Tag Archive for: transfer station — China

Palermo rep., China members have amicable discussion on Palermo residents’ use of transfer station

by Mary Grow

China transfer station committee members, including Palermo representative Robert Kurek, had an amicable discussion at their Feb. 13 meeting, even though one of the topics was whether Palermo residents will continue to have access to the China facility.

As Kurek, China Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood and committee members summarized the situation, the two towns are in the seventh year of a 17-year contract, written and approved by China town officials, that lets Palermo residents share the transfer station, provided that:

Palermo pays China an $18,000 annual fee (with no adjustment for inflation);
Palermo residents buy and use colored bags (the bag price is adjustable, and Hapgood and Kurek agreed on a formula in 2022), but they are not charged for tags, stickers or similar identifying devices; and
Palermo and China residents pay the same fees for bulky waste, white goods, furniture and other items for which fees are charged.

Hapgood, alleging that Palermo residents have violated contract provisions, sent Palermo the required year’s notice to end the contract for cause. Palermo’s attorney replied in January; she disputed the alleged violations and said there is no cause.

Sitting side by side at the Feb. 13 meeting, Kurek and Hapgood sparred politely over the frequency and seriousness of violations and whether Palermo has done enough to track down offenders. Main complaints are Palermo residents’ refusal to use proper bags or pay fees. They have also been charged with lending their transfer station identification cards to people from other towns.

Kurek said Palermo officials track down reported violators. Hapgood said she and other China staff spend time chasing Palermo residents.

No one denied that China residents, too, sometimes violate transfer station rules and are rude to staff. Committee member James Hines suggested charging individuals with theft of services, instead of pursuing an issue between the two towns.

Are your stickers uncooperative?

China residents, is your new transfer station sticker on the bottom right corner of your windshield uncooperative? Wrinkles, crinkles, falls off?

You’re not alone.

At the Feb. 13 transfer station committee meeting, Director of Public Services Shawn Reed said he had the same problem, despite carefully following the instructions town office staff offered when he bought the sticker.

Reed said he ended up taping the sticker to a piece of cardboard and standing it in the correct corner. Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said it’s okay to tape the sticker to the inside of the windshield, too.

Committee members suggested finding a new vendor who sells higher-quality stickers – if they don’t cost too much more.

Hapgood said she, Kurek and the two town attorneys have a meeting scheduled later this month.

The transfer station five-year plan for maintenance and improvements and the 2024-25 budget were the other main discussion topics.

Three items have been taken care of. Transfer station staffer Cheyenne “Cj” Houle said the new cover on the pre-crusher is installed and satisfactory (and paid for, Hapgood added). A recent $20,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will improve the composting area and fund the soon to be installed solar-powered lights in the free for the taking building.

Committee chairman Christopher Baumann recommended more publicity for the information that not everything can be left at the free for the taking building without paying the fee that is charged for furniture, computers and electronics and other items.

Transfer station users are charged for items for which the town pays disposal fees, regardless of how saleable they appear. Things that can be recycled or otherwise gotten rid of for free, like books and glassware, can be left without charge.

Hapgood suggested people use another alternative, especially for unneeded furniture: leave it at the end of the driveway with a “Free” sign.

Water quality remains an ongoing transfer station issue. Houle and Director of Public Services Shawn Reed said the well water has an unpleasant odor.

Reed explained that the well was drilled through ancient trash, because no one realized the landfill originally started at Alder Park Road, before moving north to create the now-capped trash mountain.

The water had been tested and ruled safe to drink, but last fall, DEP testing found PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination. Further information on remedies is pending.

Staff members wash their hands and clean equipment with the well water; they do not drink it.

Baumann described the transfer station staff as very professional and very polite and said the facility is well run. Kurek called it an asset to China.

Committee members scheduled their next meeting for 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 12.

China awarded waste diversion grant for transfer station

by Mary Grow

China has been awarded a $$14,440.57 state Waste Diversion Grant for improvements at the transfer station.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said the bulk of the money is to be used in the compost area, expanding the compost pad and adding bins. The rest will cover installation of solar lights in the free for the taking building.

