Selectman encourages ‘rational discussion’ over Swap Shop

Above: The Swap Shop was busy on Saturday (photo by Eric Tapper)

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Bill Boland said this morning that he would be “looking into” feedback received from residents over the decision last week to permanently close the Swap Shop at the Transfer Station. The shop is currently scheduled to close for good on Thursday, December 1.

The decision to close the shop was made last week by DPW Superintended Karen Galligan in response to what she said was ongoing abuse of the system and of DPW employees. All three Board of Selectmen members backed her decision without reservation.

“I have been hearing for a long time that there have been problems (with the Swap Shop),” Boland said this morning.

While he plans to talk with town officials in the next couple of days about the outcry over the decision, Boland said he does not expect the Board of Selectmen will schedule a public hearing on the matter this week. At this point it has also not been added to the agenda for the board’s next scheduled meeting on December 6.

Boland said one of the three selectmen may not be able to attend the December 6 meeting, and he does not want to hold a discussion about the Swap Shop without the full board present.

The decision to close or keep the Swap Shop open, however, does not require a vote by the Board of Selectman. DPW Superintendent Galligan has the authority to make the decision without input from the board. Boland said he had not yet talked with Galligan today about her current thinking.

Boland said he spent more than an hour talking with residents at the Transfer Station on Saturday, as did Selectman John Rooney. He said for some, emotions were high.

“Some people make very good cases,” Boland said. “Others get in your face and say there are no problems (with the Swap Shop), or say the DPW employees are the problem. We obviously have a problem. The question is how do we solve it.”

Boland said he was not surprised by the reaction to close the Swap Shop, but he said calls to “occupy the Swap Shop” don’t help, and encouraged residents to discuss the issue rationally.

“We have so many smart people in this town,” he said. “Maybe we can find a way to make it work.”

While he supported the decision to close the Swap Shop, Boland said this morning he’d like to see a way to keep it open. He encouraged residents to email their ideas and suggestions to selectmen@southboroughma.com.

“We’re more than willing to listen to them,” he said.

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Bonnie Phaneuf
10 years ago

Bill, As the Chairmen of the Board of Selectmen, please direct DPW Superintendent to keep the Swap Shop open. Simple solution until the board meets.

Eric Tapper
10 years ago
Reply to  Bonnie Phaneuf

Well stated, Bonnie. Thank you.

Chuck
10 years ago
Reply to  Eric Tapper

Here here!

Southside Gadsden Flyer
10 years ago

I just wrote the BOS…hoping that they will listen to us before letting Superintendent Galligan decide. I just paid $175 for my 2012 Transfer Station sticker, expecting the same level of service. If they close it, I am hoping for a $25 refund.

John Butler
10 years ago

People, you can make it your decision. You hold the pursestrings for the DPW at Town Meeting. The 95 of you who wrote in to complain are probably enough to pass a floor amendment “No funds shall be expended under this budget unless services include operation of a swap shop”. Alternatively 10 signatures would put it on its own warrant, but you need to do that this month. We’re already buying the labor, so there’s no cost. Remember you have this democracy to use its power, so you don’t need to post in frustration.

Steve Phillips
10 years ago

I would like to second Ms. Phaneuf’s recommendation. The DPW is not a law unto itself, and its actions are subject to review by the Board of Selectmen. Southborough taxpayers should have a voice in this decision, and until our voices can be heard in a public forum, Mr. Boland should direct the DPW to preserve the status quo by keeping the swap shop open. This is a reasonable and sensible approach to resolving this problem, and avoids any impression that the Board of Selectmen is hiding behind Ms. Galligan. We elect our selectmen to lead our community, not to pass the buck.

This is not a trivial issue. Closing the swap shop will directly affect our town’s recycling rates, since every item which leaves the swap shop is one less piece of trash in the hopper. I hope that any decision regarding the swap shop will be made with input from everyone who cares about this issue.

Surely the citizens of Southborough, along with the DPW and the Southborough police, are capable of maintaining law and order in our transfer station, and of preserving our swap shop as a resource for our community.

SB Resident
10 years ago

There seem to be a several ‘problems’ that are on the table. There seem to be some differences of opinion on whether or not certain issues are a problem or not.
Selectman Boland said, “We obviously have a problem. The question is how do we solve it.”

However, I think we need a more explicit explanation as to what the problems the selectman are referring to before any suggestions can be made because the real “problem” is actually a bit complicated, thus the hesitation in defining it.

