Council hears report on the state of city’s transfer station
Date: 1/11/2012Jan. 11, 2012
By Debbie Gardner
WESTFIELD The City Council talked trash at its first meeting of the New Year, mulling over information presented by city Health Director Michael Suckau regarding the Twiss Street Transfer Station.
Hours of operation, methods of oversight and the potential of the transfer station to be a new and ongoing source of revenue for the city were all high on the agenda.
Saying he believed the transfer station “is not what it could be,” Suckau presented councilors with a spread sheet outlining the hours of operation for other cities and towns, and the prices those municipalities charge residents for access to dumping sites.
According to information on the city’s website, the Twiss Street Transfer Station is open to the public Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 to 11:45 a.m. A notation on the website page states “The main access gate is closed promptly at the times indicated ... Please arrive as early as possible to avoid any delays. Saturday hours are subject to seasonal changes. Please be aware of posted time changes.”
Ward 5 Councilor Richard Onofrey Jr. questioned the limited hours of operations of the transfer station based on the spreadsheet.
“Every other municipality around us is open later than us [on Saturdays],” Onofrey noted. “It’s a real concern to [residents]. You can’t do yard clean up and expect to get there in time.”
Suckau indicated that current employee schedules resulted in the city paying overtime hours to provide coverage for the station’s Saturday hours.
Calling the Saturday situation “very frustrating,” At-Large Councilor David A. Flaherty asked what was stopping Suckau “from hiring someone,” possibly a college student, at a reduced hourly wage, to extend the weekend dumping hours.
“All they need to do is count cars,” Flaherty pointed out. “I would like you to go back to the mayor and ask for funds [for this]. I would even be willing to pay a $2 convenience fee [to dump on Saturday].”
He also suggested that a traffic study be conducted at the site to determine “how many cars actually go there between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Mondays.”
On the issue of oversight, At Large Councilor James R. Adams said when he sat on the council four years ago, there had been a discussion about putting up a gatehouse to monitor who entered the transfer station.
“I thought it had been done already,” he said, referring to Suckau’s comments about the site being used by individuals who were not residents of the city.
Suckau said the Health Department did receive grant money to update the site under his predecessor, but that the majority of the money had been used to address issues with storm water management at the site.
“What we have left we will use for the designing of the gatehouse,” and other necessary structures,” Suckau said.
Ward 6 Councilor Christopher Crean said he didn’t think the city could wait for the construction of a gatehouse to improve the monitoring of who accesses the transfer station and what they are dumping.
“I was up there two times a day over the Christmas break, and there wasn’t a soul monitoring [who was coming in and out],” Crean noted. “Trash recycling is a goldmine. We have everything [to profit from this] and have done nothing.
“I don’t think we can wait for a gate. Put a $15 an hour or a $20 an hour employee up there and let them monitor [what’s dumped],” Crean continued.
Suckau noted in his presentation that not only does Westfield not charge residents an access fee through the purchase of transfer station stickers at this time, it allows free disposal of items other community charge for, such as computer towers and keyboards, motor oil and bulk metal items, and reduced fees on other common recyclables such as mattresses, appliances and tires.
Suckau did say his department is “exploring” the idea of requiring residents to purchase transfer stickers for their vehicles to gain access to the site, and to increase recycling as ways to generate more revenue.
Crean urged Suckau to move on these ideas because every day’s delay misses an opportunity to “offset taxes.”
He also said his department is researching the possibility of increasing the tonnage the transfer station can legally accept from 49 tons a day to 150 tons, which would allow Westfield to begin accepting, and charging for, commercial waste from construction companies. He said the state’s permitting process is lengthy, but was something this department expects to initiate “this year.”
At-large Councilor Patti Andras urged Suckau to approach Mayor Daniel Knapik for any funds he needed to upgrade the situation at the transfer station quickly, adding “It’s not often a department gets the full support of the city’s councilors.”