Tag Archive for: transfer station — China

China transfer station committee agrees to budget $1,500 for travel expenses

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members used their Dec. 14 meeting to discuss, and in some cases re-discuss, a variety of waste disposal questions.

They made two decisions.

They will reduce the 2022-23 budget request for the committee from the $2,500 agreed on at their November meeting to $1,500. They will meet again at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.

The funds requested from the town are intended to cover registration and mileage when committee members attend meetings, training sessions and similar relevant events. Committee Chairman Lawrence Sikora thinks $1,500 should be enough.

The major news from the meeting was that Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood and other town officials are considering – nothing is definite yet, Hapgood emphasized – reducing hours at the town office and the transfer station.

Currently, she said, China’s hours are among the most generous in Maine: the town office is open 45.5 hours a week and the transfer station 42.5 hours a week. Because of after-hours work, staff illness and other factors, overtime pay is frequent.

One suggestion is that the transfer station be open four days a week instead of five: Tuesday and Wednesday and Friday and Saturday. She again emphasized that the whole idea is in the conversation stage only; there has been no discussion at a select board meeting.

Other topics discussed Dec. 14 included:

  • The still-not-operating waste recycling facility in Hampden which China and many other Maine municipalities support. Hapgood repeated town attorney Amanda Meader’s advice not to try to get out of the contract.
  • How much the fee charged to Palermo residents for trash bags should be increased. Consensus was China has enough bags on hand for the next few months, and the earlier decision to wait for early 2022 information on bag prices and the consumer price index was sound.
  • Updating the five-year plan for transfer station equipment and other needs: no need to act immediately, committee members said.
  • Non-residents using China’s transfer station with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to which they have no right. Committee members considered, without making any recommendation, checking each vehicle as it enters, or going back to the vehicle sticker system.

China transfer station committee postpones decision on fee increase for Palermo residents

by Mary Grow

The Dec. 6 China select board discussion covered a variety of topics, most to be continued at future meetings.

Lawrence Sikora, chairman of the Transfer Station Committee, explained the basis for the committee’s recommendation that Palermo residents, who use the China facility by contract, be charged an additional 25 cents per disposal bag.

The price is based on four factors: the regional consumer price index; transportation costs for waste and tipping fees for disposal; and the price China pays for the bags. Sikora said the first and especially the last numbers are increasing and will likely continue to increase. Select board members therefore postponed a decision to February 2022, to get updated figures.

Palermo has received the required six months’ notice that an increase is coming at the end of March 2022.

Sikora also recommended hiring an engineer to design a cover for the precrusher beside the hopper building. Exposed to weather, the panel covering the controls is rusting; and China is paying to have accumulated rain and snow hauled away.

Board member Wayne Chadwick was unsympathetic. “Buy a can of paint” for the rusting panel, he suggested, reminding the audience that when the precrusher was approved, supporters said it didn’t need a cover.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said the transfer station reserve account has more than $50,000 that could be used for a cover.

Board Chair Ronald Breton asked Sikora and Transfer Station Manager Ronald Marois to get an estimate on the cost of an engineer’s advice.

On another trash-related issue, Breton referred to a Bangor newspaper article about lack of progress in finding a new owner to reopen the former Fiberight plant in Hampden. He said Town Attorney Amanda Meader advised China officials not to risk penalties by trying to withdraw from the town’s contract with the Municipal Review Committee that represents municipalities that supported Fiberight.

Sheldon Goodine, chairman of the Municipal Building Committee charged with planning an addition to the town office building, presented and elaborated on his committee’s preliminary report. The recommendation is for a single-story addition on the south side of the front section of the present building.

The report included CAD (computer-assisted design) drawings by committee member and Codes Officer Jaime Hanson. Breton proposed using them as the basis for a Request for Proposals to contractors who could turn them into specifications and build the addition.

He suggested money for the addition be part of the 2022-23 selectmen’s budget request.

One topic that will not be on a future agenda is board member Janet Preston’s proposal to consider a different voting method for local elections. She had presented information on three other types that she considers likely to produce a fairer result (see The Town Line, Dec. 2, p. 2).

