Council adds 10 months to transfer station contract

Council adds 10 months to transfer station contract

PAWTUCKET – Department of Public Works officials are now working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on a schedule of required improvements costs and options at the Grotto Avenue waste transfer station, according to Director Eric Earls.

The DPW now has more time to come up with a resolution for the transfer station’s operation after the City Council last week approved an extension on an operating lease at the facility through Dec. 31 of this year.

“DPW will continue to engage the full council as well as the district councilor to determine the options to get to a final plan schedule to the City Council on June 30, 2019,” said Earls in a statement, referring to Councilor Tim Rudd, a frequent critic of the city’s dealings with transfer station operator Waste Connections Inc.

Rudd, of District 6, and Councilor Meghan Kallman, of District 5, both criticized the move to approve such a lengthy extension, but were out-voted 7-2 as the council approved it at the March 6 meeting. Four residents also criticized the move to approve yet another extension, and a number of attendees shouted disagreement during the hearing.

According to city officials, they’ll have an improvement plan for the Grotto Avenue site to the council by June 30, and the next deadline after that will be Sept. 30, when they’ll provide an update on all issues related to the transfer station, which has been the center of controversy for many months over whether it should close and the city switch to a direct-hauling trash operation.

By the fall, officials will provide cost factors related to getting the waste station up to a quality standard moving forward, as well as what cost will be fully borne by the city, what amount will be paid for by the vendor with payback from the city, and other details.

Rudd said the city continues to “throw good money after bad” when it comes to operation of the transfer station off Mineral Spring Avenue. He questioned Councilor John Barry III’s proposal for an ordinance extending the contract through Dec. 31. Barry responded that there are built-in amendments within the extension. He said he proposed the Dec. 31 date “because we don’t have a damn idea what we’re doing over there at the moment,” and he thinks officials need more details.

Barry said he would still like to see the transfer station closed, particularly due to quality of life concerns in the Fairlawn neighborhood, but he isn’t ready to incur the cost of hauling all city trash straight to the Johnston landfill. This matter needs to be handled in an “orderly way,” he said, with resolutions on how trash will be handled.

Rudd suggested that RIDEM will shut the transfer station down before Dec. 31 if officials don’t invest in upgrades. Kallman said she preferred extending the contract only to May, saying another 10 months is a long time given all the time and energy that’s already gone into debating this issue.

“It seems like too long to me,” she said.

Rudd called the lengthy extension “ludicrous,” saying residents have been dealing with issues related to the facility for far too long.

Barry said he considers Dec. 31 to be a “drop-dead date,” and Kallman responded that there have been a number of situations that could have been considered drop-dead dates, but none have proven meaningful.

Council President David Moran asked her what her plan would be.

“We enable having no plan,” he responded, adding that a May deadline would “light a fire” under the sides to develop a resolution.

Councilor Terry Mercer responded that officials have already been discussing this for more than a year, and agreed with Barry that they have “no clue what we’re going to do.” Moran agreed, saying he’s “not ready to make a decision with a gun to the head,” and saying a problem of this magnitude is going to take some time to solve.

After the 7-2 vote for the extension, Rudd withdrew his resolution to shut down the transfer station and start direct-hauling trash to Johnston.