Proposed schedule change alarms transfer station users

SURRY The Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station Committee held an emergency meeting last week to discuss closing the transfer station two days a week — Sundays and Mondays. 

No action was taken.

“We’re trying to figure out options at this point, so no decisions have been made yet,” said Surry Selectman Eric Treworgy. “With the influx of more folks, particularly those staying longer this year because of COVID, we’re finding that the containers all fill up on the weekends in the summer, and it is probably only going to get busier. Our hauler comes in on Monday, but not weekends.”

Blue Hill Selectman Jim Dow said there would be another committee meeting on April 6 at 4 p.m.

“There may be further discussion about the possibility of shifting the open hours at that meeting, primarily due to staffing and solid waste transport issues,” Dow said.

Meanwhile, there is frustration about the possible change, particularly among selectmen whose towns have contracts with the transfer station.

Brooklin Selectman David Reiley, who raises heritage pigs doing business as Old County Farm, said the change would be “inconvenient” for his business.

“I pretty much stop at the dump on a daily basis to get rid of garbage that is generated through my business,” Reiley said. “Sometimes it’s just a bag a day. I don’t have any storage for the garbage generated.” 

“I understand that in return for that, they’ll be open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday,” Reiley said. “It’s just one more question mark about how the transfer station is being operated. I understand times change and they’ve gotten into a couple of agreements that haven’t worked out the way they thought it would. Nonetheless, it affects everybody in town.”

Treworgy said the transfer station manager and employees have been polling customers about the potential change in hours.

There wasn’t much notice when the transfer station decided to shorten the hours last year and open at 9 a.m. instead of 7 a.m., Reiley said.

“That left a bad taste in people’s mouths, so to speak,” the selectman said.

The Sedgwick selectmen are also concerned. The board discussed the issue at its weekly meeting last Thursday, March 25.

“It sets up a lot of challenges, specifically for folks who work Monday through Friday,” said Selectman Chairman Ben Astbury. “With the hours change that’s already in place, opening at 9 a.m., it’s pretty hard for folks that normally could stop at 7 a.m. but can’t stop at 9 a.m.”

Trash removal at vacation rental properties is another issue.

“Some of our constituents are going to run into problems since they have tenants, they swap out on Saturdays,” Astbury said. “People just here for weekends on their own property drop off stuff on Sundays.”

Sedgwick Selectman Michael Sheahan noted that the proposed decrease in hours comes when the transfer station has asked for more funding — 2.5 percent more — than last year.

I think they’re going to need to think about that,” Sheahan said.

“Absolutely,” Astbury concurred. “Why are we paying 2.5 percent more than we did last year for two days less service? There’s going to be a lot of those questions.”

One Sedgwick resident who attended the virtual selectmen’s meeting, held via the online meeting platform Free Conference Call, said, “I really struggle with this. I just can’t imagine how this works logistically after the weekend. If they’re not keeping up with the hauling on the weekend, how does it get better Tuesday? The idea of trash sitting through the weekend in the summer is not a joy.”

Astbury said another of his concerns is that closing the station two days a week would lead to people burning their trash or dumping it on a woods road or burying it.

“There’s a number of things that can happen with a simple closure of a couple days a week,” Astbury said. “We saw this a few years back with increased charges for a few things at the transfer station.”

The towns of Brooklin, Sedgwick and Brooksville have had contracts for several years with the transfer station but are exploring other possibilities for their residents’ waste disposal. 

“Brooklin, Sedgwick and Brooksville are exploring our options in the event that the current situation with the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station becomes untenable,” said Reiley. “They manage to keep their expenses pretty level but continue to increase ours on a yearly basis.”

Reiley observed that the transfer station “is a business and it has its own quirks.”

“It does take maybe more than an overtaxed public servant might have time to devote to it,” he said.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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