PAWTUCKET — Truck traffic, noise, foul odors and decreased property values were among the main concerns aired by residents at a community meeting Monday night on a proposal to privatize and expand the city's waste transfer station on Grotto Avenue.
Mayor Donald Grebien and District 6 Councilor James Chadwick hosted the forum at the Nathanael Greene Elementary School to discuss the proposal to turn over the operations of the transfer station to a private company, Waste Haulers of Cranston. City DPW Director Lance Hill made a presentation, and representatives from Waste Haulers, along with City Councilors David Moran, Christopher O'Neill, Mark Wildenhain, Jean Philippe Barros and Lorenzo Tetreault were also in attendance.
Grebien, who strongly supports the plan, told neighborhood residents that the financial benefit to the city would be approximately $750,000 annually. The city would be saving on the roughly $210,000 in operating costs being spent now, and Waste Haulers would provide revenue of $10,000 a month to lease the facility for five years, as well as quarterly payments based on tonnage.
The mayor added that the facility is already licensed to accept 600 tons of waste per day, although it currently only takes in about 110 tons per days. Under the proposed agreement with Waste Haulers, the company would be limited to 450 tons a day and could only increase beyond that if it constructs an access road off Concord Street that would bring in trucks to the rear of the facility. Under the lease, the company would be required to construct the new road within three years.
Once the access road is in place, the city could expand the existing license up to 2,000 tons a day, but there would be an additional public hearing and approval process involving the City Council. Grebien said the city would still maintain ownership of the property and control of the license. He also said that he remains committed to keeping the trash trucks off Smithfield Avenue and having them use the existing truck routes of Mineral Spring Avenue, Lonsdale Avenue, and Weeden Street to San Antonio Way until the access road is in place.
Grebien said he would like to be able to count on this anticipated savings in the coming year's budget, which starts July 1. A rejection of the plan, he said, means he would have to find the money elsewhere in the budget, and would increase the likelihood of a property tax increase. He said that, as mayor, he has to balance the neighbors' concerns with that of finding savings and revenue for the cash-strapped city.
However, many neighbors said they were unhappy with the plan, and peppered officials with questions and comments about the additional number of trucks coming in and out of the facility, the possibility of increased odors, the company's expansion plans and how soon the access road would be constructed.
Several speakers said they lived in the nearby Kings Estate condominium complex and expressed concerns that the expansion of the transfer station would decrease their property values.
Patsy Sperduto, CEO of Waste Haulers, sought to alleviate fears, saying that the company successfully operates similar waste transfer facilities in South Kingstown and North Smithfield. He said the company would be constructing a new building with a state-of-the art deodorizing system that provides an enclosed place for the trash to be loaded and unloaded, as opposed to the open structure that exists there now. He also said that all of the trash is moved out on a daily basis, and, particularly if food waste is involved, an effort is made to expedite those loads.
Sperduto said that while there is an incinerator on the existing property, nothing will be burned there. All of the trash will be transported to the state landfill.
Sperduto said the hours of operation would likely be 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and that Pawtucket residents would still be allowed to bring trash to the facility as they do now. He did say there would be an increase in trucks coming in and out of the facility from the rate of about 30 a day under the 450-ton capacity to as many as 70 if the facility expands to the 2,000-ton limit. However, he pointed out that the trucks would eventually be using the access road, which runs past the cemetery and comes in at the rear of the facility.
Another spokesman from Waste Haulers described the operation as “a green initiative” and said the company will have to abide by “rigid environmental standards” that are set by the state Department of Environmental Management.
However, several residents told city officials that they were opposed to any expansion of the facility, feeling that it would be detrimental to the neighborhood. One unidentified man, who was strongly critical of the plan, stated “I'd rather pay the extra taxes on my house than have that in there.”
Beth Phillips and Carol Kelly, both owners of nearby condominiums, said they were still concerned about the possible expansion of the facility to the 2,000 ton capacity and the negative effects this could have on their homes and quality of life.
Sam Potter, a resident of Grotto Avenue, also said he was worried about the transfer station eventually accepting more trash and the doubling of trucks in the area. He also said that in hot weather, he can smell an odor from the facility as it exists now, and questioned the effect an expansion will have on the nearby schools, several baseball fields, Veterans Park and the city's only public pool.
City officials said that an additional public meeting will be held on Thursday, April 19, at 6 p.m. in Pawtucket City Hall. The proposal will then head to the City Council for consideration.