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Humarock residents join together to protest bonfire ban, July 3 response

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 23, 2012 12:04 PM

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Humarock residents say they are still incensed over a conflict with the town of Scituate July 3 over the long-standing practice of setting beach bonfires, and some are even talking of seceding from the town.

The issues were drawn out in a meeting at the Humarock Civic Association on July 22, where over 100 Humarock residents sat down to discuss next steps.

“We’re paying millions of dollars in taxes on this peninsula and we don’t have a voice. We’re trying to figure it out how do we get heard,” said Jeanette Langlois, whose property was involved in the conflict on July 3.

According to residents, local families were hosting an homage to bonfires on July 3 with unlit pallets on the beach when town officials came out in force, destroying the pallets with heavy construction equipment and burying it on the beach.

Town officials see it differently, and say residents had been told to remove pallets – which are typically used in bonfires – to ensure compliance with the new bonfire ban in town. When residents refused, town safety personnel responded as promised.

The response angered Humarock residents, who claim the reaction put residents' safety at risk.

To protest the response, three Humarock residents came to a walk-in period of a selectmen’s meeting on July 10, hoping to hash out problems with officials.

Town officials said they were advised by town counsel not to discuss the issues due to pending litigation with several residents. When the residents’ protests got heated, town officials asked them to leave.

The result is a standoff between Humarock and the town, and Humarock residents say they aren’t sure where things will go from here.

“We’re trying to get a dialogue, trying to get heard, find solutions, and no one will speak to us,” Langlois said. “The South Humarock Civic Association decided we needed to be civic-minded and work towards a solution and get the feelings of the residents … everyone has their own opinion, but the consensus is something is really wrong.”

Residents say Sunday’s meeting was the first of two, and are planning to meet again on July 29 to further the discussions.

“Next week will probably be a larger meeting to gather people who want to exercise something a little stronger,” Langlois said. “We have a letter, next week we will add some things [to the agenda and decide] who we need to go to. It’s a step at a time, and we’re in a process right now. We’re trying to be more thoughtful than the town was, and more solution [oriented].”

Although there has been talk of succession by a few residents, Langlois said Humarock isn’t at that point yet.

“This is no knee jerk reaction happening,” she said.

According to Jack Kwesell, who’s son-in-law John Jacey moderated Sunday’s meeting, the focus right now is on resolving the July 3 issue, and not on succession or problems with maintenance of Humarock.

“Besides focusing on the event on July 3, [these meetings are] a good venue for citizens to get together and talk about other issues - but that’s not what we’re addressing to selectmen,” Kwesell said. “The issue is the assault – we’d like to know the reason behind it and why were weren’t involved in the decision making process. Someone has to answer to that.”

Kwesell said the town’s unwillingness to have that discussion July 10 was problematic, and hopes Humarock residents start to formalize a different response to the town.

Selectmen Chair Joseph Norton said he would be happy to have residents sit down with officials to hash out problems, as long as they do so in a calm and professional manner.

“If we could have a calm and sensible discussion, I don’t think the town has any problem discussing with an resident an issue they might have,” he said.

However, officials will not discuss issues relative to litigation.

“There are individuals suing the town. If they wanted to come and talk to us about their particular case, we would not be allowed to talk about it. If Humarock residents – the easiest way to do it – want to send a delegation or pick a few people to come over and have an initial conversation, I don’t have a problem with that at all. As long as it’s a calm and not threatening manner,” Norton said.

As for the issue over the laws surrounding bonfires, Selectman Tony Vegnani said residents should take those complaints up with the statehouse.

“I don’t think they realize that bonfires are illegal. There is no ground. They are illegal. So I’d love to understand what the problem is but the police enforced the law, and if they don’t agree with the law, they should go to the statehouse,” he said.

Regardless, town officials do plan on working with residents to move forward, he said.

“I don’t know what their goal is. at some point there will be some discussion I imagine where it goes back and forth and we will try to find some sort of common ground if we can, but in some cases I don’t know if there is,” he said.

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