Council members leaning toward shutting down transfer station

Council members leaning toward shutting down transfer station

PAWTUCKET – City Council President David Moran says there’s no doubt about what the top issue facing the elected body in the new year is: Deciding how the city will address the future of its waste transfer station and trash hauling.

“It’s a big decision, no doubt about it,” he said.

What he wants to do, assuming he is returned to the council president’s role, is make a decision before the latest extension with the operator of the transfer station runs out in February, said Moran.

“I don’t want another extension,” he said.

The council and administration will need to decide whether to rehabilitate the existing transfer station on Grotto Avenue off Mineral Spring Avenue or start hauling trash to the Johnston landfill. Both options have big costs associated with them, he said.

As it stands right now, said Moran, he’s leaning toward shutting the transfer station down and direct-hauling trash as a “plan B” to investing more money into the facility. He said he wouldn’t want such a facility in his own district, which is located on the opposite side of the city.

In the short-term, said Mayor Donald Grebien through spokesman Wilder Arboleda, the decision on the transfer station directly impacts the fiscal year 2020 budget his administration has to prepare beginning in January.

“In the long term, multiple tax increases are at risk, as is the future of trash removal services in this city,” said Arboleda.

Councilor Tim Rudd, whose District 6 plays host to the transfer station, said he’s remained steadfast that the city should “get out of the trash business.” There is opportunity for solar energy at Grotto Avenue to help offset the costs of direct hauling, he said.

“We can also tighten our belts during budget time,” he said.

There are a number of new or past positions implemented by the administration worth between $80,000 and $100,000, not including health care costs, that may need to be revisited, he said.

Councilor John Barry III said he and his constituents wouldn’t want the transfer station if it was located in District 4.

“It would take a great deal of convincing for me to not want to close it down,” he said of the existing facility. “The residents don’t want it. I just think that we’ve got to get us out of this business.”

Closing the trash station will come with significant cost, he said, “but I think we have to figure that out to preserve a neighborhood.” At one time the facility might not have been “as onerous as it is on that neighborhood,” said Barry, but it is now.

“Other communities don’t have a transfer station and life goes on,” he said. “It’s been going on long enough and we ought to get it straightened out by February.”

Moran said he plans to call a special session in January, where councilors will ask “whatever questions we have to ask.” A decision would likely come almost immediately after that meeting, he said. Leaders will then have to decide how to pay for it if there’s a move to direct hauling, perhaps using city reserve funds or cutting more into the budget, said Moran. “We’ll see.”

Over the last 18 months, everyone has learned that dealing with a transfer station is a complicated and emotional issue, one that affects this community both environmentally and financially, said Arboleda.

“The existing, outdated facility and site have been a challenge for this city for decades,” he said. “The administration and council understand this as we work to determine the best approach with minimal impact as this moves forward.”

 All information, data and financial impacts have been provided to the council, he added. The options included relocation, upgrades at the facility, or closing the facility. Included in this information is updated cost estimates of the options in front of council members, such as closing and remediating the facility, along with increased hauling costs as a result, a tab that could come in at $8 million, “or the equivalent of two maximum tax increases,” said Arboleda.

“The Pawtucket City Council has made clear that the decision on what to do at the Grotto Avenue transfer station is their sole purview as it is city-owned property,” he said.

The City Council voted in August to approve a resolution authorizing a six-month extension with Grotto Avenue waste transfer facility operator Waste Connections Inc. WCI had been seeking up to $250,000 in operational and safety improvements as part of the lease extension through February 2019, but the council approved only $80,000 in improvements.

The cost of making a switch to the direct-hauling trash service seen in many other communities has been estimated at more than $1 million each year, plus a loss of annual revenue from transfer station operations. The cost of upgrading the transfer station has been tabbed at up to $5 million total.

Other council members were more noncommittal this week about the future of waste hauling in the city.

Councilor Albert Vitali Jr. said the transfer station seems to have outlived its life expectancy.

“We should look for other alternatives for the removal of trash in the city of Pawtucket,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s going to cost the taxpayers of Pawtucket regardless if we shut it down. I would like to work with the administration to come up with a solution that is beneficial for the city and not cost us multi-million dollars.”

Councilor Michael Araujo said this is a complicated issue.

“It is one that needs to be thoroughly vetted and not one that I feel you can move forward on without input and public discussion,” he said. “The final decision will impact residents citywide both financially and environmentally. As the council is responsible for making a decision regarding the transfer station site, I feel that we cannot make this decision without holding meetings in order to get input from the residents and from experts. I am looking forward to discussing all of our options.”

Councilor Terry Mercer said the council will have a full-blown dialogue about options and costs in the coming months “about all things trash.”

“I’m not sure exactly where I stand until we have all the information and costs in hand,” he said.

Councilor Meghan Kallman said she’s leaning a certain direction but isn’t ready to commit yet.

Comments

please tell me HOW this affects the residents of Fairlawn? The one and only access road is off of Mineral Spring Avenue with no residents anywhere nearby. Is it the smell, the rats or some other reason? I'll tell you the main reason. If there's anything that the district councilor can do to make the Mayor look bad, he's a hero. Does anyone remember why Pawtucket got away from traveling to the land fill with our trash? One of our trash trucks struck and killed 2 highway workers on I95 and the lawsuit that the city lost cost millions. let's shut it down and watch taxes go up. Taxes, by the way, borne by homeowners. I hope Mr Moran has a solution and isn't just grandstanding for the folks in 1 district. This will affect the entire City.

Years ago it was for pawtucket and its residents now it is all about money for the private company.at one time a resident could go and dump there trash for a small fee now the fees are outrageous that is why you see mattresses and Tv's dropped off in empty lots times have changed no more pawsox no theaters no racetrack time to add no transfer station