Board members voted 3-2 not to continue the discussion. The majority consisted of Breton, Blane Casey and Chadwick; Jeanne Marquis supported Preston in voting for continued consideration.

By an identical vote, members did continue discussion of employees’ health insurance for the 2022-23 budget year, instead of deciding immediately to renew the present plan, as Preston and Marquis favored.

Several employees told board members that the current health insurance plan, though it is less generous than the one they voluntarily gave up in 2018 to save the town money, helps make up for comparatively low municipal pay.

The Town of China currently covers the full cost of a single plan and 85 percent of a family plan. Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said this year’s two percent rate increase would cost taxpayers a total of $6,573 for the year, or $1.89 for each tax account.

In other business, board members unanimously appointed Lucas Adams a member of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee.

Hapgood reported that the first Senior Day, held Dec. 1 in the portable building behind the town office, was a success. The next one is postponed from Wednesday, Dec. 8, to Thursday, Dec. 9, because of possible snow forecast for Wednesday.

Weather permitting, the gatherings will be held every Wednesday until further notice, with Thursdays as alternate days in case of bad weather. The time has been changed, by request, to 10 a.m. to noon, instead of 9 to 11 a.m.

Also on Thursday, Dec. 9, the China Broadband Committee is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. in the portable building to discuss internet service improvements with a representative of Spectrum/Charter Communications.

The next regular China select board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20.



Transfer station: Proposed fee increase postponed to November meeting

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members made progress on their Oct. 12 agenda items, while postponing decisions to their Nov. 9 meeting, mostly to give them time to collect more information.

They approved by consensus Palermo representative Robert Kurek’s methodology for calculating a new fee for the disposal bags Palermo residents use. They need updated information and more options on sources for the bags (bought by the Town of China, sold to Palermo people) to decide what the fee should be.

Any cost increases for Palermo will take effect April 1, 2022, as the contract between the two towns calls for six months’ notice.

Committee members endorsed the draft vision and mission statements proposed by the Visioning Subcommittee. The subcommittee will schedule a meeting to continue refining the documents.

Part of the future planning calls for new equipment and improvements to the facility. Transfer Station Manager Ronald Marois said work has started on a new pad intended to store refrigerators; he said it will be large enough for other similar items.

Marois recommended that the committee endorse a request to China selectmen for a new front-end loader, the top item on the list of proposed new equipment.

The one now in use is old, and, he warned, if it breaks down this winter, the transfer station will be hobbled and the public works employees will be unable to load sand and salt trucks.

Committee members were supportive, but took no formal action.

Two facilities improvements also got unofficial support. Marois wants a cover over the pre-crusher near the present mixed-waste hopper, to protect the controls and to avoid adding rainwater and snow to the outgoing loads of trash. Karen Hatch, who runs the Free for the Taking building, asked for electricity and heat.

Ashley Farrington volunteered to see whether the transfer station addition would need an engineer. Committee members amended Hatch’s request to electricity and lights, suggesting a small electric heater would be enough to keep the small building warm; Farrington will get a cost estimate.

Looking beyond the local transfer station, committee member Mark Davis expressed frustration with the failure to open a successor to the Fiberight recycling facility in Hampden. China has a contract to use the facility, which has been closed for more than a year; without it, trash is being landfilled in Norridgewock, an option Davis opposes.

Committee Chairman Larry Sikora said the last he heard, the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), the body representing towns that used the Hampden facility, had three parties expressing interest in reviving it.

Davis suggested China ditch MRC and contract to use the waste incinerator in Orrington run by Penobscot Energy Recovery Company (PERC), until, he further suggested, China builds its own waste incinerator.

Kurek and Sikora advised checking the contract with MRC and looking into PERC costs before considering a change. Marois added that the PERC incinerator is already well supplied.

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

China Transfer Committee discusses raising transfer station fees for Palermo residents

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members held a special Sept. 21 meeting to talk about increasing fees charged to Palermo residents. The meeting was consistently cooperative and courteous, with each town’s representatives expressing appreciation to the other’s.

