Marion may again look to exit waste district

Jul 29, 2020

Nine months after deciding to stay with the Carver Marion Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District if it ceased operations, it seems that Marion may again be looking to split off from the district. 

The waste district was formed in 1973 by an agreement between Carver, Wareham, Marion and Covanta SEMASS which allows the three towns to dispose of their trash for free at Covanta while the waste-to-energy company was able to dispose of its ash in the Carver landfill.

The district’s current agreement with Covanta SEMASS is set to expire Dec. 31, 2020, and the district planned to cease its operations at that time and just continue to manage insurance liabilities. 

Before the member towns agreed to cease operations at the end of this year, Marion considered leaving the district, and took the first of two votes to do so at its Special Town Meeting on Oct. 21, 2019. When the member towns decided to wind down operations, Marion placed an article on its Annual Town Meeting warrant for June 2020 to begin the process of disbanding the district, which was also approved. 

Wareham and Carver did not vote on anything related to the waste district at their Town Meetings, and recently said they would like to give Town Meeting voters the option to renegotiate new terms for the agreement and continue operations, even if that meant Marion would leave the district. 

Now, it seems that Marion may take a second vote to leave the district rather than allowing it to cease operations because it does not believe the other towns will vote to end operations. 

Committee member Bob Belbin of Carver started a conversation about Marion’s withdrawal from the district at a July 29 meeting out of a desire to “know all the options” for his Town Meeting. 

Committee member Jim Munise said Wareham is discussing the short and long-term use of the transfer station with Rochester, where the District’s Route 28 is located. He said his town is also looking at curbside pickup as an option, but finding a vendor may take time. And even if a vendor is secured before the end of the year, it might not be able to begin curbside pick-up at the beginning of January.

Munise said that Wareham will not have a Town Meeting until October, delaying any decision until then. 

Complicating the decision is the fact that the district has still not heard from Covanta on how it plans to close the transfer stations. 

Representatives from the three towns disagree on the timeframe for discussion. Wareham and Carver seemed content to let the district cease operations at the end of this year, but continue discussion on how to proceed with waste disposal in the future or handle the related logistics after that. 

The discussion “doesn’t have to be done by Dec. 31,” one board member said. 

However, Marion Selectman John Waterman, who is not on the committee but attends many of its meetings, said that he doesn’t want to be still in discussions in January and beyond. 

Marion’s Town Administrator Jay McGrail, also in attendance, was not optimistic about Wareham and Carver Town Meetings reaching a consensus to disband. 

“If the other two towns decide to cease operations and continue as a skeleton district we will stay,” McGrail said. “But considering the motion doesn’t even have unanimous support in this room, we feel it’s a dead duck at Town Meetings.”

McGrail said he will send a letter with Marion’s desired conditions for leaving the district before the next meeting.

The town administrator said Marion may not have a fall Town Meeting, but if it needs to hold one to dissolve or leave the district, he would prefer to know sooner rather than later. 

Representatives from other towns seemed resigned on the issue. 

“How you handle your business in Marion is up to you,” Munise said.