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Concerned residents rally for town vote on Hopkinton-Webster transfer station

An effort by selectmen to explore opening the Hopkinton-Webster transfer station to outside residents was left in limbo last night after residents submitted a petition requesting a special town vote to effectively kill it.

The petition, submitted by Hopkinton resident Gary Rondeau, a neighbor of the transfer station and vocal opponent of the effort, comes months after waste officials applied for an amendment to their state permit allowing the facility to accept lucrative recyclables from nonresidents. That change could only take effect if both select boards subsequently altered their joint waste ordinance, which is separate from and supersedes the permit.

Until last night, though, their decision did not require a public vote.

The petition was signed by 258 people, said Rondeau (50 signatures are necessary to order a special meeting), and requests that the town convene the meeting and vote in September.

Meanwhile, the state application has not been rescinded. Hopkinton Selectman Ken Traum motioned after the petition was submitted to do just that, but the motion failed in a 3-2 vote; selectmen Chairman Jim O’Brien being the other proponent. The board did vote later, however, to postpone a state-mandated public hearing on the application until after the special meeting.

Several residents have expressed concern that the application process was launched without adequate publicity. Those opponents flooded Hopkinton Town Hall last night for a standing-room-only hearing between both select boards, many voicing their antagonism candidly.

“Once you open (the station) up to commercial trucks you open a black bag of things that we cannot control,” said Stuart Lyman, to loud applause. Lyman, a Hopkinton resident, said he is originally from New Jersey and had witnessed there the downsides of allowing outside waste into a community.

Joe Maloy asked whether preliminary research, including asking other towns if they were interested in using the station, had been done.

“No,” O’Brien said, after Barbara Corliss, the waste committee chairwoman, explained that such research would be done if and when the state permit change was approved.

“That tells me you’re going in the wrong direction already,” Maloy said. “I don’t understand why there was no cost benefit done first.”

O’Brien indicated earlier in the meeting that the transfer station has been bleeding revenue for years. He said annual expenses this year will run about $800,000, while total revenue is estimated to be $427,000. The difference is made up with taxes.

“So we have a problem with our transfer station, that I think we all need to talk about,” he said.

Resident Dave Perrin suggested the towns reduce the size of the station and its staff. But O’Brien said such a downsize would still not offset certain fixed annual costs.

Hopkinton Selectman George Langwasser claimed the board was trying to prevent tax increases.

“Despite some misconceptions floating around town, we are not going to accept every town’s waste stream, recyclables, whatever,” he said. “The only thing we’re asking is to be allowed at the present time to explore the possibility to accept recyclables from other towns, make a profit and drive down the costs for the citizens paying for this facility.”

But resident Gunnar Anderson said he’d rather contribute more each year than open the door for potential pollution from outside use.

“If you need extra money, charge me double, but please, don’t let anybody else dump in this town,” he said. “I love this town. I raised my kids in this town. I don’t want to lose this town.”

This story has been updated: An earlier version indicated the state could hold a public hearing on the permit application as early as this summer. The Hopkinton select board voted later last night to postpone that hearing until after the special meeting.

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