According to the discussion, the 17-year contract allowing Palermo residents use of China’s transfer station was signed in June 2016 and was effective Jan. 1, 2017. It prescribes an annual $18,000 payment from Palermo to China; sets fees for Palermo mixed solid waste, which must be in bags that China buys and Palermo residents pay for; and includes China’s right to increase fees charged to Palermo, with at least six months’ notice.

China cannot increase fees by more than the cost-of-living increase (a prescribed measurement and time period are in the contract), except as needed “to cover any ‘pass-through’ costs (such as increases in tipping [disposal] fees) and federal or state mandated policies” that increase transfer station costs.

Representatives of both towns had calculated the consumer price increase since the beginning of 2017. They presented similar figures: China Committee Chairman Lawrence Sikora figured about 13.3 percent, Palermo representative Bob Kurik about 12 percent.

The two men agreed the consumer price increase would justify a recommendation to increase the price of a large trash bag from $2 to $2.25.

China Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood observed that the large bags now used are 33 gallons, not the 30 gallons specified in the contract. There are also 15-gallon bags, priced in the contract at $1.25; they are so little used that over the years the price has been reduced, Kurik and Hapgood said.

There was a long discussion of pass-through costs before committee members agreed that they include four components: tipping fees; transportation; state or federal mandates (no one was aware of any); and higher costs for the Town of China buying the bags.

They do not include pay increases for transfer station staff, because those are defined as part of operating costs that China pays.

Committee member Ashley Farrington had reviewed records from 2017 to Aug. 1, 2021, to prepare information on tipping fees and trucking costs. Committee members did not translate them into a figure to be recommended as an increase.

The trash bags are used for mixed solid waste, the stuff that goes into the hopper at the transfer station. Another component of trash is larger items like furniture and carpets. Sikora and Farrington had collected information to start a discussion of fees for such items, but committee members made no decisions.

Sikora prepared a table based on average weight of different items, as listed in an on-line guide for moving companies. It appeared that if the transfer station charged the new 10-cents-a-pound fee for demolition debris that selectmen approved Aug. 30, disposal fees for some items would increase significantly.

The most conspicuous example was a sleeper sofa, for which a transfer station user is now charged $10. If the typical one weighs 275 pounds, as the guide said (committee members had doubts), the new disposal fee would be $27.50.

These fees for special items apply to China and Palermo residents equally.

Committee member Mark Davis warned his colleagues not to recommend fee increases so big that residents would resort to roadside dumping.

He extended his comments to ask whether the transfer station is supposed to make a profit, or to provide a service to residents. Sikora reworded the issue; it is not a question of profit, but of seeking the appropriate balance between defraying costs and providing service.

Transfer Station Committee members scheduled their next regular meeting for 9 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 12.

China transfer station subcommittee agrees on mission statement draft

by Mary Grow

Members of the China Transfer Station Visioning Subcommittee agreed on a draft mission statement at their Sept. 10 meeting and discussed possible items to include in a vision statement.

The mission statement is intended simply to state the purpose of the transfer station. The draft wording – subject to change – says it is “to transfer, recycle and dispose of solid waste for residences and businesses in China and Palermo, in accord with state Department of Environmental Protection solid waste rules.”

The vision statement is a summary of proposed future activities and services. Discussion ranged from the relatively obvious, like encouraging recycling and promoting public education about all aspects of waste management, to the controversial, to the definitely visionary.

Discussion of costs and cost control led to a brief discussion of recommending a pay-per-bag requirement for China residents (Palermo residents are already required to buy trash bags). The proposal was quickly shot down the last time it was suggested, subcommittee members remembered.

Lawrence Sikora, who chairs the main Transfer Station Committee, talked about an automated system that could be available 24 hours a day. An identification card, similar to the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags that now confirm China and Palermo residents’ right to use the facility, would open bins for different recyclables and for waste.

The necessary technology is “probably far in the future,” he commented.

Another possibility discussed was turning waste into a useful commodity, doing on the local scale what the regional Fiberight facility in Hampden, has failed to accomplish so far. A variation on the theme was some way to use trash to generate energy, again locally rather than as regional incinerators have been doing.