Hapgood commended transfer station staff member Chayenne “Cj” Houle for putting “a lot of time and effort” into the grant application.

Houle said China will add $4,820 in local funds, for a total project cost of $19,260.57. The work must be finished by Dec. 1, 2024; Houle said she intends to begin immediately collecting information on building permits, materials and state requirements and expectations.

Mark A. King, Organics Management Specialist in the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Materials Management, sent Houle notice of the award on Dec. 5. He wrote that of 11 applicants, seven, including China, received all they had requested and three others received partial funding.

China transfer committee reviews 5-year plan

by Mary Grow

At their Oct. 17 meeting, China transfer station committee members reviewed the five-year plan for the facility and talked about relations with neighbors Palermo and Albion.

The plan includes repairs and replacements and a few minor additions, like a storage area for propane tanks and the previously-discussed lighting for the free for the taking building (both scheduled for 2024).

A main topic was what to do with the elderly skid-steer. Opinion leaned toward replacing it with a tractor, not another skid-steer; committee members listed things a tractor could do, for the transfer station and the public works department, that a skid-steer cannot do.

Director of Public Services Shawn Reed offered to look into prices of different-sized tractors.

Staff intends to do more checking on options and costs for other pieces of equipment that need repair or perhaps replacement. They are also investigating state grants.

Committee members considered investing in another storage building so transfer station staff can keep more recyclables, waiting for fluctuating prices to rise. They made no recommendation.

Palermo committee member Robert Kurek and China town manager Rebecca Hapgood sparred, again, over the new transfer station identification system scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2024. Vehicles entering the facility will need a sticker on the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag with the vehicle license plate on the sticker.

The goal of adding the sticker identified with the vehicle is to eliminate Palermo and China residents’ habit of lending their RFID tags to out-of-towners who do not help fund the transfer station.

Hapgood plans to charge $2 a sticker. Kurek insists the China-Palermo contract says Palermo residents pay no new fees. The contract took effect Jan. 1, 2017, and runs for 17 years, a term Kurek said China officials chose to match their contract with the now-closed Hampden disposal facility.

Under the contract, Palermo pays China an $18,000 yearly fee, and Palermo residents pay for and use special colored trash bags. The bag price has been adjusted, and there is a formula for future adjustments.

Hapgood said China’s town attorney called the contract “one of the worst contracts she’s ever seen.” Committee chairman Paul Lucas called it “ridiculous.”

Hapgood’s suggested alternative to a sticker fee was to have each Palermo vehicle stopped at the entrance and checked to make sure it was entitled to enter. Lucas asked how the cost of the additional labor would compare to the cost of giving Palermo residents free stickers.

The discussion ended inconclusively. Hapgood intends another discussion with China select board members, and she and Kurek exchanged assurances that they’re still friends.

Transfer station manager Thomas Maraggio and Hapgood said fewer transfer station users are being rude to employees, though there are still instances Hapgood investigates.

Maraggio said the new agreement with Albion is working well. Albion residents are now allowed to bring some of the items excluded from the town’s curb-side pick-up to China, for a fee.

Hapgood reported China has hired a new town employee, who will work for both the transfer station and the public works department. The position was in this year’s budget, she said, especially to provide an additional plow driver so staff will be less exhausted by snowstorms.

The next China transfer station committee meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14.

China transfer station committee reconsiders utility vehicle recommendation

by Mary Grow

Members of China’s transfer station committee are going to reconsider their recommendation that the town buy a Polaris Ranger 500 utility vehicle for transfer station staff use.

Since their March 7 action (see the March 9 issue of The Town Line, p. 3), they have new information and a new, higher price, according to an email from transfer station employee Cheyenne Houle.

Houle said the Ranger 500 has been replaced by a Ranger 570. The 570 has most features committee members valued in the 500, like a roll cage and lights; Houle wrote that it adds a dump body and has higher ground clearance. Also, she said, recommended time between services has been increased.

The price she brought to the March 7 committee meeting was $10,699. The new price is $900 higher, she said.

Houle is seeking updated prices from two other suppliers. She plans to have information by the next committee meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m., Tuesday, April 11.

