Some members of the Carver, Marion, Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District Committee were perplexed on July 25 when Wareham CMWRRDD Committee member Gary Buckminster suggested the district, as it is structured now, should cease to exist.
“I personally feel that the CMW should be no longer,” Buckminster said, raising eyebrows just as the committee had received six applications for the executive director position.
Marion Town Administrator Paul Dawson was leading the discussion on how personnel costs were down after a longtime district employee retired and part-time/over-time municipal workers had been filling in the gaps, and committee members were considering what was best for the district – consolidating, selling off property, cutting its losses, “biting the bullet now,” as Dawson put it. That’s when Buckminster suggested they trash the district as they know it.
“I think that it should be a municipally-run program,” Buckminster said. Let the three towns hire their own employee to run their portion of a differently structured “district” and hire a private hauler to collect the trash.
The “sticker price of the future,” said Buckminster, is a high one. “[It’s best] not to try to maintain a program that’s going to cost a lot of money. … I’d hate to see us go through all this effort of hiring someone. … It should be a town-run organization and let it be a cooperative effort between the three towns.”
That was the first he’d heard the committee mention dissolving, Dawson said. “It’s certainly not the road we’ve been travelling, not to say we couldn’t.”
There is still a contract, Dawson pointed out, but he was just as concerned about political fallout of even the mention of dissolving the district.
“There are going to be political issues here,” said Dawson. “Ironically, I think it’s going to be more difficult in the Towns of Carver and Wareham than it will be in Marion, because Marion still has its own curbside collection.”
Carver and Wareham do not provide curbside trash collection, Dawson said, adding that although no study has been done on usage of the Marion and Rochester facilities, he estimates that at least half the people who utilize the Marion transfer station are from those two towns because they do not want to pay a private hauler.
“It’s going to be those folks – the leaders of those communities – that are going to be hearing from them, loud and clear,” said Dawson.
And with six applicants to fill the executive director position left vacant after Ray Pickles was fired in January, Dawson said the sudden talk of a change in direction surprised him.
District Committee Chairman Steve Cushing said he feared the blowback of the mere mention of dissolving. And after the closure of the Marion compost pile, as Dawson pointed out, Marion has had its own share of blowback.
“If we change total direction and start to talk about eliminating … perhaps all of the other services, … politically it’s going to be a mess,” said Dawson.
For Buckminster, he would prefer to see operations run by municipal workers, not district workers, he reiterated.
Currently, under its contract with SEMASS, the district receives 100 percent reimbursement for operations costs, including employee pay. Marion Director of Finances Judy Mooney told the committee, “I don’t know how it would work if you dissolve – you won’t get the reimbursements anymore.”
This district is going to carry forward,” said Dawson, at least for now. “It may look totally different, and maybe it needs to look totally different,” which is what Dawson said he thought was going to be determined once a new executive director was on board to help determine the district’s future. “It’s gonna take an executive director to … sort through it.”
“[The district] may drop off at the end of 2020,” suggested Cushing, “but we need somebody to grab the reigns here and figure out over the next two years.”
The committee acknowledged that Pickles made some unilateral decisions that would drastically alter the future of the district, which would include Pickles’ unauthorized decision to decline another contract with SEMASS once the current one expires in 2020. Changing the district – the contract, town assessments, appropriations, the absorption of costs, budgets – “All of that takes some time,” said Dawson.
Cushing conceded that he wasn’t sure which direction to go in.
“The ins and outs of refuse disposal – I’m at a loss,” said Cushing. “I only know what I’m doing to a degree and that’s it.”
The committee decided to continue the process of selecting a new executive director, a position only guaranteed for a roughly two-year contract. The committee agreed to allow the three town administrators to review the six applicants and present a set of finalists to the committee.
In other matters, the district will not be holding a hazardous waste disposal day until at least next year.
The next meeting of the Carver, Marion, Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District is scheduled for August 22 at 5:00 pm at the Marion Police Station, but the committee may schedule a meeting before then if something arises.
Carver, Marion, Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District
By Jean Perry