Subcommittee Chairman Chris Diesch said in addition to issues like costs and equipment, the vision statement ought to mention intangibles, like employee satisfaction.

Transfer Station Manager Ronald Marois said that employee turnover is low right now and that almost all facility users are cooperative and courteous. Sikora and Diesch commended Marois and staff for keeping the transfer station clean.

Demolition debris fees to be raised at China transfer station

by Mary Grow

A majority of China Transfer Station Committee members recommended at the Aug. 24 meeting that selectmen increase fees for disposal of demolition debris, and selectmen agreed at their Aug. 30 meeting.

Committee members reviewed the current fee schedule (available on the town website, www.china.govoffice.com) with two goals in mind: to ensure that fees cover disposal costs, including staff labor; and to ensure that China’s fees are not so much lower than other towns’ that China attracts out-of-town waste.

They added that any 2021 increase should cover costs for some years into the future, to avoid the need for annual reviews and updates.

Committee member Ashley Farrington had collected information on fees from 15 other Maine towns for 71 different items. Committee Chairman Larry Sikora had narrowed the list to make a spreadsheet for comparison.

There was still the complication that some towns measured by weight and others by volume.

China’s contract with Palermo requires six months’ notice to Palermo before any fee increase is effective. Town Manager Becky Hapgood calculated that if selectmen approved a change at their Aug. 30 meeting, the increase could take effect April 1, 2022.

After discussion, transfer station committee members voted 6-1, with Sikora opposed, to recommend increasing demolition debris fees from six to 10 cents a pound for China and Palermo residents and from eight to 15 cents a pound for non-residents. The increase, they added, is subject to review after further study of costs and would be effective six months after selectmen’s approval.

At the Aug. 30 China selectmen’s meeting, board members unanimously approved a three-part motion that said:

Demolition debris disposal fees for China and Palermo residents will increase from six to 10 cents a pound, effective April 1, 2022;
Demolition debris disposal fees for residents of all other municipalities will increase from eight to 15 cents a pound, effective Jan. 1, 2022; and
Hapgood is to notify Palermo officials that the price Palermo residents pay for bags for mixed waste will increase April 1, 2022, with the new price to be recommended by the transfer station committee and approved by the selectboard.

Transfer station committee members will also continue to discuss charges for bulky items, like furniture, mattresses and tires, having come to no decision on Aug. 24.

In other business, they unanimously adopted the state-required policy on remote participation, created by the legislature as the pandemic emergency rules end. The policy allows limited exceptions to the rule that public boards and committees must meet in person.

Hapgood reported rumors that the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags allowing admission to the China transfer station are being lent to people who are not residents of China or Palermo.

The tags, read by a scanner at the station, succeeded the window stickers used until a few years ago. Stickers had license plate numbers on them; if the sticker number did not match the vehicle license plate, attendants could question the driver.

Hapgood and committee members discussed whether a different identification system is needed. They decided first to try to get more information on the extent of the problem and thus the extra burden on China taxpayers.

Transfer station committee members scheduled their next meeting for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12.

CHINA: New transfer station visioning subcommittee begins work

by Mary Grow

Four members of China’s new Transfer Station Visioning Subcommittee defined their job and planned how to start doing it at their initial meeting Aug. 11.

Chairman Chris Diesch, of Palermo, said the group needs to develop two documents: a brief mission statement telling what the transfer station is for, and a vision statement talking about what should be accomplished in the next five or 10 years.
Larry Sikora, Chairman of the Transfer Station Committee, said that group has a five-year plan that is reviewed and updated annually, but it is more “nuts and bolts,” focused on operations and equipment.

The visioning statement, in Sikora’s words, would be more about “something we’re not doing now but it’s possible we could do.”

Diesch volunteered to collect samples of mission and vision statements for other Maine towns’ transfer stations, and Ashley Farrington offered to provide suggestions from a course she took.

The committee’s final drafts will be reviewed by the full Transfer Station Committee and when approved forwarded to the town manager and the selectmen.

The next meeting, the group decided, should be planned for two hours, an hour on each document. Other transfer station committee members will be invited.

