My Turn: Hopkinton, Webster should allow nonresidents’ use of transfer station
Over the past several years, there has been a lot of trash talk in Hopkinton – where we dispose of it, how we dispose of it, who pays for it and how much it all costs. The operations of the Hopkinton-Webster transfer station is one of the most important – and largest – line items in the town budget, and ensuring that the transfer station is financially sustainable and continually meeting the needs of the community is a top priority.
There have been some recent changes to how Hopkinton handles our trash e_SEnD including the decision to leave the Concord Regional Trash Cooperative, the implementation in Hopkinton of the pay-by-bag program, and several necessary capital improvements at the transfer station. These changes have been made with three goals in mind: decreasing operation costs, increasing recycling which in turn increases revenue and ensuring top-notch customer service.
In its continued efforts to increase recycling and further reduce costs, the joint Hopkinton-Webster Refuse Committee responsible for overseeing the operations of the transfer station made a recommendation last year to both boards of selectmen. The committee recommended that Hopkinton and Webster apply to the Department of Environmental Services to amend their solid waste permit to provide the option of allowing nonresidents to use the transfer station. This change would provide the communities with options to potentially increase revenue through recycling programs, but only after public hearings and agreement by the two boards of selectmen.
The current restriction on nonresidents is a roadblock to creative thinking about increasing recycling at the facility. The Hopkinton and Webster selectmen agreed and have made a request to the state to amend the permit to make this one change. Currently neither the selectmen, nor the joint committee, have any plans to allow disposal of waste by those outside of our towns. If the state approves the request to amend the permit, the change will only expand Hopkinton’s ability to look into options that will increase revenue for the transfer station while continuing to meet our communities needs and expectations.
This change by itself would not alter the operations of the transfer station. The permit establishes the compliance obligations of the transfer station, but the rules governing the operations of the facility are set forth in the Hopkinton-Webster transfer station ordinance (available on the town website). This ordinance sets forth everything from hours of operation to the type of recyclables accepted to the cost of disposal of certain items. Any changes to the ordinance that affect the operations of the transfer station – including who would have access to the station – begin with a recommendation from the joint committee, go through a hearing process and need to be approved by both boards of selectmen. These are all public meetings, and participation and input is both encouraged and appreciated.
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation circulated regarding the town’s application to the Department of Environmental Services (which you can view on the town website). These range from secret plans for a new large regional waste facility, increased truck traffic on our rural roads, declining property values, increased water pollution, to the idea that Hopkinton would somehow become a hazardous waste dumping site. While these accusations may be good fodder for emails and intended to elicit emotional responses, they are not based in fact. They undermine efforts made by town volunteers and staff to reduce expenses by increasing recycling at the transfer station.
There are many committed volunteers and community activists in Hopkinton and Webster working hard to increase recycling, reduce trash and lower property taxes. The selectmen in both Hopkinton and Webster believe this change has the potential to uncover new and cost-effective ways to build upon our success by sustainably operating and making effective use of this important town asset.
The Hopkinton and Webster selectmen will hold a joint meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the Hopkinton Town Hall to discuss the transfer station and answer questions about the permit process. As with all our meetings, we encourage residents to participate, ask questions and get the information they need.
(Jim O’Brien is chairman of the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen.)