China select board focuses on transfer station issues

by Mary Grow

China Select Board members’ January 18 discussion focused on transfer station issues. Board members adopted one major change and are leaning toward another.

The approved change will be to replace the placards now used to identify transfer station users with the stickers used before 2019. Under consideration is addition of a guard building at the entrance. Both are aimed primarily at making sure only authorized users bring trash to the facility.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood explained that China – and other municipalities – adopted the RFID (radio frequency identification) system in 2019 with a state grant, because state officials used the system to collect information. They have no objection to China’s discontinuing the system, she said.

The main disadvantage of the placards is that they get loaned to non-residents whose taxes do not contribute to the China transfer station.

Stickers will be pasted on users’ vehicles and will have the vehicle’s license plate on them. That combination, Hapgood said, should deter non-resident use. It might also increase excise tax collection, since China residents will be unable to register a vehicle elsewhere and get a China transfer station sticker.

She recommended charging a nominal fee, a dollar or two, and proposed implementing the system in April or May.

Board member Blane Casey moved to implement a sticker system, with a low price for year-round residents and a higher price for seasonal and Palermo residents (Palermo residents use China’s transfer station by contract), with Hapgood to decide the prices. Sticker locations are to be prescribed so as to be the same for all vehicles and visible to transfer station staff.

Board Chairman Ronald Breton was the only one to vote against the motion, because he wanted the prices set before the board acted.

Residents who have more than one RFID placard (because they own multiple vehicles) are entitled to a refund for each additional one – the first one was free. Hapgood estimated China will owe about $5,800 in refunds.

The guard shack, the manager said, would let one station attendant check stickers and loads, make sure no forbidden items are brought in, direct patrons to the right disposal areas for various items and collect fees. (The list of items for which fees are charged is on the town website,, under Transfer Station under Town Departments; it is posted at the transfer station.)

Hapgood believes adding entrance duty would not require additional staff, because the other attendants would spend less time inspecting, giving directions, collecting money and moving misplaced items.

Casey, who is a building contractor, was appointed to prepare a cost estimate for a building. Decision was postponed until he reports.

Breton is also concerned about the abuse of the free sand box at the transfer station. China residents are allowed two buckets of sand at a time during transfer station hours; Breton said people are taking more and are coming in when the station is closed.

Hapgood said security cameras are being upgraded. She accepted board member Wayne Chadwick’s suggestion that she ask the sheriff’s deputies who patrol the town to make a point of driving by the transfer station during non-operating hours.

Chadwick, also a contractor, said sand supplies are tight, at least partly because of the unusual weather. Sand “has been getting used like I’ve never seen,” he commented.

Two other pending transfer station issues are: how much to charge Palermo residents for the trash bags they buy and use to distinguish their mixed waste from China residents’; and whether and if so how transfer station hours should be changed.

The China-Palermo contract specifies the four categories of costs that justify changes in bag prices. One, the price China pays to buy the bags, has increased substantially in recent months.

Hapgood’s ongoing survey for residents, available on the town website, at the town office and elsewhere, includes questions about when people are most likely to visit the transfer station.

In other business Jan. 18, board members unanimously appointed Joel Nelson chief of the China Village volunteer fire department, succeeding Timothy Theriault.

They approved a revised town personnel policy, with minor changes recommended by town attorney Amanda Meader to be added to the final version.

They confirmed their next two meetings, a joint session with the budget committee to hear Hapgood’s 2022-23 budget presentation on Monday, Jan. 24, and a regular select board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31.


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