Transfer Station Update: New rules, answers on Commercial Vehicles and Recycling, potential Petitioner rules, and more (Updated)

by beth on June 22, 2018

Last night, the Board of Selectmen approved a slightly revised version of the Transfer Station Rules and Regulations that I previewed. Talk before and after the vote answered some questions commenters have raised. It also confirmed that selectmen will be taking a deeper look at changing how the station is funded.

And, at the urging of the Public Works chief, the board will look at creating rules around collecting petition signatures at the Transfer Stations and other properties. The focus is addressing complaints by residents who claim they were harassed.

New Transfer Station Rules

On Tuesday, I shared the draft rules and regs presented to selectmen. The board approved the document with a few changes. The most significant was allowing households to increase the number of vehicles allowed under the base fee for both all access and recycle only permits.

The original draft charged $25 per extra car beyond the first two. That was consistent with past years. Selectman Dan Kolenda suggested that residents should be allowed stickers for 3 cars without paying extra. The board agreed.

One other change has a big impact on a small % of residents. The initial draft referred to free permits for residents aged 65+ by 12/31/2017. The typo will be fixed to change that to 2018.

Other edits had to do how to make out checks and language around exemptions for people with financial needs. DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan explained that the fee exemption existed in past years. This year she was told that it should be included in the written rules and regulations.

Chair Lisa Braccio stressed that the new rules don’t increase fees. Galligan confirmed, but reminded that it eliminates the discount period.

Commercial vehicle complaints

On the blog (and apparently to at least one selectman), residents have complained that there is no special fee for commercial vehicles. Past and recent comments claimed to witness large amounts of construction debris dumped by commercial vehicles.

On Thursday night, Kolenda asked Galligan to address the concern. She clarified that many residents own commercial vehicles that they also use for personal purposes.

Galligan followed that any resident with a permit is allowed to dispose of construction debris from their own home – an example given was replacing a deck. That same rule applies for people with commercial vehicles working on their own residence. She said that whoever is working does try to keep people from taking advantage. If a commercial vehicle is disposing of a lot of materials, they look at the license plate and check into whether there is a building permit pulled for the owner’s home. But, she said that can be difficult since no permit needs to be pulled for some things like replacing a rug.

She acknowledged that some people try to take advantage. But she said that’s not just commercial vehicle owners. She told the public that if they saw some of the things people tried to get away with, they’d be surprised and that it often has no connection to commercial vehicles.

Chair Lisa Braccio, supported Galligan by explaining that her husband’s truck has commercial plates due to weight requirements, but is not used for work. It’s the only truck they have and is what they use for the Transfer Station.

Recycling expenses

Another question again raised in comments this week on the blog was why the charge for recycling stickers is $75 when recycling is presumably free. In the past that has been explained as contributing to the running of the station including staff. But at that time, there was also a lower fee available for $50 to residents who purchased during the now eliminated discount period.

This week, Galligan revealed that some recycling is actually pricier than disposing of trash. Beginning in February, the Town’s recycling vendor (Harvey) began charging $2,200 per month to take away “comingled” recycling. She referred to issues with recycling in China. Harvey used to sell the materials to China, now they are having trouble getting rid of them.

Rules for petitions and harassment

Galligan told selectmen that she has frequently gotten complaints from residents claiming they were harassed by people collecting petition signatures. She said one woman complained of being basically chased after while trying to dispose of her trash. 

She suggested that it would make sense for selectmen to come up with some rules. She indicated that people should be able to use the public space to collect signatures but guidelines could define the area or rules to avoid people feeling harrassed. And she followed that rules should be for all of the government spaces to avoid people relocating and turning the Senior Center to a free for all.

Kolenda claimed that when he’s questioned residents who signed past petitions if they understood what it was they often told him no. He said they told him they signed the petitions just to get people to leave them alone when they were trying to use the Transfer station.

Town Administrator Mark Purple offered that he could work with Galligan and Transfer Station staff to come up with suggested rules. They would then bring those to selectmen for consideration. Selectman Brian Shifrin recommended Purple also look at what other Towns have done.

Considering slashing Transfer Station fees

Don’t get too excited or upset. This doesn’t mean that Selectmen are voting on this any time soon. In fact there isn’t even a proposal on the table yet.

The Public Works Planning Board wants to take another look at changing the way the Transfer Station is funded. Following up on their past recommendations, the board wants to talk about replacing user fees with a nominal fee for permit stickers. Before putting time into working on that, Galligan wanted confirmation that selectmen were interested.

