Rent, utilities, and a dinner party? Officials sorting out spending in trash district
Carver Marion Wareham Regional Refuse District officials OK'd spending approximately $53,700 to cover rent, utilities, and employee salaries on Wednesday, March 28, but bills for a 14-person dinner party and services provided by the recently ousted administrator gave them pause.
The district, which allows the three member towns to jointly contract with waste-to-energy facility SEMASS in Rochester, operates transfer stations in Carver and Marion.
The district committee, which includes representatives from each town, is charged with the oversight of the district—including the hiring of an administrator to oversee its day-to-day operation. Until early February, Moss Hollow Management, owned by Marion Town Clerk Ray Pickles, filled that role. Since then, the town administrators from each town have been jointly overseeing the district.
The financial assets of the district have been a concern since early 2017, when the cost of disposal fees skyrocketed. Marion received a bill of $25,000—after five years without any bills at all. Wareham, which had paid an average of $1,200 over the previous several years, was issued a bill for $89,000, while Carver's bill totaled around $59,000.
Residents pay a yearly fee for access to the transfer stations. Private trash collectors also leave waste at the stations; that waste is weighed and flagged with the town from which it was received. The amount of trash a town deposits at the transfer stations directly correlates to the fee it is charged.
The district's books have not been audited since 2012 -- making it difficult for officials to get a handle on how much money came in, went out, or is currently able to be spent.
Marion Finance Director Judy Mooney noted that the $53,700 in spending the committee approved should get the district up-to-date on bills. However, she advised delaying various payments, including one for a puzzling catering bill for a 14-person dinner party held at Pickles' home.
The dinner party apparently served as a board meeting, but details are unclear.
“Normally, in Marion, we ask for a notice of the meeting so we know it’s a real meeting, and then for an actual listing of people in attendance,” Mooney said. “I called [Pickles] to ask him, and he could not remember who was there.”
Carver Town Administrator Mike Malinoski produced a copy of the meeting notice that was posted in his town. It specifically indicated that district business would not be conducted at the meeting.
Various members of the district committee said they remembered being at the dinner party, but that they did not believe 14 people were in attendance.
“I find it interesting a notice would be posted for a meeting where no business would be transacted,” Marion Town Administrator Paul Dawson mused.
Mooney also advised against paying an invoice for Pickles' work through the month of January while officials continue reviewing various district documents.
Committee members also held off on paying a bill for the services of Robert Tinkham. Mooney said the committee had never approved using funds to pay for his services, and further, that she is not sure what services he provided.
Pickles "said it’s for inspections and [Tinkham has] been doing it forever, but it doesn’t go through the operating budget," she told the committee.
More research will be done before any of the three invoices will be paid, she said.
Mooney noted that there is currently $221,000 in the district’s bank account, but that it was hard to get the full picture of the district’s finances because so many bills had accumulated.