In case I’m not clear in what I’m saying, the original article listed many complaints by the DPW Superintendent Galligan.
1) Traffic / Parking
2) Camping out
3) Aggressive grabbing of the “good stuff”
4) Abuse of DPW employees
5) Reselling of goods
6) Leaving of garbage requiring DPW workers to haul it the compactor
7) I think there were some others…
The solutions to some of these may be simple individually, but combined, the solution(s) start to get complex.

I’m pretty sure we are really talking about 2, 3, and 5 combined into one issue with 1,4,6 being thrown out there because they are more concrete, even though they aren’t really problems, are easily solved , or just plain bad arguments.

The heart of the issue really is when people are leaving stuff of value, I’m not sure you can avoid the other problems. Defining the lines and how to enforce the rules is harder than people make it out to be, thus the predicament were in.

My solution…
Leave it alone, everything in the world has pros and cons. If we always concentrated on the cons, we’d have nothing. None of these problems are all that bad, and the benefit of the swap shop far exceeds the abuses.

One thing that could easily be done to alleviate some pain would be a method to collect stuff from people who are turned off by the grabbing and reselling. This stuff can then be donated accordingly. This defeats the “swap” purpose of the swap shop, but still gets the stuff into the hands of someone who needs it, keeps the stuff out of the compactor, and keeps the transfer station as the one place to go to get rid of all our junk. The “method” needs some more thought and may require a full time volunteer, but I’d bet we could figure that out, at least for Saturdays.

Chuck
10 years ago
Reply to  SB Resident

I think the simplest thing to do would be to ask those who are camping out to leave (enforce a parking time limit). If a resident abuses an employee, ask Southborough’s Finest to pay a visit. Paying for a sticker gives you the privilege of using the Transfer Station. Misbehave? Privilege revoked. It worked when we were kids!

MLandry
10 years ago

This morning the selectmen received a petition of over 700 signatures of residents who would like to keep the swap shop open. Here is the cover letter:

William Boland
Daniel Kolenda
John Rooney
Southborough Board of Selectmen
Town House
Southborough, MA 01772

28 November, 2011

RE: Continued Operation of Swap Shop at DPW Transfer Station

Dear Selectmen Boland, Kolenda and Rooney,

Enclosed please find our petition of approximately 700 Southborough residents’ signatures in favor of the continued operation of the Tranfer Station’s Swap Shop. We the undersigned request that the Swap Shop be kept operating for residents’ use.

We also request that you hold a publicly announced, open-forum meeting of the residents, selectmen and DPW, as soon as it is possible, to discuss rules and regulations for the operation of the Swap Shop that will be acceptable to both residents and the Town.

We further request that a plan acceptable to both residents and Town be implemented to ensure optimal continued operation of the Swap Shop in the future.

We believe that the Swap Shop is one of the primary recycling operations in this community, and an important service to taxpayers, which they are entitled to.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Residents of Southborough

cc. Karen Galligan, Supt. Department of Public Works

Dick Snyder
10 years ago

I think Mr. Butler has the most concrete and positive suggestion for moving forward. If the 95 people who were not happy with closing the swap shop (I was one of them) were to propose a floor amendment at the upcoming town meeting, at least we would have the sense of the town on this topic (or at least those who chose to attend town meeting).

Neil Rossen
10 years ago

Strange, again, why with all this heated debate, no one seems worried about net cost. Guess that’s PC in the age of Obama deficits. Just my opinion, but I do expect vituperative responses

Dick Chase
10 years ago
Reply to  Neil Rossen

It only makes sense to worry about net cost if there are any. So far, no one has documented any savings that would occur for the town by closing the swap shop. It’s operation doesn’t appear to result in any overtime costs, we loose no headcount by closing it, and we already own the facilities. If you know of any cost savings, please, share them. Saving money is a necessity in this economy, but asking “how much?” seems a prudent question to ask here.

Debbie
10 years ago
Reply to  Dick Chase

The real savings would come from more people choosing to recycle.

Steve Phillips
10 years ago

To follow up on Mr. Rossen’s question, I am definitely concerned about the cost to our community of closing the swap shop. The value of items recovered through the swap shop every year has to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, not including the disposal costs we save by keeping tons of salvageable items out of the compactor. Any costs of running the swap shop are simply dwarfed by the financial benefits of this system to the town and its residents. On this point, it’s a no-brainer…

S'boro resident
10 years ago

If the swap shop closes I will demand the full refund of my transfer station pass. I pay for a private hauler for trash and recycling, so I only pass thru the gates for use (all donate) of the swap shop. funny how this snap decision was made right after the sept 15 yearly payments, and after the resident survey. Why not close the swap shop on saturdays? People with stuff to bring / swap can find a time on w, th or fri. Spread out the “crowds”.

