For some residents, the start of the new trash and recycling collection program in January was a challenge, with February bringing some of the worst winter weather in recorded history. ABC Disposal Operations Manager Jerry Dugan even called it the worst February in his entire career while talking trash with the Rochester Board of Selectmen on March 23.
“You couldn’t have picked a worse week,” said Chairman Bradford Morse, looking back on the start of the program.
Having said that, though, Dugan reported very few issues related to the new trash and recycling system – about 50 concerns out of the roughly 2,000 customers.
A lot of people wanted smaller carts, said Dugan, so some were granted smaller recycling carts.
“A lot of people didn’t want to use it (the new system), or couldn’t use it,” said Dugan, adding that some with certain circumstances could be accommodated using the trash receptacles they already had. The snow banks so far have kept the new automated arm trucks out of use, while the older manual disposal trucks have been used until recently. Those trucks are now ready to go.
“All in all, I think it was pretty successful,” said Dugan. However, there were a few issues for the trash collectors, especially in the more rural areas of Rochester. “Some of the directions, like, ‘take a left at the oak tree’ were kind of tough to get to,” said Dugan.
Town Administrator Michael McCue said Dugan and his people have been “extremely responsive” and accommodating to make the transition as seamless as possible.
“I’m very surprised,” said McCue. “It was a major change for the residents…. I won’t say it’s been completely seamless,” he continued, “but it’s been the next best thing.” McCue gave a knock on wood on the table. “I think we’re over the hump.”
Some residents are still overloading their trash carts, however, and by the beginning of May, the Town could start notifying some residents deemed to be abusing the trash system and barely using their recycling carts, or not at all.
“The [recycling] cart should be pretty full every other week with a standard size family,” said Dugan. One can tell when one is not recycling. Having said that as well, recycling is indeed up, with recycling amounts increasing “incredibly,” as Dugan noted.
Residents with any further concerns should contact the town administrator’s office.
Also during the March 23 meeting, Sharon Lally from the Rochester Council on Aging presented the board with an update on the goings-on at the Rochester Senior Center.
After a half-hour discussion, one thing was clear – contemporary senior centers nowadays are a lot more than just a bingo hall. And even with a budget that only accounts for just one-percent of the Town budget, the COA is still able to act as a vital community service, thanks mostly to the 144 volunteers.
The value of the over 14,000 hours of volunteer service, said Lally, is the equivalent of about $223,000.
“We really are blessed. We have so many wonderful people,” said Lally. “I’m very proud of our volunteer program.”
Of the roughly 1,300 seniors in Rochester, Lally said the COA services about 1,000 of them. The outreach worker who helps clients connect with transportation and home care services assisted 511 different clients during the last fiscal year.
“We provide them with information and resources … so they can live a better quality of life while living in their home,” said Lally. “Any service they need to exist as independently as possible in their own homes.”
Twenty percent of the Rochester population is over the age of 60, and that number, Lally said, is expected to rise to 30 percent by 2030 as the baby boomer generation continues to age.
The Senior Center is working on a few improvements to the center, namely an addition to the building to accommodate a new senior day care program, as well as the reorganization of the center to add an additional activities room to host a small fitness center.
Lally said the Friends of the Rochester Senior Center have raised about $125,000 in four years to help fund the projects, even though the fundraising hit a snag last year when the organization’s 501(c)(3) status was held up.
Lally said the COA FY15 budget was $213,468, but additional grants brought the center’s overall expendable funds to $234,029. Lally added that the in-kind value of the services provided by town departments like the Highway Department and the Facilities Department would total $107,700.
“I think that’s pretty darn good,’ said Lally.
COA board member Greenwood “Woody” Hartley told selectmen, “It’s a half a million-dollar program that you’re getting at half price … and it’s because of all the volunteers.”
“It’s come a long way from what it was,” said Selectman Naida Parker. “You’ve done a great job.”
In other matters, the snow and ice removal budget is about to exceed $190,000 and could exceed $200,000 once the Town pays the invoices from last weekend’s wintery weather. That amount is about $122,000 over the FY15 budget, with $68,000 allocated for snow and ice removal.
“Every town and city in the state … is grappling with excessive [debt] as a result of this atrocious winter,” said McCue. He said FEMA money would probably make its way to Rochester – eventually. “The money will come. I’m just not holding my breath.”
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is March 30 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
By Jean Perry