YARMOUTH — The Town Council will vote Thursday, April 12, on a proposed gun give-back initiative.
Under the resolve discussed April 5, the town would designate a day that residents can turn in unwanted firearms and ammunition to the Police Department, voluntarily and without compensation.
Also last week, councilors by a 4-3 vote delayed action on a pay-as-you-throw trash-disposal proposal.
Drafted by Councilor Tim Shannon, the firearms resolve would direct Town Manager Nat Tupper to spend up to $2,000 from budgeted but unused public safety funds to advertise and promote the gun give-back day.
Police Chief Michael Morrill said he would like the day to not be scheduled before May.
“We’re pretty short-handed right now and it’s going to take some time to get it organized,” he said, adding that the Police Department accepts unwanted guns or ammunition at any time. He said the department accepted six to 10 firearms in the past year.
Shannon noted that two handguns were turned into the Police Department last week along with a rifle found in a Dumpster.
“There does seem to be some population of unwanted guns in this town,” Shannon said. “That gives me great concern.”
Councilors Jim MacLeod and Robert Waeldner voted against the proposal. MacLeod called it a “slippery slope” and “divisive.”
“I don’t think it’s something government should do,” he added.
Waeldner said he was “OK” with promoting the existing program, where the Police Department accepts unwanted guns or ammunition, but thinks a formal give-back day wouldn’t be as effective as a grassroots effort.
They were out-voted by Chairwoman Pat Thompson and Councilors David Craig, April Humphrey, Richard Plourde and Shannon.
Craig said he “wholeheartedly” supports the resolve, but doesn’t think it goes far enough.
“I think there should be a buy-back, but I know that won’t fly,” he said. “It blows my mind … some of the comments made up here for how limited government should be.”
A “Recognition” section of the resolve proposes that, if they choose, residents who give back their guns or ammunition could be recognized by having the flags on the Memorial Green at Town Hall lowered to half-staff “in their honor or in recognition of a loved one or others killed by gun violence in America.”
Plourde, Thompson and some residents said they would rather see the resolve without the Recognition section.
Further discussion was expected before the vote on Thursday. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Log Cabin, 196 Main St.
“Public safety is one of the core functions of our town government,” Humphrey said. “… I view this as a vital role of government at all levels, but specifically at a local level.”
The council first took up the question of solid waste disposal more than a year ago. Since then, Shannon said, the council has been discussing various options to increase recycling rates – including improvements to the town’s transfer station –all of which incorporate a pay-as-you-throw component.
Shannon’s draft resolution states that councilors endorse amendments to the town ordinance to include a PAYT program, in which residents would purchase bags for trash disposal and recycling would be free: the more recycling, the smaller the expense for trash bags.
Further, it would direct Town Manager Nat Tupper to put together a final draft of the proposal, including financing, tentative contracts with PAYT bag providers and implementation scheduling, and means of publicizing the program. That proposal would then be voted on in May.
“All this is is the intermediate step of directing Nat and the staff to put together the final package which we could then vote on,” Shannon said. “… There’s still more public input (and) council deliberations.”
Shannon, Craig and Humphrey voted in favor of moving the resolution, which states that the council supports the idea of a PAYT program, to a vote on April 12.
However, Thompson, Waeldner, MacLeod and Plourde voted against the resolution as drafted.
MacLeod said he was in favor of the concept, but doesn’t think it’s a “resolution matter.”
Waeldner added that the resolution seems to create “more work” and is “unnecessary.” He added that a PAYT ordinance could be adopted, but shouldn’t have to be endorsed by a resolve drafted by the council.
He also worried about being able to gather all of the information needed by May.
Plourde added that he thought there was still unresolved business that should be hashed out before moving forward.
“We need to instruct the staff to publicize the draft (PAYT) ordinance,” Shannon replied. “We need to give them guidance and this is a way to do it.”
Thompson said she felt like the proposal was “rushed.”
“I’m worried about (Tupper) and his staff publicizing it sufficiently by May 3,” she added. “… I’m reluctant to put the dates in there.”
Tupper said he was not concerned about the time factor.
“I’m asking you not to ask me to move five different options forward, but tell me which option you want. And then we will move it forward, with or without a resolution,” Tupper said.
Shannon said in an April 9 email that he is now working on drafting a package to be presented to the council that will include ordinances, a budget and operational details.
“The problem we may have here is that the fact that we have some details that may need to be worked out here is (restricting) us from doing anything,” he said.