbicide spraying in Oswego.
Joan Kolp said she lives right across the street from where herbicides would be sprayed.
She asked the councilors to vote in favor of rescinding.
Phil MacArthur, of the Oswego Tree Stewards, responded to the statement that Roundup is OK because it is sold in stores and many people even have it in their homes.
“Back in the 1960s, if you looked in the sheds in the city of Oswego, you’d find DDT. But we subsequently found out what a dangerous chemical that is,” he told the council. “It’s very hard to keep up with the chemicals that are on the market. The only way I can imagine someone on this city council not voting to rescind the herbicide order is if you just don’t care.”
To further drive home the point, Sue Matthews highlighted Monsanto’s (makers of Roundup) checkered past.
She pointed out that, according to the EPA, there are 1,000 chemicals such as Roundup that need to be reviewed – which would take 100 years to do a proper review of each of them.
Since the council took no action, the original resolution stands.