Wareham hopes to operate transfer station while staying in waste district

Oct 29, 2020

A contentious waste district meeting will be followed up by another next week as members were unclear on how Wareham could continue to operate the Rte. 28 transfer station after January 1.

Wareham’s Town Administrator Derek Sullivan attended the meeting, and made it abundantly clear to committee members that under no circumstances would Wareham residents be voting on the amended district agreement to wind down operations before the end of the year.

The Carver Marion Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District was formed in the 1970s to allow the three towns to dispose of their waste for free at the Covanta-SEMASS facility in Rochester in exchange for allowing the facility to dispose of ash for free in the Carver landfill.

The district’s contract with Covanta-SEMASS ends on Dec. 31, 2020, so the three towns need to find their own solutions to waste management.

Back in 2019, members of the committee that governs the district came up with a plan to reduce the district to a “skeleton,” responsible only for continuing to insure the Carver landfill and managing post-employment benefits for district employees.

That agreement was approved by Marion and by Carver. Marion later drafted a proposal to leave the district entirely, which will be up for a vote at a special Town Meeting, scheduled for Nov. 5. Marion officials have said that they would leave the district if Wareham did not approve the amended agreement. Marion will operate the Benson Brook Transfer Station for its own residents and continue its curbside trash pick-up service. 

Carver residents approved the “skeleton” agreement at their recent Town Meeting, due in part to concerns about the operating costs of the transfer station.

Because Wareham Town Meeting attendees will not vote on the “skeleton” agreement, that means that Carver is stuck with Wareham under the district’s original contract.

Wareham’s refusal is in part because there is no legal way for Wareham to own and operate a transfer station in another town, for somewhat convoluted legal reasons. The only way Wareham can operate the station is through a district. 

The members of the committee seemed to be leaning toward a solution through which Wareham would run the transfer station on its own, acting more or less like a contractor hired by the district. While Carver wouldn’t have an active part in running the station or taking on the financial risks in doing so, Carver residents may be allowed to purchase stickers for access to the station.

“Our intent is to try to keep the facility operational. We’d be responsible for all the costs of operation and insurance and everything else,” Wareham Selectman and waste district committee member Jim Munise said. “And we would not be using district employees. We’d have our own employees. We don’t want the district involved in any way except to allow us to use it, and to make sure there’s adequate protection for them, liability-wise.” 

Wareham committee member Joe Benedict pointed out that Wareham and Carver would likely need to draft and approve a new amended agreement to allow this plan to go forward, as it seems it may not be allowed under the agreement as it currently stands.

The committee decided to meet again next week with district attorney Tom Crotty, with a plan in hand from Wareham, to see if the town’s plan would be feasible.