Both Braccio and Selectman Brian Shea confirmed they were interested in exploring it. Earlier in the meeting, Shea reminded the board that they had agreed to take a closer look at making that kind of change. He hoped they could start work sooner rather than later, to be prepared for Town Meeting in March.

Purple cautioned that people need to understand that the Town still has approved debt that hasn’t hit the tax base yet.

Updated (6/25/18 9:40 am): I just realized I had a glaring typo. I’m surprised that no one questioned why $220 per month for Recycling being taken away for the whole town would be considered more expensive than throwing the items away in the hopper! The actual expense has been $2,200 per month. Galligan forecast it will cost the Town an additional $26K this year beyond what was anticipated during the budget process. 

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Concerned Voter June 22, 2018 at 2:29 PM

Have never seen this or experienced this at all — and have signed multiple petitions, from individuals who seem to be the opposite of what is described here, being very respectful and reserved, backing off right away from any who may be reticent. It is odd that anyone would claim that they are “harassed” by any one trying to collect signatures. If they don’t want to sign or disagree, simply walk away.

Also, it is utterly nonsensical that anyone might claim that they did not understand what they were signing. It is the United States of America. Walk away, i.e. don’t sign. This is an individual responsibility, not something the BOS should be involved in or dictating. It just doesn’t get any weirder than this. I see these claims as likely NOT TRUE for the most part, but claims as a means to an end: stifling public participation and opposing public opinion — and ending the embarrassing Citizen Petitions (embarrassing to those angry individuals trying to stop them).

BOS members come and go — and hopefully those who do not embrace public comment and public participation will be going sooner rather than later due to their own misconduct.

In my opinion, this is the unjustified reaction of several BOS members to the recent Special Town Meeting that was held in spite of some members clear opposition and anger at not HAVING CONTROL OVER the citizens of Southborough taking matters into their own hands, in spite of their best efforts to stop the citizens.

WHY are the residents taking more control? This is due to the fact that citizens are waking up and paying attention to the failings, alleged illegal behaviors and misconduct, including those very same BOS members violating Massachusetts General Laws themselves.

The citizens are fed up. They have the power to enact their own bylaws and take other appropriate corrective actions in reaction to the alleged failings, bias, and law breaking of some BOS members and other officials with their own political agendas.

The citizens have had enough of these individuals’ (not all) poor participation and often poor knowledge and understanding of illegalities, with some matters ending up in Superior Court.

Furthermore, this seems to be a concerning PATTERN of bad behavior on the part of the same few who consistently seek to quell public comment in any way they can. They are observed during meetings to particularly do this to those who have opposing public comment and positions. This improper stifling can be directed at the participation of committees and boards, as well — the rest of town government !

Enough is enough. Citizens, you will need to push back with policies and even more participation. Who owns town property? The TOWN RESIDENTS. Time for these losers, who have removed the meaning of the term “public” from “public service” to move on and for those who actually welcome and embrace fair and balanced public participation to enjoy the full support of the residents.

Thank you

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2 southville June 22, 2018 at 2:47 PM

For those who think recycling is “zero cost,” it looks like that isn’t really the case anymore. China is a huge purchaser of recycling materials, and in recent years has changed many of the rules around what they accept and what they will pay. So some categories and some co-mingled recycling is tougher to pass through, and the restrictions on how much contamination (think yogurt left in the plastic container, or any shipment that isn’t 100% plastic) is allowed has gone way down.

So the cost to recycle has gone up everywhere in the world, and so we should expect costs associated with recycling to go up unfortunately.

There’s a ton of articles about it, but here’s one:
http://money.cnn.com/2018/04/20/news/economy/china-new-recycling-ban/index.html

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3 Mark Fallon June 22, 2018 at 4:01 PM

The selectman are wading into murky waters. Both the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions protect the right to solicit signatures on nomination papers and ballot question petitions in a reasonable and unobtrusive manner in open public areas.

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4 Jack Barron June 22, 2018 at 5:04 PM

The Historical Commission filing with the Mass. State Ethics Commission adds another sitting or previous selectman or board member to the long list already before the ethics commission. Perhaps it’s time for a satellite office of the Ethics commission to be set up in Southborough so we can walk the complaints over of unethical behavior and save the postage stamp.

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5 Louise Barron June 24, 2018 at 6:22 PM

Anyone want to model an orange jumpsuit.