China transfer station committee reviews five-year plan

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members went over the five-year plan for the facility at their Dec. 20 meeting, planning to collect price estimates and present the select board with a prioritized list during 2023-24 budget discussions in January and February.

Items on the current list include:

  • A new metal waste container, so that mattresses can be stored in what transfer station supervisor Thomas Maraggio described as a “shaky” old one and the new one used for heavier items. The goal is to keep mattresses from getting soaked in rain and snow before they’re shipped off for disposal – a high priority for committee chair Paul Lucas, because, he said, adding water triples the shipping cost. Maraggio said he has one bid and is waiting for more.
  • A cover for the new pre-crusher – Maraggio is seeking prices.
  • A water filter, so that transfer station employees will not have to put up with water that Director of Public Services Shawn Reed called “unfriendly:” not dangerous, according to test results, but with a bad smell from contaminants from the closed landfill close by.
  • Power and lights for the free for the taking building, a proposal building manager Karen Hatch enthusiastically supported. Palermo committee member Chris Diesch suggested solar power; Maraggio said he will check into possible grants.
  • Trading in the golf cart, which Maraggio said is unusable in winter, for a Gator utility vehicle.
  • Removal of the wind-damaged canopy at the recycling center.
  • A cement pad for compost, a spring project, also possibly grant-eligible.
  • Paving the road behind the recycling building so trucks can load more easily – perhaps to be done in conjunction with 2023 road paving.
  • Repainting crosswalks, another project that could be correlated with the town’s summer work.
  • Some kind of space for propane tank storage; another spring project, perhaps merely a fence, Maraggio suggested.

Farther in the future, Reed said, are a decision on whether to buy a new skid-steer or keep the old one running; and replacement of the main mixed waste hopper.

In addition to local needs, the other major topic Dec. 20 was the new state law that requires manufacturers to pay for disposal costs for some packaging, called the Extended Producer Responsibility law. Several of the group had attended an explanatory Department of Environmental Protection meeting.

Palermo committee member Robert Kurek said the idea of the law is to reimburse towns that opt into the program for recycling. However, he said, state officials haven’t yet decided what packaging materials are covered.

Lucas added that the initial state reporting forms will have to be reduced, because staff don’t have time to keep the records they would require.

There’s no big rush, he said; currently, reporting is scheduled for 2026 with the first
reimbursements in January 2027.

“We’ll keep our eye on it, and we’ll figure it out when the time comes,” he concluded.

In other business, Diesch had analyzed data from the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system that reads transfer station users’ tags and presented summaries showing busiest and least busy days and hours and other useful information.

A short discussion of abandoning the RFID tags and going back to stickers on vehicles led to postponing a decision.

Review of China’s solid waste ordinances was also postponed. Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said any recommended ordinance changes need to go to the select board in March 2023 to get on the warrant for the June town business meeting.

Committee members scheduled their next meeting for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the town office meeting room.

China transfer station committee debates use of RFID tags

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members spent much of their Nov. 15 meeting talking about whether to continue using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags to separate China and Palermo residents from out-of-town users, or to go back to stickers on vehicles.

The RFID system was started with state grant funding in 2019. The main purpose was to track recycling.

The current system is that a resident gets one free RFID tag and can buy as many more as needed for family or business vehicles, for $10 each. People who move out of town in theory return their tags; that doesn’t always happen, Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said.

In addition to identifying users as entitled and showing where each vehicle stops inside the transfer station grounds, the system provides statistics on such things as busiest and least busy times and how often the same tag comes in.

To protect personal privacy, tags are not associated with tag-holders’ names for these purposes. As a result, transfer station attendants know for sure that someone with a tag is a resident only when they recognize the person.

Onsite transfer station supervisor Tom Maraggio asked if town office staff could notify transfer station staff when someone moves away. With about 200 deeds being processed every month, Hapgood said, staff members don’t have time.

Her main problems, with which committee members sympathized, are that people move away and continue to use the China transfer station, and residents lend RFID tags to non-residents. China taxpayers therefore end up paying to get rid of out-of-town waste; they’re getting “gypped”, in committee chairman Paul Lucas’ opinion.

