SEEKONK — Shopping in the town’s many stores will be a bit different starting next year.
The town has become the third community in the Attleboro area to ban thin-film plastic bags in stores, joining Mansfield and Attleboro in the growing movement that other towns in the area are considering joining.
Residents at Monday’s annual town meeting voted overwhelmingly to implement the ban starting Jan. 1.
At least 222 residents turned out for the meeting at the high school.
Debate on the bag restriction was surprisingly brief, with most agreeing the measure will be a benefit to the environment.
The regulations, proposed by a citizen petition, would ban the typical, thin-film plastic check-out bags at stores, except for such items as produce, meat and other wet items.
The measure would start being phased in starting Jan. 1 of next year, and mean stores would have to either use paper bags or reusable cloth bags.
Former selectwoman Michelle Hines said she initially had reservations about the ban.
“I was vehemently against passing this, but since have done some research,” Hines said, mentioning she had talked to residents in communities that have a ban. “The only downside I was told, if they throw them away (replacement bags), they take up more space” in landfills.
Hines added, “This is not a hindrance to senior citizens.”
John Alves, a senior who chairs the town’s Community Preservation Committee, agreed.
“I bring my own bag. Many people do,” Alves said, adding he shops for food daily. “This is not a burden.”
Another resident warned it is “just the first stepping stone to kind of banning all plastics.”
Residents also easily backed the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, but not before over an hour of discussion.
The budget runs $58.9 million, about a $3.8 million, or nearly 7 percent, jump over this year’s spending. About $43.5 million of the budget is funded with local tax dollars and a lot of the remainder, $8.1 million, comes from state aid.
Education spending will come in at $29.8 million, about $2.2 million or slightly over 8 percent over this year. With state education aid, the town is paying only about $900,000 of the increase, Superintendent Rich Drolet noted.
Town Administrator Shawn Cadime said the needs of public safety and other departments had been addressed in recent years and the upcoming budget is boosting the department of public works and parks and recreation department.
The DPW’s $1.585 million budget is being increased by about $317,000, or 25 percent, including adding two new employees.
In other town meeting business, residents approved about $1 million in building and equipment items known as capital items, again with lengthy discussion.
Among the expenditures are several vehicles, including trucks for the DPW, and new ambulance and continued payment for fire engines; work for school stages at a cost of nearly $200,000; $83,600 for the high school TV studio; and $26,500 for new voting machines.
Residents also agreed to spend most of $717,000 in free cash — a reserve fund made up of unexpected revenue and savings, for various expenses, including $285,000 for planning for the replacement of the Pond Street Bridge.
They also supported a 3 percent tax on retail sales of marijuana as allowed by state law. Voters had previously backed recreational pot sales.