C. Nicholas Ellis
10 years ago

Eliminate Saturdays and you eliminate the ability for many people (myself included) to use the Swap Shop. You might as well close it down altogether if that’s going to be an option on the table. I payed just as much for my transfer station permit as you did; I deserve the same chance to utilize it as everyone else.

Donna McDaniel
10 years ago

Question: where’s our recycling committee? There used to be one but I find none listed in the Town Report or on the website. There’s also supposed to be a Public Works Advisory Committee, according to the plan when we abolished elected boards in the consolidation creating a DPW. Where happened to them? Both these citizen groups would be useful in carrying on the conversation that we should have to resolve the problems and keep the facility open–and maybe even in heading off problems as they developed.
A note on the photograph from Saturday. The items had been moved out of the building while volunteers organized the inside with the help of two people who decided to bring shelves (just for the afternoon) for better display space. It was unusually crowded with people and items–I’ve never seen it like that in my many visits.

Gail Jenks
10 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

Donna, the recycling committee is now called Green Technology and Recycling Committee and there is also a Public Works Planning Board – both listed on the town website under Boards and Committees. Are those the ones you were looking for? Their agendas are posted on the town’s meeting calendar whenever they meet.

Carl Guyer
10 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

The Southborough Recycling Committee is alive and well. We recently upgraded our mission and are know called the Southborough Green Technology and Recycling Committee. We meet monthly on either the first or second Thursday of the month. Our recent activities have focused on having residents take advantage of free home energy audits through Mass Save (see article on this web site) and generating interest in Southborough becoming designated as a “Green Community” as defined by the Massachusetts Green Community Act of 2008. All I can say about the recent decision to close the Swap Shop is that the committee did not discuss, approve or disapprove of this action. I first learned of this decision myself via the MySouthborough.com web site.

Mark Ford
10 years ago

…so NOW the Board of Selectmen wants “rational discussion.” The best time to have had that discussion was before the vote to close it. So again I ask, what is the BOS or DPW doing to ensure that the Swap Shop does not close at all?

Admit you blew it and let’s move on, please, before it defines your board. 700 signatures? In one weekend? Close the swap shop at your own electoral peril.

Bonnie Phaneuf
10 years ago

Mr. Boland , your quote” The decision to close or keep the Swap Shop open, however does not require a vote by the Board of Selectmen. DPW Superintendent Galligan has the authority to make the decision without input from the board.” Have you spoke with Galligan yet? WHAT IS HER DECISION.. THURSDAY IS DECEMBER 1ST. Please post on the Town of Southborough official website if the Swap Shop will remain open.
Thank you.

Bonnie Phaneuf
10 years ago

It appears that we need a Warrant Article..We the Town direct the Board of Selectmen and the Department of Public Works to restore a “Swap Shop ” located within the Transfer Station Area for everyday the Transfer Station operates, or act on anything relating thereto. I will gather the signatures..

Neil Rossen
10 years ago

I only wish the non-stop pay and benefit increases (which exceed those at private enterprises) at the schools generated as much heat and promises of action as this little topic. Well, I guess different people have different priorities.

Chuck
10 years ago
Reply to  Neil Rossen

I heartily agree, and wish it were possible to have an actual vote on those types of things instead of just at the town meeting. Why not put them on the same ballot where we choose our (new) selectman!

Jessica Rosenthal
10 years ago
Reply to  Neil Rossen

Hi Neil,
Again with the schools! As I said in the previous article you commented on, you are clearly agitated by other matters that do not relate to the Swap Shop closing (or remaining open, as the debate continues!) It is clear that we are on opposite sides of several issues, including President Obama, funding, teachers, teachers unions, and schools. Are you wanting the Swap Shop to stay open, close for good, or are you indifferent? As I have already stated, I would love the opportunity to have a healthy debate with you. It is tough being an elementary school teacher knowing I am hated (yes HATED) by many, due to the very reasons you mentioned. Despite the hatred I feel from others daily, I still have a job that I absolutely love with all my heart and wouldn’t trade for anything. If the hatred you and others feel continues for much longer, there will be no one willing to go into this profession, even if the passion is there. Give me a chance to defend myself and my colleagues, before you judge.

Finally, to get back to the topic at hand, SAVE THE SWAP SHOP! I am a proud signer of the petition, and will help in this effort in whatever way possible!

