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HARVARD — Residents will be charged a $10 fee for brush burning permits this year, and the money will be used to fund the SAFE program.

Permits are issued once per season – January through May – and come with lists of local and state regulations and standard safety guidelines for outdoor brush burning.

Selectmen voted unanimously to establish the fee at their recent meeting, after agreeing to reconsider their previous decision not to do so.

When Fire Chief Joseph Sicard proposed a $25 fee at an earlier session, the board said no.

Speaking against it, Selectman Ron Ricci said this was not the year to start charging for burn permits. Faced with yards full of Halloween snowstorm debris they’ve been asked not to haul to the roadside, residents would need to burn more brush than in previous years when permits were free, he said, and it would be unfair to charge them $25 for it.

Selectman and retired Fire Chief Peter Warren said he’d favor the fee only if the collected money was used to fund the SAFE program.

The state-wide fire safety education initiative, successfully implemented by the Fire Dept., has never been included in the town budget. Paid for with grants and fund-raising, resources are getting scarce, Warren said, but the SAFE program is worth saving.

At the recent meeting, Ricci brought the issue back to the table. Based on past numbers, Sicard has said the $10 burn permit fee would fund the SAFE program for a year, he said.

But the fee will be charged only this year and rolled back to zero the following year.

The selectmen said they intend to ask Annual Town Meeting voters in April to fund the SAFE program as a budget line item next year.

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