It Was A Confusing First Week At The Dump
By: Christopher Kazarian
On Tuesday morning, after Mary L. Bowen of Morris Street, Teaticket, had finished her winter cleaning at home, she headed to the Waste Management Facility on Thomas B. Landers Road to bring some old books to the swap shop and clothes to donate to the Salvation Army and American Red Cross.
But for the first time in the 15 years she has lived here and used the dump, something unusual happened.
“They stopped me and were writing down my sticker number and asking what I was doing at the dump, which I found very bizarre,” she said. “I didn’t understand the reasoning of it.”
The reason is for the town to obtain definitive numbers on who is using the dump, how often and for what purpose.
“In the past no one knew how many people were coming in and why,” said Ruth F.P. Brazier, chairman of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee. “They will now be able to tabulate every vehicle coming in here, where it is going and get a much more accurate picture of the use of the facility... When you are calculating the actual costs of the facility to the town you have to know these things.”
The operational shift comes at a time when the facility is implementing a new fee, $2.50, for each bag of trash thrown out there.
That fee, recommended by both Department of Public Works Director Raymond A. Jack and the Falmouth Solid Waste Advisory Committee, was approved by selectmen in October as a way to offset an estimated $240,000 deficit incurred at the dump and to encourage more residents to utilize their curbside trash pickup.
Some have complained about the new fee, and Ms. Bowen did not understand the need for assessing it.
However, she was curious as to the other changes that have accompanied it. She said Tuesday morning there was a long line of vehicles behind her as workers at the Waste Management Facility jotted down her sticker number onto a sheet of paper and asked why she was there. At the same time, they informed her of the new fees in place and that current dump stickers will be only good until Saturday, January 30. After that point the new two-year dump stickers, costing $80, must be purchased for any resident to gain admittance into the facility.
As she was given this information, Ms. Bowen said, the drivers in the cars behind her “were shaking their heads... It is like, ‘Why are you going to buy a dump sticker if you are going to get interrogated? Why buy a sticker if you can’t go in and drop stuff off easily?’ ”
Ms. Bowen has yet to purchase a dump sticker for her vehicle and admitted Tuesday’s experience has made her think twice about doing so.
Other residents have threatened not to purchase the two-year dump stickers, Ms. Brazier said, as a protest against the trash bag fee. And it is a concern for her committee and town officials, she said, because of the revenue generated from the stickers.
As of yet, she said, the town collector’s office has not reported any significant dropoff in this area.
She was unsure whether the fee would translate into residents dumping their trash illegally throughout town to avoid paying it.
“That is the reason we didn’t raise the fees for TV sets, refrigerators and mattresses because those things the only legal way to get rid of them is at the facility. But with the fee those things show up regularly in the woods,” she said.
With this, she said, the goal is to simply encourage residents to use the curbside service which is currently available to them. “A fifth of the trash we receive comes into the Waste Management Facility in spite of the fact that we pay close to $2 million for curbside,” she said, noting that for many years the cost to residents for using the dump has been relatively cheap. Unfortunately, she said, that has posed a problem in that there is a cost to hauling that trash, leading to the deficits at the dump.
Beyond the costs, Ms. Brazier said there have been other concerns as the town has moved toward tighter enforcement of its rules at the dump. The most apparent could be seen on Wednesday afternoon as many vehicles eased through the stop sign at the entrance before being met by Waste Management Facility laborer Joseph H. Rebelo, machine operator Carlos E. Rebelo and crew leader Ernest Santos Jr.
While most eventually stopped, one motorist sped past as the trio yelled for her to stop.
“I talked to her yesterday,” Mr. Santos said. “She knows the routine.”
As she left the facility, Joseph Rebelo stopped the woman to let her know that they have to take down her sticker number every time she enters.
Ms. Brazier admitted that the stop sign is ineffective. “People are in the habit of going through there without stopping,” she said. “I just think it is very dangerous. I was making a list of things to bring to [Superintendent of Highways] John Lyons’s attention and that is one of them.”
She said this should be alleviated when the town begins to make improvements to the dump utilizing $200,000 from the $3.2 million debt exclusion approved by voters in May 2008. A portion of that money, she said, will be used to reroute the entrance so the gatehouse sits in the middle of traffic going in and out, with the goal of starting that work in the spring.
She was hopeful that this will allow workers to remain in the gatehouse while recording the sticker numbers, charging for the various fees at the dump and documenting why residents are using the facility.
In the next month Ms. Brazier said a scanner will be in place to automatically log each sticker that enters the gate. Until then crew will have to brave the weather to log those numbers manually, having already dealt with it on Saturday when they cleared resident’s windows to read the numbers.
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