SWL: Public Works Planning to recommend eliminating Transfer Station sticker fees (Updated)

by beth on January 15, 2015

Post image for SWL: Public Works Planning to recommend eliminating Transfer Station sticker fees (Updated)

Above: If Selectmen follow the recommendation of the Public Works Planning Board, future Transfer Station stickers may be fully funded by property taxes instead of user fees. (Photo by Susan Fitzgerald)

Back in June, the Board of Selectmen asked the Department of Public Works to investigate options for changes to the Transfer Station. Selectmen asked the DPW to reconvene the Public Works Planning Board for the task.

Options they wanted to look at included pay-as-you-throw. To do that, the BOS appointed new blood to the depleted committee in September. Since then the PWPB has been working with the DPW to research options and costs.

Next Tuesday night, the PWPB is scheduled to present their findings to selectmen. This week, they voted on their recommendation. Southborough Wicked Local followed up on their decision.

[Editor’s note: BOS Chair Bill Boland asked me to clarify that the BOS has not even heard the report yet – let alone made their decision. (Apparently, some residents have the mistaken impression that the BOS approved the recommended change.) The board will vote on fee structures and regulations in the late spring as they do every year. He wrote, “At that point, we will consider the recommendations presented by the PWPB as well as any other input and information available to us.” The PWPB presentation is this Tuesday night at a public meeting. Boland invites all concerned to watch and provide the BOS with their feedback.]

SWL reports that the board opposed pay as you throw or other major changes. They cited strong community support for keeping operation methods at the station the same.

Focusing on the funding, the board voted 3-2 to recommend eliminating transfer station sticker fees. Current sticker fees run most residents $250 for the first 2 cars. (Senior citizens don’t have to pay the fee.)

The change would fully fund the Transfer Station through property taxes and allow access by all property owners.

SWL writes:

To run the station completely with tax money would cost $478,351, which amounts to a 22-cent increase per $1,000 of assessed value for property owners. . .

The operation of the station would stay the same under the recommendation, according to the report. . .

The report says it is “reasonable” for all residents to pay for the operation through property taxes as recommended.

“It really has become a community hub. People campaign there. Kids have car washes there. People go to the swap shop,” [Chair Desiree] Aselbekian said in an interview. “It is not just a place for people to throw trash.”

The committee’s second option is to keep things the same.

The report does include some minor recommended changes to contain costs and improve recycling. Cited in the article:

One change includes recommending charging fees for large items such as refrigerators, mattresses and couches, which are currently allowed at the station. . .

The report also indicates a need for increased recycling, such as single-stream except newspapers and cardboard.

Back in September, a few commenters on the blog criticized selectmen’s choices for PWPB members. They cited Aselbekian’s public call in the past to have DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan dismissed. (Aselbekian’s request this past spring was related to communications around the DPW layoff of the cemetery supervisor.) They also cited her purported relationship with the other appointed member, Jamie Hellen.

Called into question was whether the board members would cooperate with Galligan. The critics may be surprised to hear the board’s support of Galligan in their report.

SWL posts:

“We want to make it very clear that Ms. Galligan is running an extremely efficient and cost effective department relative to staffing levels,” the report reads.

The report also praised Galligan as “neutral and impartial in the process giving us the data and advice we sought”. Click here to read SWL’s full coverage.

The PWPB will present their recommendations at the January 20th Board of Selectmen meeting. According to their posted agenda, they expect to convene at 6:30 pm in the Town House Hearing Room.

Updated (1/18/15 12:15 pm): I updated with Editor’s Note above based on feedback from BOS Chair Bill Boland. (Apparently, selectmen heard from concerned residents who mistakenly believed the BOS already made a decision.)

As noted above,  the BOS has not even heard the report yet – let alone made their decision. According to Boland, the BOS will vote on fee structures and regulations in the late spring as they do every year. He wrote, “At that point, we will consider the recommendations presented by the PWPB as well as any other input and information available to us.”

The PWPB presentation is this Tuesday night at a public meeting. Boland invites all concerned to watch and provide the BOS with their feedback.

1 southsider January 15, 2015 at 11:41 AM

Bravo to the Committee! So pleased that they had productive relationship with the DPW department during their work. I’ve never been a fan of pay as you throw.
Would this “property owners” requirement put an added burden on landlords and/or deprive renters of access to this ” community hub”?

2 beth January 15, 2015 at 11:51 AM

I wondered the same.

We should learn more at next Tuesday’s BOS meeting. I can’t imagine selectmen ratifying PWPB’s recommendation without asking those questions.

3 Rachel January 15, 2015 at 2:05 PM

Perhaps I’m reading this wrong, but will we pay an average of $400+ for a sticker, now? It would just be added to our property taxes instead of a yearly bill?

4 Desiree Aselbekian January 15, 2015 at 2:19 PM

Beth,

As a member of the PWPB and its chair, I would like to thank you for adding this to your blog. I personally (not on behave of the Board) want to point out a few corrections to your post, however.

The PWPB was created under a home rule petition back in 1991 when the DPW was created. Under this law, the PWPB is charged with advising the Board of Selectmen on topics associated with the DPW.

