PORTSMOUTH — Although yet another discussion on the future of the town’s waste disposal program had to be tabled until January because the Town Council ran out of time last Thursday, the …
PORTSMOUTH — Although yet another discussion on the future of the town’s waste disposal program had to be tabled until January because the Town Council ran out of time last Thursday, the transfer station was still part of the discussion.
During the meeting in the Portsmouth High School auditorium, the council unanimously approved Public Works Director Brian Woodhead’s recommendation to set the sticker price for residents who use the transfer station at $385 for an 18-month period starting Jan. 1, 2024 and ending June 30, 2025.
The reason for going with an 18-month rather than a 12-month sticker is to finally bring the transfer station budget in alignment with the municipal budget, something town officials have desired for years.
The $385 sticker fee translates to $256.68 per year, “which represents a modest increase of six dollars over the previous year’s sticker cost,” Woodhead told the council. A $14,000 surplus was included in the calculation of the new fee, he said.
Local residents Nancy Grieb and John Vickers told the council they would prefer to see the town offer transfer station users a six-month sticker and then a 12-month sticker to make payments more manageable.
“It would be a lot easier for most people because it would be hard for someone to come up with that money right after the holidays,” Vickers argued.
That option wouldn’t be feasible for the town, said council member Keith Hamilton. “We can’t do six months because you’d have to do two sets of stickers. Everybody would have to go back in July to buy another sticker,” he said.
Another resident, Nancy Zitka, said she had no problem paying more for a sticker fee — as long as the town kept the transfer station operation as is.
“I would be happy personally to pay more for my transfer station sticker, because I don’t think this council has ever taken into consideration that the dump is not just a convenience to some people. It’s essential to some people — people like me that will have to pay a fortune to a landscaper to take away my yard waste,” Zitka said.
Council President Kevin Aguiar said such comments should be held until the meeting in January, when the council will consider a change to a request for proposals (RFP) regarding its waste disposal program.
After more than three hours of contentious debate on Oct. 23, the council voted unanimously to advertise two separate RFPs:
1) One is to develop a town-wide curbside collection program, which would provide for bulky waste to be picked up curbside for an additional cost to each resident. The town would seek just one vendor for the job in order to reduce costs for enrolled residents.
2) The other is to prepare an RFP for curbside collection, but to keep the transfer station open for bulky waste and diversion materials two days a week.
Hundreds of transfer station users, however, signed a petition demanding no changes to the current transfer station operation, and council member David Gleason has requested an addendum to the RFP to include an option for bids to “keep the transfer station open, in its entirety, as currently operating. The RFP shall include bids with use of town trash bags and without.”
The matter was originally on the agenda for the council’s regular meeting on Nov. 27 at Town Hall, but had to be moved to a special assembly at PHS on Thursday to accommodate the large number of interested residents. However, since discussion on the East Main Road roundabout went on until nearly 9:30 p.m. Thursday and the auditorium had to be cleared by 10, the council tabled the matter until next month on a motion by Gleason. Most people who were there to discuss the transfer station then left the building.
President pounds gavel
The proceedings got heated after local resident Karen Gleason, wife of council member Gleason, questioned the new sticker fee as it related to the RFP.
“I just find that strange that we’re doing that now for the next 18 months because the transfer station’s current contract expires in 2025, so they want to do an 18-month price at $385,” Karen Gleason said, before turning to audience members and asking them what they think the sticker cost would be if the council ended up going with option No. 2 on the RFP.
Several council members, including Vice President Leonard Katzman, said Gleason was out of order in talking about an item (the RFP) that had been taken off that night’s agenda.
“She’s doing a disservice to all the people in town who left because we aren’t discussing that topic,” Katzman said.
After more arguing back and forth between Gleason and council members, Aguiar loudly slammed his gavel down on the table several times and said “Enough!”
The council then voted unanimously to approve the $385 sticker fee for 18 months.
The council will next meet at 7 p.m. on the following Mondays: Dec. 11; Jan. 8, 2024; and Jan. 22.