Waste District considers going ‘skeletal’

Nov 21, 2019

The Wareham Carver Marion Regional Refuse Disposal District Committee met Wednesday night to continue discussions about the future (or not) of the district.

“We’ve been talking about it for months!” exclaimed one member in frustration.

Because Marion Town Meeting voted to leave the district, and Carver officials have indicated that Carver might want out, too, it seems the most likely solution would be to modify the district’s agreement to reduce the district’s operations to a “skeleton.” The transfer stations would be closed, but the district would still be responsible for ongoing costs like insurance for former employees and the soon-to-be-closed Carver landfill. (Covanta recently signed an agreement to pay for the landfill’s insurance for the next thirty years, but the district would be the insurance holder.)

Reducing the district’s responsibilities in this way could be approved at Town Meetings without any special legislation.

The Waste District was formed by Carver, Marion and Wareham in 1975 to allow the three towns to negotiate jointly with Covanta SEMASS, a waste-to-energy company in Rochester so they could dispose of their trash for free in exchange for allowing Covanta to dispose of ash and trash for free in the Carver landfill.

The district’s contract with Covanta will expire on Dec. 31, 2020, so the committee needs to decide the future of the waste district and do so in time for it to be approved by voters at town meetings.

Complicating the issue is the fact that the district’s assets and liabilities are somewhat unknown. In part, this is because the waste district fired its Executive Director fo 45 years, Ray Pickles in 2018. Pickles was later accused in civil and criminal courts of embezzlement and larceny, with trials still ongoing. 

To combat those unknowns, the committee voted to approve spending up to $5,000 for an appraisal of the land and equipment at the Rte. 28 transfer station in Rochester as part of its ongoing work to understand the true financial position of the district.

While in previous meetings it had seemed like closing the Benson Brook transfer station in Marion was a certainty, some members at the meeting brought up the possibility of keeping it open, to the frustration of Marion representatives. Marion Selectman John Waterman, who is not part of the committee but was in attendance, said that the decision to close Benson Brook was what triggered Marion’s decision to leave, and the town couldn’t make a decision if the future of the station was unclear.

Marion Town Administrator Jay McGrail said that if it was agreed that the district would be reduced to a skeleton concerned only with liabilities, Marion would stay in, because it would be responsible for its share of those costs regardless.

Another possibility discussed was an inter-municipal agreement between Carver and Wareham to run the Rte. 28 transfer station if the district itself is wound down.