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6 Ralph W. Emerson June 22, 2018 at 6:46 PM

Concerned Voter has a really good point. Is stopping citizens from getting signatures at the Transfer Station a way to discourage resident participation in our town, state and national governments? Yes.
Are the complaints about harassment anecdotal? Yes.
Is any “harrassment” on video? I’d like to see that.
What I do see is that week after week, citizens who care about self-government go to the Transfer Station to be part of the democratic process, and give an opportunity to others to do the same.
The petition is a fundamental part of democracy. Let’s not shut that down in Southborough.

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7 Resident June 25, 2018 at 1:44 PM

I agree 100%. The overreaching, self-service and pettiness of some of our selectmen is shocking and disappointing. It’s a shame that so many people in town are not in tune with what is happening with our local government and the behavior of our elected officials. Until a few years ago, I was one of those people. I’m not anymore. I urge everyone to read this blog, stay abreast of the issues, attend meetings and VOTE IN ELECTIONS.

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8 Jojama June 24, 2018 at 10:50 AM

I find the high school athletes conducting a car wash fundraiser, the Boy Scouts collecting money for Eagle projects, etc annoying and overly good natured and polite for my liking on a Saturday morning. Should we put restraints on these activities too?
This is ridiculous and again over reach by an INCREASINGLY authoritarian BOS.

My personal experience has never been negative. I have never felt pressured to sign anything I was uncomfortable with. In fact, only good conversation and open dialogue occurred. On the other hand , as a citizen who frequently attends BOS meetings, Candidate Nights and every Town Meeting for the last 22 years, I have seen an increasing disdain for citizens and their participation by a certain BOS member . There is constant eye rolling, side conversations and open hostility. Maybe certain BOS members should be adhering to a new set of rules!

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9 Concerned Voter June 24, 2018 at 4:33 PM

Completely agree, Jojama. That disdain is open hostility to public comment and participation — with attempts to actually shut it down and slandering regular citizens who actually stay informed and try to speak. It feels like a wholly inappropriate, military dictatorship. One individual displayed outright anger in trying to stop the Special Town Meeting. Utterly ridiculous.

These individuals have disqualified, i.e. “fired” themselves, so to speak, with their appalling misconduct and BREAKING of Massachusetts General Laws.

Time for major pushback and greater participation of the citizenry. And completely agree with you on the need for a new set of rules / policies for Selectmen CONDUCT. If they can’t abide by Massachusetts General Law, they have disqualified themselves. They are OUT.

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10 Kelly Roney June 24, 2018 at 5:14 PM

I’ve solicited signatures at the dump many times. I’ve had my signature solicited at the dump many times. I’ve never ever seen harassment, whatever point of view was represented, unless the meaning of “harassment” has been changed to mean “asking for a signature.”

I can say that I will not obey any attempt of the Town of Southborough to overrule the Constitution. The dump is a public place, and consistent with safety, I have the ironclad Constitutional right to speak to people there about politics.

Dan Kolenda’s report that people didn’t know what they were signing is irrelevant. Finding out what a petition says is up to the people who are signing. They have to ask if they aren’t sure. Actually, all they have to do is read the petition.

But why is a Selectman asking people why they signed a petition anyway? Why is he taking it upon himself even to find out who has signed?

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11 Al Hamilton June 26, 2018 at 8:35 AM

Kelly – You and I don’t agree on many things but I will gladly join you in violating any anti petition rules the BOS tries to impose.

A few years ago I defended Mr. Kolenda when he was attacked for putting his campaign signs out “too early”. There was talk of a non existent ordinance and proposals to put such ordinances to restrict this behavior in place in spite of the fact that Mr. Kolenda had clear First Amendment Rights to put his signs out anytime he chose.

The Right to Petition the Government is similarly found in the same amendment and in the Massachusetts Constitution which served as the model for our Federal Constitution. Some on the BOS may not like the fact that the Citizens can propose legislation but they trample on those hard won rights at their judicial peril. Far too many have died face down in the mud to protect these rights for us to surrender them lightly.

As a refresher:

First Amendment of the US Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Article XIX of the Massachusetts Constitution”

“The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer. [See Amendments, Art. XLVIII, The Initiative, II, sec. 2.]”

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12 Kelly Roney June 26, 2018 at 1:30 PM

You and me, Al, in handcuffs together!

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13 Matthew June 24, 2018 at 10:38 PM

Petitioners have always been polite in my experience. Respectful when I decline, informative and articulate when I engage them. I would like to see the list of these complaints made public along with a list of when people are cited for illegal dumping. It’s too easy to assume the DPW is exaggerating when the they are arguing against an opinion that goes against their policy.