Neil Rossen
10 years ago

Jessica, many who have your pay, work year with its vacations, benefits, regular salary increases, and forgiving taxpayers would love their job. I also think that with the employment situation there is unlikely to be a teacher shortage.
Hate is too strong a term. I, and perhaps others, resent having to meet your union demands and continually rising costs whilst those in private enterprise suffer the effects of the Obama economy and it’s distortions to the labor market through its support of Unions and it’s abhorrence of private enterprise. Few if any cabinet members have had a job in the private sector – ever.
I am confident that you will continue to support tax increases despite the fact that those on fixed or no incomes cannot afford them

Resident
10 years ago
Reply to  Neil Rossen

What you call the “Obama economy” is an economy created by George W Bush and his cronies. You obviously either never studied economics or simply find the facts too inconvenient for your partisan argument.

Our economic situation began with a crash in October of 2008. President Obama took office in January of 2009. How is this “his” economy? Eight years of Bush policies is what killed our economy. Whether President Obama could have turned this Republican disaster around in three years is another issue all together.

It galls me how Republicans left this country in a catestrophic mess and are now blaming the Democrats for not cleaning it up fast enough. Meanwhile they do everything possible to block remedies so that they can claim a perverse victory in an election year. And the country continues to suffer. The lot should be put on trial for treason!

Neil Rossen
10 years ago
Reply to  Resident

Obama has made it worse. Period. I have a deep background in economics by the way. What have you “Resident”? Oh, and I have a name which I am comfortable to have published.

say what
10 years ago

say what?

I wonder how “in love” you would be with your job if you were being compensated at open market rates rather than at grossly inflated union levels? Consider the same for your benefits, paid days off, job security, etc. You may not have noticed it, but the rest of the world around you has changed drastically in the last decade.

Jessica Rosenthal
10 years ago
Reply to  say what

Dear Say What, Neil, Resident, Chuck, and all other interested parties,

Since Sue has reminded us to keep the conversation constructive (and, I am assuming, on topic!) I encourage you to email me directly at teachersuniongirl@gmail.com. This is a newly created alternate email and not my main one, so I do not object to it being published on this site. I will check it daily however. I look forward to continuing lively discussions with you all!

John Butler
10 years ago

My previous post noting that citizens have all the power they need to exert control over this, via Town Meeting, was not to suggest that this is the only method of correction, or even probably the best one. Simply appealing directly to the DPW, or the Board of Selectmen, as people seem to be doing, may be faster and completely effective. There doesn’t seem to be anything very hard to deal with here.

My previous post, therefore comes from the view that it never hurts, when making such an appeal, for everyone involved to have a glowing awareness that the final power is with Town Meeting, and can be easily exercised if it should come to that. “Rational discussions” then have a real context in which to quickly solve problems.

LeeAnn Morse
10 years ago

Thank you Bonnie, well stated. The swap shop should stay open until we can have a meeting.

Bonnie Phaneuf
10 years ago

John,
My hope is that Town Meeting will not need to act on a “Swap Shop” warrant article.(proposed by Bonnie j.Phaneuf and_____ others) dated: November 30,2011

comment1
10 years ago

Neil, On Rosenthal, very well put and my sentiments exactly. No one, absolutly no one hates our teachers. Even the one who destroyed my wanderful, sweet daughters 4rth grade experience last year because she is a misserable person. The issue is like Neil said, the cost of goods far exceeds the benefits to the buyer – me, the taxpayer. But Neil, You have to also understand, and in defense of Rosenthal, school and Rosenthal has become day care because fo so many who have 2 earners in the house hold. And, no one, has the courage to speak up, because the teachers, coaches et… are all tenured and cant be fired and they will keep our kids from getting the grades they need to get into the best school or in the case of sports keep them form making the team or if they are on the team, keep them on the bench. Every person should be able to be evaluated and fired if it is warranted, and teachers, principals, coaches and AD’s can not be fired. It is impossible almost.

Helen
10 years ago

How did the Swap Shop closing start teacher bashing? Two separate issues folks… yes both are funded through the town, but two separate issues.

BTW, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t respect what teachers do on a daily basis, and yes, there are also some that I’ve personally run across that should not be teaching anymore. I also respect the guys who work at the Transfer Station!

That said, let’s keep to the issue at hand: keep the Swap Shop open!

MM1772
10 years ago

Rude behavior — grabbing things, being aggressive — shouldn’t be tolerated whether it’s by a person “camping out” to resell or a person who wants something for his or her own use.

(I wonder how much of the rudeness is aggravated by tight quarters?)

We need to make it known that people acting rude or disorderly won’t be tolerated and then, if necessary, have an officer visit from time to time to show that this is a serious rule. Educate the public on what’s expected, not only in quality of goods, but in behavior.

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