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Springfield, Mass., Moves Toward Limiting Plastic Bag Use By City Businesses

City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/21953562@N07
City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Springfield, Massachusetts, is on its way toward limiting single-use plastic bags. An ordinance proposed in the City Council cleared its first legislative hurdle.
Councilors voted Monday night to advance an ordinance that would make it illegal for Springfield businesses to give out plastic bags at the checkout counter.

Instead, stores could sell reusable bags or ones made of paper or other biodegradable material.

Councilor Michael Fenton said at the City Council meeting that he supports the goal of reducing the number of environmentally-damaging bags. But he also said he’s seen proposals like this before.

"The concerns that have been raised, and the concerns that I have now, have always been about two things," Fenton said. "The first is the impact on the poorest communities, and the second is enforceability."

Under the proposed ordinance, businesses doling out plastic bags would receive a $50 fine for a first offense, and $100 for repeated offenses.

The City Council still has to vote for the ordinance a couple more times before it goes to the mayor for final approval.

According to the Sierra Club, 93 cities and towns — representing 40 percent of the Massachusetts population — currently have some kind of plastic bag ban.

MGM taking over Symphony Hall

The Springfield City Council also approved a four-month deal that puts MGM in charge of managing the city's Symphony Hall.

Springfield chief administrative and financial officer T.J. Plante said the original plan was to reach a deal in which a management company would take all the financial risk.

But the Symphony Hall building's aging infrastructure made that unrealistic, Plante said.

"It's eye-opening when you think the venue's in great shape, and then you realize that you need a new sound system, because it's not compatible with the existing technology, because it's so old that it adds on to the cost to bring an entertainer here," Plante said.

MGM was one of two companies to bid for the management deal.

Plante said that during the four-month contract, MGM and city officials will continue to negotiate a longer-term contract.


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