If a commercial vehicle is used by a business that generates trash or construction debris then it should be charged more. If a commercial vehicle is not used to transport trash or construction debris then the owner should be allowed to make the case to the DPW for a residential permit.

Trash is not sustainable and recycling is not the only option. The concept of “reduce, re-use, and then recycle” is already antiquated we just haven’t realized it yet. We need to examine what we buy and understand the full life cycle of the product and packaging. Bottle water is a crime. Grrr.

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14 David Parry June 25, 2018 at 11:21 AM

Two points, on rumor vs fact.

(1). Unsubstantiated rumor.

Direct quote from the article above:

“Kolenda claimed that when he’s questioned residents who signed past petitions, if they understood what it was, they often told him no. He said they told him they signed the petitions just to get people to leave them alone when they were trying to use the Transfer station.”

Is this claim credible?

All other commenters (above) have never witnessed such behavior. It sounds such utter nonsense, it probably is.

(2). Facts on usage without permits.

Two weeks ago a police officer was checking vehicles entering on Saturday morning. He expressed amazement at the high number missing stickers.

Please will the Editor follow up on this, provide the police findings, and tell us what is being done about it.

Thank you.

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15 JMO June 25, 2018 at 10:15 PM

I might be one of those people who has no idea what the petition was actually petitioning. However, I have never been asked if I knew what I had just signed either. My view on petitions is quit simple, I don’t have all the facts about the issue, but I strongly believe in democracy and the right of the people to decide, so I am always willing to sign any petition and let the voters decide.

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16 Resident1961 June 26, 2018 at 12:38 PM

I agree that petition signing has become a nuisance & harassment at the transfer station, couldn’t dump my crap freely without getting surrounded by petition sign-seekers, To avoid them many in our street started visiting transfer station at closing times.

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17 Concerned Voter June 26, 2018 at 3:41 PM

Sorry, but you are in the extreme minority. There were over 600 signatures gathered on three separate petitions for the last special town meeting.

So ABOUT 600 PEOPLE DISAGREE WITH YOU. Including KELLY AND AL.

And BTW, thank you to those above — especially Kelly and Al !! (I’ll bake you a big cake with a file in it !! — for what?? for exercising the right to petition the government )

Having spoken with some petitioners, they had citizens THANKING THEM for their interest and initiative, as many do not have the time or resources. THEY WERE THANKED FOR SPENDING THEIR FREE TIME (we are not talking about lazy couch potatoes) on a Saturday ENGAGED IN RIGHTING PERCEIVED WRONGS on behalf of all of us — SUCH AS QUORUM (“MORE IS BETTER” THAN THREE) REQUIREMENT.

However, good for you, you figured out a way that it works for you by just coming later in the day. “Nuisance and harassment” is an EXAGGERATION — at least by 600 citizens’ standards.

Sorry, add Thomas Jefferson– the founding father who penned the right– to that — so make that 601 persons. Thank you

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18 Kelly Roney June 26, 2018 at 11:10 PM

All you have to say is, “No, thank you.” You can even skip the thank you if you like.

That seems a negligible price to pay for self-government.

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19 my town sb southborough June 26, 2018 at 5:07 PM

CITIZEN COMRADES,
Do you realize that your First Amendment Rights have already been clipped?? See the “no electioneering” rule cited in the following letter to the editor:
http://www.mysouthborough.com/2018/06/06/letter-response-to-slandering-of-unruly-citizens-at-special-town-meeting/

First town meetings, now the dump. If this attempt to stifle democratic rights moves forward, the State is advising the Citizens to SUE THE TOWN. However, in my opinion, the citizens will sue the BOS in their official capacities and individually. Why? Because this is not a dictatorship, even though a few are trying to make it one, to suit their own political agenda.

The good news? There was a recent regime change: There is a new BOS Chair. News flash! This change happened during an untelevised BOS meeting on a Friday morning at the crack of dawn (June 8th). BTW, the new Chairperson is Lisa Braccio. Mr. Daniel Kolenda was reported to be an angry adversary letting it all hang out due to the fact that the session was NOT televised. He LOST his bid to be the Chairperson, as did his other recommended choice, Mr. Shifrin.

Resident Comrades! Call Secretary Galvin’s office: They have never heard of a town bylaw such as the one cited above. Literally, no other town has a 150’ barrier prohibiting the distributing leaflets, brochures etc. for a town meeting. Only Southborough.