The PWPB is appointed by the Town Moderator (3 appointees) and the Planning Board (2 appointees). All appointments are for a three year term and rotate every July. As of this July 1, there were three members on the board. One was up for reappointment by the moderator, one was in the middle of his cycle, and one did not seek reappointment. There were therefore three vacancies. In the summer the Moderator made his (re)appoints and in September the Planning Board made its appointments.

I want to commend the Moderator and the Planning Board for compiling a true cross-section of the public. We vary in age, gender, geography, and how long we have lived in town. The members of the PWPB are committed to aiding the DPW and advising the BOS on matters that will enhance the services of the DPW. Considering the DPW comprises a huge chunk of our Town’s budget, it is important that different sets of eyes with different perspectives have a look. Ultimately, all decisions rest with the BOS. However, we did our very best to vet the Transfer Station issue the best we could with the collaboration of Ms. Galligan.

It is important to note that our 3-2 vote is not really as cut and dry as it seems. We actually chose our first and second options. This is just how the final decision came out. There was much discussion regarding 5 options including: cost analysis, pros and cons, implementation process, and community impact. This is all outlined in our 10 page report to the BOS. I’m happy to provide a copy.

I personally enjoyed the process. This group of 5 works very well together. We did our homework and had a few laughs along the way. All of our meetings were open to the public, and we did receive community feedback. Our report has been submitted to the BOS for their consideration and will be discussed on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at the BOS meeting. Perhaps there will be a way for the report to get posted online at the Town’s Website.

I would encourage any person who has questions to attend the meeting Tuesday. Additionally, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. My number and email is on file at the Town Clerk’s office.

Thank you,
Desiree Aselbekian

5 RB January 16, 2015 at 7:55 AM

“I want to commend the Moderator and the Planning Board for compiling a true cross-section of the public. We vary in age, gender, geography, and how long we have lived in town.”

True cross section with respect to geography? Doesn’t the chair and another member of the committee have share the same address?

6 Desiree Aselbekian January 15, 2015 at 2:32 PM

It should read “not on behalf”. Sorry for the typo.

7 Matthew January 15, 2015 at 3:12 PM

Keep the fees but structure them fairly. (Once you take them away it will be very unpopular if not impossible to reinstate them when they realize their math was wrong.)
Call it $200 for one or two cars per family.
RAISE the fee for commercial/contractor vehicles that are passing their construction trash on to us but keeping the tipping fees they are charging their customers.
Ask the Seniors to pay something, even $25 would be fine. I just can’t see giving it away 100%.

The major problems I see do not seem to be addressed by what I have read above.
Commercial vehicles tossing more than permitted on a daily basis.
Lazy residential folks dumping recycling into the trash hopper.
Swap shop burdened with “crap” left by lazy people.

The staff spends too much time cleaning out a messy swap shop and not enough time ensuring that people are not dumping TV’s or throwing out recycling.
How about a dedicated volunteer(perhaps a senior) to tell someone to put their crap into the hopper and not the swap shop. Give them a camera to take pictures of plates and drop them in front of the shop every Saturday afternoon. A two way radio would ensure they can call for assistance.

8 Neil Rossen January 16, 2015 at 6:55 AM

Raising taxes is the usual “easy” option. I predict that we will all end up paying more for trash disposal as it gets “buried”. Meanwhile seniors on fixed incomes get severely penalized. There seems no absolutely compelling reason for change.

9 John Gulbankian January 18, 2015 at 11:23 AM

I have been following this subject with the rest of the town that has an interest in trash and transfer station fees.

Being a machinist I know the value of steel and scrap metals.

The transfer station has a metals bin which most everyone disposes their lawnmower,lawn furniture,etc.

The cost of steel scrap varies from $200-300 dollars a ton since scrap iron/metal/copper is a commodity like most everything else.

I understand that the scrap from the transfer station isn’t capitalized on;in other words it is GIVEN AWAY.!

I have sent two scrap dealers over to the town only to get turned away.

The one person we have actually separates metal,copper,aluminum,etc and pays per pound.
Even would take “White Goods” refrigerators and recycle those as well.

Granted it wouldn’t be a huge cash windfall but any money recouped would offset though slightly the cost to the town.

I have spoken to other towns ‘W” towns Weston,Wayland, I understand that they actually make money from their trash and have full staff running their recycling center.

This is just one example of a loss of income through trash to the town.
I thought I would mention it on this blog as everyone I have mentioned it to seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

10 beth January 18, 2015 at 12:16 PM

I just updated the post based on feedback from BOS Chair Bill Boland. (Apparently, selectmen heard from concerned residents who mistakenly believed the BOS already made a decision.)

As the story clearly stated, the BOS has not even heard the report yet – let alone made their decision.

According to Boland, the BOS will vote on fee structures and regulations in the late spring as they do every year. He wrote, “At that point, we will consider the recommendations presented by the PWPB as well as any other input and information available to us.”

The PWPB presentation is this Tuesday night at a public meeting. Boland invites all concerned to watch and provide the BOS with their feedback.

11 Richard January 19, 2015 at 9:27 AM

“As the story clearly stated, the BOS has not even heard the report yet – let alone made their decision.”

You mean “its decision,” not “their” decision. Board of Selectmen is a singular, not a plural. If you want to say “members of the BOS have not made their decisions,” that would be OK, because both “members” and “decisions” are plural.

Quality writing is important. Thank you.

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