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January 14, 2008

Residents want school grounds to go organic

KINGSTON - Some residents think the school district grounds need to be a little bit greener, and they're hoping voters will spend $40,000 for the cause.

A citizens petition calls for the Sanborn Regional School District to use only organic fertilizers in the future. It will be up for discussion at the deliberative session next month.

The petitioners want the district to switch to an "organic based land care program," instead of a petrochemical program, for the safety of the environment and the children. The warrant article asks for no more than $40,000. The school district's entire grounds budget for the current school year was about $35,000.

Kingston residents Sandra Seaman and her husband were among the 36 people who signed the petition. She said she doesn't use organic fertilizers at her own home, but she would if they were more accessible.

"I know that it's expensive," she said. "Unfortunately, right, wrong or indifferent, it's probably the best for us."

Several types of organic fertilizers are made without manure, and have bases of natural substances such as blood meal, bone meal, and fish meal.

Superintendent Keith Pfeifer said this is the first time a citizens petition for organic fertilization has been submitted, and he believes it's mainly to help the environment.

"Where the high school has some wetlands near it, I believe they thought it would be wiser to use an organic approach," he said. "It may be initially more money, but you're not dumping chemicals in the wetlands while making sure that our grass grows at the same time."

The Salem and Newburyport, Mass., school districts switched to organic fertilizers a couple of years ago, but most large school districts, including Londonderry and Timberlane, use petrochemicals when they fertilize school grounds.

Kingston resident John Whittier said those chemicals have not been proven to be safe, so he signed the petition to hear more conversation about the topic.

"We seem to know so little about our environment and how we disrupt it or keep it in balance," he said. "I don't know whether this is right or wrong, but I certainly think it's time to have a debate about it."

The citizens petition will be up for debate at the deliberative session on Feb. 7, when voters can move the article forward to the March ballot or reject it.

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