A Southborough institution is closing its doors. I’m not talking about the Spa, or the Southborough House of Pizza, or Fitzgerald’s store. I’m talking about the Swap Shop.
DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan announced at tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting that the shed at the Transfer Station where resident leave items they no longer need and search for new treasures left by others, will close for good on December 1. She said she made the decision because the Swap Shop is routinely being abused.
In a memo to Selectmen, Galligan said residents will camp out in front of the Swap Shop for hours on end, causing traffic issues at the adjacent recycling area. “The same group of 20 to 40 people either park at the Swap Shop for hours or visit the Swap Shop 3 to 8 times a day. The residents box out other residents from getting the ‘good stuff,’ they grab items from residents before they even make it into the Swap Shop and they take over the platform in the area of the Swap Shop,” Galligan wrote.
Those trolling the Swap Shop for hours are often looking for items to sell on eBay or at flea markets. “This was not the intent of the Swap Shop,” Galligan said in her memo.
Galligan also told selectmen much of what’s left at the Swap Shop is trash that really belongs in the hopper, or not at the Transfer Station at all. She said residents will leave broken TVs “when someone isn’t looking” which the town then has to pay to dispose of properly.
Police Chief Jane Moran said she spent years patrolling the Transfer Station and the Swap Shop. “I would watch DPW employees go back and forth taking loads of stuff to the hopper because it’s just junk,” she told selectmen. “Is it fiscally responsible to burden the Transfer Station employees with cleaning up people’s trash?”
Galligan said enforcing Transfer Station rules – at the Swap Shop and elsewhere – often turns confrontational, with residents intimidating, yelling at, and even spitting on employees.
“We ask people to leave (the Swap Shop), and they don’t…Should we call police? It’s a waste of their time,” Galligan said.
Moran agreed enforcement is a problem. “We can’t station an officer down there,” she said.
Selectmen discussed citing those who abuse the system or revoking their Transfer Station stickers, but ultimately rejected the idea and unanimously supported Galligan’s decision to close the shop.
“There is strong evidence that (the Swap Shop) is being abused, and DPW officials doing their good work are being abused too,” Kolenda said.
I asked Boland after the meeting if this was a case of a few bad apples ruining it for the majority. “Yes, but it’s more than just a few,” he said.
The decision to close the Swap Shop already has residents riled up. “The swap shop should remain open. The abuse is minimal. Let the community staff and police those who take advantage. So many of us have contributed and/or acquired many items. Leave it alone!!” one resident posted on the My Southborough Facebook page.
Some commenting on Facebook worried that closing the Swap Shop would be a setback to the town’s recycling efforts, but Galligan said because much of what is left there ends up in the hopper anyway, she doesn’t expect a significant increase in the amount of trash handled at the facility.
Galligan said instead of using the Swap Shop, residents can donate their items to organizations like Big Brother/Big Sister which will come to your house to pick up donations.
If the reaction on Facebook and Twitter is any indication, this one is going to be a hot topic here on the blog. So, please have at it and share your thoughts in the comments. Are you sad to see the Swap Shop go? Were you surprised by the decision? Or are you just glad you’ll be able to get to the recycling area at 5:00 on a Saturday afternoon?