Residents air thoughts about Thomaston leaf blower law at forum

Residents air thoughts about Thomaston leaf blower law at forum
Bert Hirsch addresses Thomaston village trustees about the environmental hazards of leaf blowers. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Several residents from the Village of Thomaston weighed in on whether to repeal a law banning gas-powered leaf blowers from May 1 to Sept. 30 on Monday night, raising points about the environment, efficiency and enforcement of the regulation.

A number of residents expressed support for blowing away the law. They said that electric-powered blowers cannot get jobs done quickly enough, village fines are often passed onto residents and many times the law cannot be enforced.

Richard Cohen, a Susquehanna Avenue resident, said he would prefer gas-powered equipment be allowed because it would make it easier to clean the yard and make it look good for the neighborhood.

“My home doesn’t have grass – it has bushes and shrubs and tall trees,” Cohen said. “I have a gardener that comes once a week and with electric-powered equipment that cannot do effective cleaning.”

Village officials said it is a minimum $100 fine whenever someone in the village uses a gas-powered leaf blower between May 1 and Sept. 30, regardless of time of day. Electric or battery-powered leaf blowers can be operated between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the week throughout the year, as can gas-powered leaf blowers save for the May 1 to Sept. 30 period. During the weekends and holidays, the hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Many residents, however, expressed concerns about the environmental damage repealing the law could do.

Arbor Street resident Bert Hirsch, referring to information from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, said gas-powered leaf blowers kick up toxic dust, kill insects and pollute the environment.

“When the board adopted the current local law, that was hard fought for,” Hirsch said, recalling the law’s passage 20 years ago. “An awful lot of people tried to get that local law passed for a long time before it was finally passed. It was a compromise.”

Some residents like Bernice Talmatch sought to find a middle ground. She said that while she loves the environment, both visually and in terms of quiet, some landscaping companies – like the one she uses – cannot afford newer equipment.

“It’s a small company and I think they can’t afford to get new equipment,” Talmatch said, noting how they tend to use rakes to finish their work. “So I would like there to be a modification, some compromise.”

Kathleen Taylor, who said she spoke with her gardeners, also said it could be helpful if the village speaks with landscapers to find a “better window” than the current May 1 to Sept. 30.

Thomaston Mayor Steven Weinberg ultimately thanked residents for coming out to the community forum.

“I appreciate it very much and we will think about it and consider and see if we take any further action from here,” Weinberg said.

In unrelated business, trustees also discussed modifications to a plan presented by Tower Ford for its 655 Northern Blvd. facility to include additional storage for cars and add more than a foot of building height, but took no action.

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