Hadley Town Meeting OKs battery storage bylaw, honor Chunglo for service

Hadley Select Board member Joyce Chunglo was recognized at annual Town Meeting Thursday for her longtime service to the town. She is not seeking reelection to later this month.

Hadley Select Board member Joyce Chunglo was recognized at annual Town Meeting Thursday for her longtime service to the town. She is not seeking reelection to later this month. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-10-2024 9:18 PM

HADLEY — A bylaw to allow stand-alone battery storage facilities in town, though prohibit them in the aquifer protection district, and spending that includes a $21.7 million fiscal year 2025 municipal operating budget were easily approved at annual Town Meeting last Thursday that also featured tributes to Select Board member Joyce Chunglo as she wraps up her time as a town leader.

Other articles that won approval at the May 2 meeting include spending up to $9 million to replace water tanks and $2 million for a new fire ladder truck at the meeting that attracted nearly 200 residents to the Hopkins Academy cafetorium.

While some debate occurred related to adopting the battery storage bylaw and the various spending articles, both the beginning and close of the three-hour meeting featured Chunglo, who is nearing the end of her 21st year on the Select Board, after spending the previous 15 years on the School Committee.

Chunglo, who opted against running for reelection on May 21, told residents that it’s been a privilege to serve. “I consider you all my family. Thank you for letting me do it, actually,” Chunglo said.

There were only a handful of contentious matters on the 23-article warrant, with the bylaw related to battery storage being one, but passing 180-3.

Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski explained that the bylaw, which the board reluctantly supported, provides conditions and guidance for such projects, allowing them in agricultural-residential and industrial zones.

Michael Docter of Bay Road said he appreciates that green energy storage is being regulated and made as safe as possible. “We are confronting a major disaster with climate change right now, and these batteries are an essential part of storing solar and wind energy when it is abundant so that it can be used when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing,” Docter said.

But Tony Fyden of Cold Spring Lane said batteries are not safe, citing New York state’s experience with lithium ion batteries and the dangers they are posing. “If it’s not safe for the aquifer, it’s not safe for the residents, and it’s not safe for the farmland,” Fyden said.

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Another topic generating significant comment was the use of $150,000 in Community Preservation Act money for the Phelps Farmhouse, a River Drive property now part of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum. The money is needed so there is no further deterioration of the 1816 building that needs a new roof, structural reinforcement in the basement and mold abatement.

Voters also agreed to spend $325,000 to buy a home and 1.26-acre parcel at 234 Middle St., next to the current Department of Public Works, and which would become part of the project to rebuild the 53-year-old headquarters at the current South Middle Street location.

As the meeting got underway, state Rep. Dan Carey, D-Easthampton, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who represent Hadley in the state Legislature, presented citations to Chunglo, while Keegan presented the annual town report, dedicated to Chunglo.

“We see improvements around town that are thanks to your dedication and your time and so many other folks who have worked with you over the years,” Carey said.

Comerford said Chunglo’s time on the town and school boards have helped make Hadley a place where everyone can thrive. “There is simply nothing harder than municipal service. There is absolutely nothing harder,” Comerford said.