“The problem is we’ve lost control over who can use the transfer station,” Palermo representative Robert Kurek summarized.

Chris Diesch, Palermo’s other representative, asked how big the problem is. Her question led to discussion of ways to give attendants limited access to the town office list connecting tags with people, so they could do random checks.

Committee members cited three objections to going back to stickers. Some people object to putting stickers on their vehicles; changing the system again so soon would make town officials look silly, in Kurek’s opinion; and Maraggio said depending on where they’re affixed, stickers are often harder for attendants to see than an RFID tag dangling from the rearview mirror.

The discussion ended with Diesch, a computer expert, and Lucas agreeing to meet and see what additional uses they can make of the RFID system.

The problem of improper disposal also plagues the Free for the Taking building, building manager Karen Hatch said. Intended as a swap shop where people can leave usable household items they no longer need, it too often acquires unusable items, including furniture and other bulky items for which the transfer station charges fees.

Discussion led to consensus that people leaving such items – the list is on the China website, www.china.govoffice.com, and posted at the transfer station – should pay the fees, even if the items go into the Free for the Taking area. If the previous owner is still on the premises when someone else claims an item, the fee might be refunded.

Transfer station staff pointed out that with winter coming, items too large to be displayed inside the building will have to be rejected anyway.

Lucas repeatedly returned to a suggestion made at earlier meetings that a guard shack be installed at the transfer station gate, where an attendant could direct people to proper disposal areas and collect fees as needed. No one else followed up.

In other business, Maraggio and Director of Public Services Shawn Reed proposed a custom-made liftable metal cover for the pre-crusher.

Reed said the new loader, to be shared by public works and transfer station crews, is here. He hopes the snow-pusher attachment will arrive in a week or so.

Maraggio plans to update the transfer station five-year plan. Briefly-mentioned potential recommendations include replacing the mixed waste hopper, which Reed said has been repeatedly repaired; buying a closed container to store mattresses, of which Maraggio said he gets about 10 a week; and installing a proper lighting system in the Free for the Taking building.

Maraggio said work is going smoothly at the moment. Each transfer station employee has a specialty, but all are cross-trained and able to assist each other. Relocating a cardboard bin near the mixed waste hopper has improved traffic flow.

Hapgood reported receiving many compliments on Maraggio’s Halloween decorations at the station entrance.

Committee members scheduled their next meeting for 9 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 20, in the town office meeting room.

China town office, transfer station closed Nov. 24-25

The China town office and transfer station will be closed Thursday, Nov. 24, and Friday, Nov. 25, for the Thanksgiving holiday. On Saturday, Nov. 26, both will be open as usual, the town office from 8 to 11 a.m. and the transfer station from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

New fee on brush at China transfer station

by Mary Grow

Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 15, people disposing of brush at the China transfer station will be charged a fee of two cents a pound. Vehicles carrying brush will enter and leave over the scale so the weight can be measured.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood explained at the Oct. 24 select board meeting that China used to get rid of its brush for free: a company would chip it and haul away the chips to sell. This year, she said, because of changing economics, the company charged a $4,000 fee.

By combining China’s and Vassalboro’s brush piles, China’s charge was halved, to $2,000 – still more than she appreciated paying, Hapgood said.

Now that disposal costs the town money, select board members voted unanimously to pass the cost on to transfer station users.

Hapgood said experiments in anticipation of the new fee showed most people will pay between two and five dollars.

China, Palermo agree on new transfer station fees

by Mary Grow

China Select Board members held a brief meeting Feb. 28. With one member absent and another participating remotely, board Chairman Ronald Breton had postponed continued review of the proposed 2022-23 town budget.

Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood reported that she and Robert Kurek, who chairs the Palermo Select Board and is one of two Palermo representatives on China’s Transfer Station Committee, were in agreement on the new charge for Palermo trash bags.

Interpreting the factors that determine bag prices, as listed in the contract that lets Palermo residents use China’s transfer station, they decided the new price should be $2.70 per bag, effective April 1. The current price is $2.00.