COMRADES, NOW FOR A SPECIAL SURPRISE TREAT, see the following link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukJ5dMYx2no

Especially see the funny bits at the following time marks:
A Typical ZBA Meeting – 0.50 minute mark
The Fight for Leadership Begins – the most recent BOS elections — 1.03 minute mark
The Politician – 1.11 minute mark
The General (remind you of anyone harassing a resident trying to get help?) – 1.28 minute mark
Note the humorous subtitle “loosely based on a true story. . .” (?!) — 1.45 minute mark

CITIZEN COMRADES – ONLY A FEW MORE ELECTIONS AND CITIZEN WARRANTS TO GO UNTIL DEMOCRACY! (For those with no sense of humor, don’t bother viewing the tape.)

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20 Marnie Hoolahan June 26, 2018 at 8:10 PM

I am not at all surprised.
Several elected, appointed and Town employees are upset that the “involved and concerned citizens” are aggrieved and take action. Those several elected, appointed and Town employees get even angrier when the “concerned citizens” actually convince others to be concerned and take action. Those several elected, appointed and Town employees are threatened to lose power and control- but remember that is not why we elected, appointed or employed them. These select elected, appointed and Town employees are in their roles to represent the citizens and the best interests of our Town while upholding Constitutional rights. When those select elected, appointed or Town employees go rogue, we pay close attention and hold them accountable.
This “problem of solicitation brought up by Ms. Galligan and supported by Mr. Kolenda” is a nothing more than a personal agenda driven by frustration from loss of respect, loss of perceived power and desperation to cling on to something.
Go ahead and try to make some of those changes, we, the “involved and concerned citizens” will be paying even closer attention.

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21 Josh June 27, 2018 at 2:55 PM

Interesting points, I switched to the private curb pick-up to avoid petition signature hunters, they spoil my Saturday morning mood.

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22 Mark Ford June 27, 2018 at 7:00 PM

I get it, Josh. As an alternative view, I really like the vibe at the Transfer Station. I chuck $5 to a fundraising carwash (many times I don’t even bother getting my car treated), buy a few baked goods or some cookies from the Boy/Girl Scouts, and often get to learn about local town politics…all while bumping into my neighbors and friends. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning!

btw, count me in the number that would like some Sunday hours as well…

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23 Kelly Roney June 28, 2018 at 10:47 AM

Oh, satire! Has to be.

Funny!

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24 Mark Fallon June 28, 2018 at 5:11 PM

I doubt Mr. Ford meant it as satire, as I feel the same way. It’s one of the few places in this town where there’s any sense of community. I also usually donate to the car wash, and always drop a few dollars with the Scouts or whatever youth group is selling baked goods or raffle tickets. And I appreciate the people who take an interest by either running for office or gathering a petition.

Not everything is bad.

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25 Mark Ford June 29, 2018 at 9:15 AM

Mr. Fallon,

Thanks for that, but I suspect Kelly is hoping that Josh’s comment is satire, not mine. Kelly’s a friend, and he and I have collected signatures on petitions etc. at the transfer station before. He’s one of the folks I enjoy bumping into!

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26 Kelly Roney June 29, 2018 at 10:16 AM

Mark Fallon, I was replying to Josh. Mark Ford and I – and you, too – are on the same side of this.

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27 Concerned Voter June 27, 2018 at 5:01 PM

There haven’t been that many petitions. So that seems pretty incredible. For the most part, the few times petitioners have been at the dump is once or twice a year, preceding Town Meeting and Special Town Meeting (if there is one in any given year).

I thank those who bother to spoil their Saturday morning mood and care enough to get off their couches to right the wrongs (such as retaining the quorum requirement, “more is better” for a quorum requirement, Cannot believe the audacity of those in town government who would argue for the wrong thing, less is better!).

Deeply appreciate and thank those who care enough to engage in grass roots democracy on behalf of all.

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28 Louise Barron June 27, 2018 at 9:12 PM

Sorry to upset your apple cart. FYI. Many of these nuisance people with nuisance petitions on Saturdays and other days do this for one important purpose. To address the often made laws enforced upon us without do diligence by boards. The boards in Sobo are not working on our behalf. They make laws, (no different than the State House late at night), that will only hurt you the taxpayer. They paint streets late at night, change town codes, without benefit of open dialog. They talk of disallowing petition signing. The moderator, special counsel showed at the Special Town Meeting exactly what kind of a dictatorship is governing the citizens.

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