By consensus, preferred meeting days and times are Fridays starting at 11 a.m. The next meeting will be scheduled on a September Friday if all members are available, or early in October.

Transfer station to postpone revising fee schedule for special items

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members have postponed action on revising the fee schedule for special items – furniture, electronics, tires, fluorescent bulbs; the list is on the town website, china.govoffice.com, under Transfer Station – or adding a fee for brush disposal.

At their July 13 meeting, Palermo committee member Robert Kurek suggested fees should be based, as much as possible, on the amount of employees’ time each type of waste requires. Another potential criterion is how China’s fees compare to those in other Maine towns.

Committee member Ashley Farrington agreed to survey other municipalities’ posted fees for comparison. The issue is likely to be on the agenda for the committee’s next meeting.

Transfer Station Manager Ronald Marois had no major issues to raise. The Free for the Taking building is open and is again accepting clothing; it is too small to accommodate everything residents want to leave for others, but there is no room to expand it, he said.

Committee members who suggested asking the public works crew to move out of the sand-and-salt shed so Free for the Taking could move in were not making a serious proposal.

The compost pile is also available for residents to help themselves. Because the compost is not screened, Marois and committee members suggested it not be used for vegetable gardens. They recommended it for lawn and tree planting and restoration projects and flower gardens.

Marois said work on the planed concrete slab on which to store freon units is awaiting a site recommendation from the state Department of Environmental Protection, as well as town approval.

Committee members created a subcommittee, chaired by Chris Diesch, from Palermo, to draft a vision statement for the transfer station.

The next Transfer Station Committee meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24. Barring emergencies, committee Chairman Larry Sikora suggested skipping a September meeting.

China transfer station committee discusses fees

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members spent most of their June 9 meeting talking about money, mostly small amounts.

Two issues were whether non-rechargeable batteries should be recycled, and if so, whether a fee should be charged; and whether out-of-town users should pay more than they do to use China’s facility.

The phrase “out-of-town users” means occasional people from Albion, Liberty and other towns without transfer stations (except Palermo, which shares use of China’s facility in return for an annual fee plus a per-bag fee). There was consensus they should be charged more; committee members did not discuss specific figures.

State regulations allow non-rechargeable batteries to go into the trash, Transfer Station Manager Ronald Marois said. He did not see a problem.

Committee Chairman Larry Sikora said a concentration of the batteries – “a bucket full,” he said – with their terminals touching could cause a fire. Marois said he has heard of battery-caused fires at other Maine transfer stations, but he believes the batteries were rechargeable lithium ones.

Sikora said taping over the battery terminals would make them entirely safe. He recommended publicizing the recommendation to cover the terminals in China and Palermo.

Robert Kurek, Palermo Selectman and representative on the China committee (along with newly-appointed member Chris Diesch), said a Palermo newsletter is to go out soon and if there is time and space will include Sikora’s recommendation.

Sikora was doubtful about charging a fee for non-rechargeable batteries, especially when a resident brought in only one or two. Committee member Mark Davis said if there were a fee, everyone would add them to the mixed waste.

No action was taken on the battery question, nor on Kurek’s and Marois’ suggestion of fee increases for extra-large mattresses, because they take up so much space in a truckload of trash.

Another long discussion was over the $10 refundable fee charged for a second Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card, when a transfer station user lost one and needed a replacement or wanted an additional one for a second vehicle. The issue was whether the Palermo town office should continue to keep $10 deposits from Palermo residents or hand them over to China.

Committee members agreed by consensus to leave the system as it is.

Marois said the current capital improvement project at the transfer station is building a slab for refrigerators. In the future, he would like to see the yard repaved and a roof over the compactor.

Committee member Karen Hatch, who is also volunteer coordinator for the Free-for-the-Taking building, said the building is partly reopened, after the pandemic-induced closure. She has nine volunteers to supervise it. One is building new bookshelves, she said.

Business has been slow so far, Hatch said. Clothing is not yet being accepted, because it inspires people to stay inside longer and handle the wares more. The current plan is to add it back beginning July 1.

The China transfer station will be closed Saturday, July 3, for the Independence Day holiday.

The next Transfer Station Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday morning, July 13.