China transfer committee approves two documents for select board consideration

by Mary Grow

At their Jan. 24 meeting, members of China’s Transfer Station Committee unanimously approved two documents for forwarding to the select board.

One is a revised Solid Waste Ordinance, prepared with help from Jessica Cobb, of the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments. It combines two existing ordinances, titled Solid Waste Disposal Ordinance and Solid Waste Flow Control (on the website, under Ordinances, Policies and Orders).

If select board members approve, they will forward the combined ordinance to voters for approval or rejection at the annual town business meeting in June.

The other document is named the transfer station’s five-year plan, though the objectives it lists are scheduled to be accomplished more quickly.

Requested equipment purchases include, for the current year, a propane storage rack that transfer station employees intend to put up themselves in the recycling building; a new Gator utility vehicle as a more versatile replacement for the station’s golf cart (estimated cost $10,699); a cover for the pre-crusher, for which station manager Thomas Maraggio is waiting for additional price quotes; and a closed container for mattresses, at an estimated cost of $16,000.

In the 2023-24 fiscal year that begins July 1, the plan calls for replacing the skid steer, trading in the current one in part payment. A new main hopper is planned for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

Facility upgrades, in the order listed, are:

  • A water filter system to provide potable water; the water available is safe, but because of the adjacent closed landfill, it is reportedly not pleasant. A system is to be installed soon; the plan says if it does not work, other options will be explored.
  • A cement pad, perhaps eligible for a state grant, for the compost pile.
  • Upgrading and paving the perimeter road behind the recycling building, a project waiting for price quotes.
  • Adding electricity and lighting at the Free for the Taking building. Committee members discussed options for the proposed installation of solar panels.
  • Removing the damaged canopy at the recycling center, a project for transfer station employees this spring.
  • Improving drainage outside the door of the cardboard bay.

Requested expenditures depend on the select board’s recommending them as part of the annual budget; preferably, a favorable recommendation from the budget committee; and voter approval at the annual town business meeting in June.

Transfer station staffer Cheyenne Houle had prepared a draft schedule for 2023 that calls for a hazardous waste collection day in China (for residents of China and other area towns that choose to contribute funds so their residents can participate) either April 8 or April 15. China’s annual shredding day (for confidential documents) is to be Oct. 21; the state-wide drug take back day, in which the China transfer station participates, will be Oct. 28.

Karen Hatch, in charge of the Free for the Taking building, issued a reminder that items left there should be in such good condition that someone else will happily take them home. Shoes are particularly a problem, she said; for every usable pair dropped off, she gets 10 that aren’t fit to wear.

The longest discussion at the Jan. 24 meeting was over whether to continue, change or eliminate the two-cents-a-pound fee charged to commercial haulers. The original purpose of the fee was to pay for the scales on which their trucks – and other vehicles as needed – are weighed.

The main argument in favor of leaving the fee in place was the revenue it generates.

The main argument in favor of discontinuing it was that rising fuel prices are already stressing haulers’ budgets; if they go out of business and people who have been using them start bringing their own trash, the additional work will cost the town.

Houle had done an analysis of trash brought in by the four haulers who use China’s transfer station and estimated the annual income at a little over $7,000 a year. Without the haulers, she estimated that on average, 56 more people would come in daily when the station is open.

Another argument in favor of eliminating the fee was that the scales were paid for long ago. Deputy Clerk Julie Finley says they were installed in November 2005; a The Town Line report on the June 27, 2016, select board meeting records a 3-2 vote “to accept the Transfer Station Committee’s recommendation to leave the fee charged to local haulers who go over the scales at two cents a pound.”

Transfer station reports in China town reports for fiscal years 2006 and 2007 say the scales are in use. The reports include photos of Ruby, then-manager Elwin Higgins’ dog.

On another topic, Palermo committee member Robert Kurek said some of the blue plastic trash bags China sells to Palermo residents have been splitting at the seams. He wanted to return them to China so Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood can argue with the supplier.

Maraggio said Palermo trash will be accepted if it’s in a similar-sized bag with a useless blue bag tied to the top.

During the Tuesday morning meeting, Director of Public Services Shawn Reed was raking fresh snow from the town office roof, which Hapgood said was leaking over the hallway leading from the meeting room to the main office. The manager had high praise for Reed; “You ask him and he finds a way to get it done,” she said. Others agreed.

The next China Transfer Station Committee meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28.


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