BELCHERTOWN — Unlike last month when no public comments were allowed at a meeting of the Rattlesnake Review Working Group, audience members will be allowed to speak when the panel meets again next week, according to state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow.
The meeting will be March 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ware Knights of Columbus hall, 126 West Main St. (Route 9).
Lesser is on the 14-person working group made up of state wildlife officials, area selectmen, legislators and fishing associations. It is charged with reviewing a proposal to settle endangered rattlesnakes on Mount Zion, an island in the Quabbin Reservoir.
“They are planning to take questions in Ware,” Lesser told Belchertown selectmen Monday. “The intended purpose of (the working group) was to solicit feedback from the community.”
Belchertown Selectman William Barnett, who is also on the working group, said that without public comment “there is no reason for having the bloody hearing.”
At the Feb. 28 working group meeting, Barnett objected to the ban on public comment from the audience, characterizing it as un-American. “The American way is to let them speak,” he said.
Belchertown Selectman Ron Aponte told Lesser that members of the community, including himself, are not convinced the working group is really interested in their concerns.
“The fact that there was no public input was not well received. It seems very fishy,” he said.
“If it continues along that same vein, it will all be window dressing,” Aponte added.
“I am 100 percent of the same wavelength,” Lesser said.
The senator, who last year proposed a moratorium on the snake relocation proposal, said Monday, “I remain suspicious of it.”
According to the working group’s chairman, Joseph Larson, the panel is expected to make a recommendation by May to the seven-person Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife board, which he also chairs.
He said the MassWildlife board has the authority to make the final determination on whether the rattlesnake colony will be allowed at Mount Zion. Larson said the MassWildlife board would not be bound by the working group’s recommendation.
“I will not support it and will actively work to defeat it if we don’t feel the questions are not answered.