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Braintree councilor calls for changes for automated trash pick-up

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 23, 2013 12:11 AM

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A Braintree town councilor is asking for a review of the trash contracts and more leniency with the new disposal system, just days before automated pick up is scheduled to go into effect.

The new system, which uses a truck to collect curbside waste rather than manual labor, is scheduled to begin Sept. 30.

Though town officials are optimistic that all issues will be sorted out, Councilor Chuck Kokoros said both he and residents still have concerns.

“We have to work to make this successful, but to make it successful we have to listen to everybody and realize one size does not fit all,” said Kokoros.

Size has been one issue. Residents have first been unsure if the two, 64-gallon barrels – one for trash and one for recycling – would be enough to meet family needs.

On the other side of the spectrum were senior residents, concerned about hauling the 64-gallon wheeled barrel to and from the ends of their driveway, and saying that the barrels would be too big for their needs.

In response, seniors have been offered smaller barrels. Residents can also choose to buy another 64-gallon barrel, though it will cost $100 a year.

The fee will be especially cumbersome for large families, Kokoros said, who will most likely need another barrel to accommodate their needs, but already have to pay a slew of fees from the town.

“I know it’s worked in many communities all over the country. But I want to make sure we don’t charge families that already have many financial constraints…$100 a year,” Kokoros said. “… I will do everything in my power to stop that from happening.”

Residents already pay a fee of $150 for trash collection. Kokoros said he would like to see the second barrel be provided free of charge, though he would be willing to compromise on a one-time cost of $100 for an additional barrel.

However, other town officials say, the additional disposal would undoubtedly come with some cost.

“We’re entering into this effort to encourage people to recycle, and if you provide extra barrels for free, people won't be recycling as much,” said Peter Morin, chief of staff and operations.

Morin went on to say that unlike other communities, the town was willing to provide additional barrels in the first place.

Those that need additional barrels should expect to pay $100 a year in perpetuity for the privilege, though that policy would be looked at in coming months.

“It’s a big difference, and I understand that. But we’re trying to see how this works. The demand hasn’t been that great for the extra barrel. We’ve had eight so far that have come in and paid for it,” Morin said.

Yet even for residents that follow the two-barrel rule, problems will pop up eventually, Kokoros said.

“Everyone will be affected at some point or another if you have a party. If you have a party, and that barrel is at capacity…you’re going to have to go to the dump,” he said.

Kokoros concern about transfer station protocol was heightened while at the Covanta/SEMASS station in Braintree.

Kokoros said he saw a resident trying to dispose of unbundled wood. The resident was told he would have to pay 10 cents a pound for the refuse and the trash would have to be weighed as if he was a commercial contractor.

According to Kokoros, the cost would ultimately be $200 a ton, much higher than the $25 a ton the town pays for disposal costs.

Kokoros alleged that the resident was treated poorly by the Covanta staff and intimidated.

The vagueness of the bylaw that specifies what kind of trash can automatically be disposed only furthers the confusion, a problem that needs to be resolved once trash automation pushes more residents to the transfer station, Kokoros said.

“The policy has to be reviewed. The mayor said he would. We have it in committee,” Kokoros said.

Morin said he wholeheartedly agreed that customers should be treated fairly, yet pointed out that residents who are contractors have tried to abuse the bylaw in the past.

Most likely, the town would negotiate with Covanta to charge less than 10 cents a pound for commercial-type waste for residents, and would receive less revenue from the transfer station in exchange.

“We’ve had a good positive relationship with Covanta in working out problems, and I’m confident we will be able to work this out as well,” Morin said.

Drop-off procedures and the guidelines for disposal were also being reviewed, Morin said.

Overall, Morin said that the town was working with anyone who would have difficulty within the new program.

For more about the new automated pick up, click here.

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