Town Landfill Attracting A Flurry Of Private Interest
By: Diana T. Barth
Smell notwithstanding, Bourne’s landfill apparently looks like a gold mine to private companies, selectmen heard Tuesday.
Besides WERC, a private company that made a presentation to selectmen and the board of health last week, selectmen learned that the town has also been approached by Allied Waste Services as well as Waste Management, that Daniel J. Barrett, general manager of the Department of Integrated Solid Waste Management had received a call, and that the town was discussing a proposal with another, unnamed company.
That means there may be as many as five separate entities looking at the operation with an eye to becoming involved in running the facility, in one way or another.
Selectman Donald W. Pickard noted that a private, rather than public, group might be more in tune with profit-making, and might be better able to run the facility.
Evaluating a large number of proposals, however, would cost the town both time and money, selectmen said. The close look at a co-composting proposal that selectmen took in 2005 was costly in both ways.
It might be useful, selectmen decided, to come to a consensus, at least in principle, as to whether the town wants to be involved in any public/private arrangement.
At least one selectman said that, while the landfill may be a gold mine, it is the town’s gold mine.
Eventually, any decision would be the town’s to make, but in the meantime, selectmen said, their board, and the board of health, need to come up with a protocol for evaluating ideas. No one, they appeared to agree, wants to be stuck with a number of complex, competing proposals without one.
Selectman John A. Ford Jr. raised one conundrum with the current proposal, set before the board by WERC.
That company wants to share some proprietary information with selectmen and board of health members in an executive session. Chairman Ford wondered whether that would mean the town would not be able to use a new technology because they heard it first from the private company.
Even if that were not the case, he expressed concern with the idea of keeping information from the public.
Further, board of health members would find it almost impossible to legally enter into an executive session. If something that affects public health were to be disclosed, the board is obliged to make it public.
The end result was the idea that the joint executive session proposed for January 6 be either canceled or changed into a workshop session, leaving WERC with the job of deciding how much information it could share.
Gold mine or not, the landfill still has odor issues.
At 7:30 AM last Saturday, two selectmen and two members of the board of health, Kathleen M. Peterson and Galon L. Barlow, met at the landfill. On Tuesday, Selectman Ford reported about that site meeting at which those assembled discussed efforts to solve the landfill’s odor problem.
The two boards, Mr. Ford said, want to work as a team to help that facility get its smell under complete control.
In order to put those efforts on a fast track, they discussed putting together a working group of three: Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino, who is ultimately in charge of the department’s day-to-day activities, a selectman, because that board sets policy, and a member of the board of health, which has statutory control over many aspects of the facility’s operation.
Mr. Ford volunteered to be the selectmen’s representative, and his fellow board member concurred.
The board of health proposed that its former chairman Steven A. MacNally, who has a long history of in-depth knowledge of the landfill’s workings, be their representative.
That three-man group will now be able to work with Mr. Barrett and other landfill personnel on the issue, freeing Mr. Barrett from the necessity of attending every board of health meeting and making regular appearances before selectmen to update them on the issues.
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