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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.