Tag Archive for: transfer station — China

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Houle said the Ranger 500 has been replaced by a Ranger 570.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.

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.