Hopkinton and Webster explore opening transfer facility to outside communities
For years, municipal waste officials in Hopkinton and Webster have seen a trend at their transfer station on East Penacook Road: less and less incoming trash. Recyclable goods are down, too. In fact, the station is operating at only about 25 percent of what it was originally designed for in the late 1980s.
That downturn has also resulted in a drying revenue pool. Since 2009, annual profits have declined from about $250,000 to less than $200,000, according to Hopkinton’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Works Steve Clough. He added that the station has also lost some revenue since the town implemented its pay-by-bag program in 2010.
But Clough and other members of the Hopkinton-Webster Municipal Solid Waste Committee are weighing a possible solution: Open the facility up as a regional outfit for certain profitable items – such as electronics and construction and demolition debris – on which the station generates about twice as much revenue as it spends to process.
“The spirit of what we’re talking about here is that the communities that haven’t invested in a facility like ours, that we might be able to provide a service for them,” committee member Richard Houston said Thursday at the monthly meeting. “So perhaps a town dump truck from Salisbury could bring a bunch of television sets because they can dispose of it cheaper here and we can make a profit off it.”
The transfer station is governed by a state permit and a local ordinance, both of which restrict it from receiving goods from outside Hopkinton or Webster. To remove that restriction, the state and the selectmen from both towns have to hold public hearings and approve the changes.
The first step is getting approval from the state.
In December, Clough requested that the state Department of Environmental Services remove the restriction. The department is processing the request and will make a decision on it after a public hearing, which could take place as early as this summer.
Mike Guilfoy, an administrator at the department’s Solid Waste Management Bureau, said the odds are good that the request will be approved.
If the permit change goes through, the towns will begin assessing the pros and cons of opening the facility, Clough said.
The move has already garnered some opposition from at least one neighbor. Gary Rondeau, who lives near the transfer station, told members Thursday that he was concerned removing the restriction would add to the traffic, noise and litter he regularly deals with outside his home.
“The recycling and pay-by-bag brought more trash on the highway, period,” Rondeau said during the meeting. “There’s more stuff flying out of vehicles. It used to be just beer bottles; now I’m picking up Bounty paper towel holders, milk cartons. That stuff has all increased. The roads have degraded. So the thought of this on a large scale is troubling.”
Clough said the committee is merely trying to lay the groundwork for a future public discussion, and he added that he, too, had no desire to create additional headaches for the community.
“We don’t want any more noise, any more litter, any more traffic, any more anything than what the town bought into originally,” he said.
Jim O’Brien, chairman of the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen, echoed that sentiment and stressed that he and other officials are far from developing any concrete plans. He also noted that any discussion would involve the community and be sensitive to concerns from abutters and others.
Though the waste committee and town officials have yet to explore how much demand there would be for the station, Guilfoy said there are a number of facilities in the area that provide similar services, so it’s unlikely that everyone will flock to Hopkinton.
Guilfoy also noted that his bureau will take into account and try to find ways to mitigate concerns from abutters and other residents. When the town of Raymond applied for a similar change a few years back, he said, the state, responding to neighbors’ concerns, included a provision in the permit specifically restricting idling trucks outside their facility.
In any case, Clough said he expects the process of gathering information, public feedback and administrative approval will be lengthy.
“Any and all changes designed to reduce property taxes through recycling would have to run the political gauntlet in Hopkinton,” he wrote in an email. “And it doesn’t get any harder than that.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
email@example.com or on Twitter @ JBlackmanCM.)