DPW officials discourage the idea of closing transfer station

DPW officials discourage the idea of closing transfer station

PAWTUCKET – Representatives from the Pawtucket Department of Public Works this week are detailing what it would cost the city to close down its waste transfer facility, a move now up for consideration.

Public Works Director Eric Earls, responding to a Breeze request for potential impacts of closing the facility, said his department’s motto is, “working for you,” and workers there never want to see service reductions if they can avoid it, especially if those changes come at an additional cost to taxpayers.

“A transfer station allows for many efficiencies,” he said. “Consolidated trips to Johnston cost less money. A sorting facility enables the removal of trash contamination from our recycling stream. Rejected recycling due to contamination costs us money and is bad for the environment.”

A new or upgraded facility on the existing Grotto Avenue site off Mineral Spring Avenue would allow for such cost savings, said Earls.

“The complete closure of the transfer station would eliminate our potential to stop contaminated recycling from heading to Johnston and lock us into these additional costs in the future,” he said.

DPW Public Services Manager Joey Wilson said the decision to close the Grotto Avenue transfer station would be “crippling” to the city from an operational standpoint.

“The items that the department picks up from trash cans in parks, in our business districts and throughout our city would no longer be able to go to the transfer station. Tree trimmings and illegal dumping would also come at a significant cost and we would no longer be able to deal with that. We would have to add staff and buy more trucks to deal with the added burden.”

The mantra of the DPW and Mayor Donald Grebien’s administration has been to “do more with less,” said Wilson. “If we close the transfer station, taxes would have to be increased, and we would be paying more to do less.”

A planned special City Council summit on the future of waste collection in the city will likely happen the week of Jan. 28, says City Council President David Moran, but could happen sooner.

“Either way I want to have it this month,” he said. “We’ll put some sort of agenda together.”

The Breeze reported a month ago that council members were leaning toward closing down the Grotto Avenue waste transfer station in favor of a new direct-hauling program, but council members must still decide whether the costs of that are worth it for the quality of life enhancements in the neighborhood.

Wilder Arboleda, spokesman for Grebien, said this week that since the council voted last June to oppose relocating the transfer station to an enclosed new facility on Concord Street, the city is now faced with the decision whether to invest heavily in upgrading the existing facility or spend a great deal of money closing the transfer station and hauling trash straight to Rhdoe Island Resource Recovery Corp. in Johnston.

“With the significant tax implications, the mayor asked the council at the end of the summer to weigh in on this decision. We now expect them to make a decision and provide us with some guidance as to the transfer station sometime in January.

“The mayor has repeatedly made clear in writing as well as in private discussions that the administration stands ready to work with them. We await additional information from the council president.”

Moran said Monday that he doesn’t expect this month’s meetings to include any decisions, saying it’s more of “an informational thing.” Grebien and his staff have said they need a decision soon because the decision by the council will have budgetary impacts.

The City Council voted last August to approve a resolution authorizing a six-month extension with Grotto Avenue waste transfer facility operator Waste Connections Inc. WCI had been seeking up to $250,000 in operational and safety improvements as part of the lease extension through February 2019, but the council approved only $80,000 in improvements.

The cost of making a switch to the direct-hauling trash service has been estimated at more than $1 million each year, plus a loss of annual revenue from transfer station operations. The cost of upgrading the transfer station has been tabbed at up to $5 million total.

While some City Council members said in December that they’re leaning toward shutting down the facility, citing ongoing issues with smells, rats and other qualify of life concerns, they said they’re concerned about the costs associated with doing so.

The council voted last June to oppose building a new and expanded transfer facility on Concord Street after intense opposition from the neighborhood.