Kurek intends to present the proposed price to the Palermo Select Board at a March 10 meeting, she said. China’s Transfer Station Committee, whose members have discussed the bag price at length, is scheduled to meet March 8.

Hapgood further proposes that the price be reviewed every January; that the six-month notice of a price change required by contract be amended to three months, so a January decision can be implemented in April; and that other contract changes and clarifications be considered.

Hapgood had added to her initial list of possible uses for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. She suggests replacing the town office generator, which she believes dates back to the ice storm of 1998 or thereabouts, and adding a second generator for the old town office.

And she suggested select board members consider closing the town office driveway onto Lakeview Drive (except in emergencies) and routing traffic via Alder Park Road. Fast-moving traffic on Lakeview Drive makes turning on and off the highway dangerous, she said.

Board member Janet Preston liked the idea, now that many voters are used to taking Alder Park Road during elections. Wayne Chadwick was not sure turning east onto Alder Park Road was any safer than turning east into the nearby office driveway. Board Chairman Ronald Breton said the sight distance west on Alder Park Road is short for drivers leaving the town office property.

Hapgood said public works department mechanic and plow truck driver Josh Crommett has resigned, effective the end of the week. She is advertising for a replacement, she said.

The next regular China Select Board meetings are scheduled for Monday evenings March 14 and March 28. A special meeting March 21 is likely as board members finish their budget recommendations and prepare the warrant for the June 14 town business meeting.

CHINA: Committee discusses out-of-town disposal options

by Mary Grow

At their Feb. 8 meeting, China Transfer Station Committee members continued discussion of out-of-town disposal options and possible changes at the local disposal facility (see The Town Line, Jan. 20, p. 3). They again reached no conclusions.

After years of sending trash to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Corporation (PERC) incinerator, China and more than 100 other Maine towns and cities joined the proposed trash-to-energy facility at Hampden. One component of the deal was creation of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), which represents member towns.

The facility has been closed since May 2020, and attempts to reopen it or to find a buyer who would reopen it have failed. Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood described MRC’s executive director, Michael Carroll, and committee members as “super-frustrated.”

Hapgood said an executive-session MRC meeting is scheduled for the week of Feb. 14, after which there might be additional information.

Mark Davis, acting chairman of the China committee, is also super-frustrated. He wants China to get out of the project, and suggested hiring another attorney to find a legal way if town attorney Amanda Meader doesn’t have time to explore options.

With the Hampden plant not operating, some towns’ waste is going again to PERC and some is being landfilled. Davis is indignant that China’s trash is landfilled. His preferred option is an incinerator at the China transfer station.

Palermo representative Robert Kurek said the multi-town project was a sound idea, and members signed up because PERC was about to raise its fees. But the Hampden facility was too ambitious.

Hapgood reminded Davis that legal advice costs money.

Committee members returned to discussion of other topics from their previous meeting.

There is no information from contractors on building a cover for the crusher box.

Hagood had not analyzed results of her just-completed survey of residents and therefore was not ready to make a recommendation on new transfer station hours.

China select board members are in favor of replacing the current radio frequency identification (RFID) tags with stickers. Kurek is unenthusiastic. There is no consensus among committee members on whether there should be a charge for stickers and if there is, how much it should be.

Kurek again explained how the contract between China and Palermo sets requirements for changing the price Palermo residents pay for their special trash bags. He planned to repeat the explanation for China select board members at their Feb. 14 meeting.

Hapgood said select board members are open to the idea of adding a guard shack at the transfer station entrance. They assigned the proposal to board member and contractor Blane Casey.

The next Transfer Station Committee meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 8.

An article in the Dec. 30, 2021, Mt. Desert Islander newspaper said that the technology planned for the closed Hampden plant is being used successfully in similar-sized plants in Massachusetts and Utah.

The process separates saleable recyclables from mixed waste and uses the mixed waste to produce biogas, described as “a renewable energy byproduct.”

The article further said that MRC Executive Director Michael Carroll said some towns’ waste must be landfilled because the PERC incinerator at Orrington is not big enough to accommodate all of MRC’s member towns.

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.