Group Retracts Landfill Partnership Proposal
By: Diana T. Barth
In December of last year, the Waste to Energy Reclamation Company, or WERC, approached the Bourne Board of Health and the Bourne Board of Selectmen proposing to form a public/private partnership that would take over the operation of the landfill.
This Tuesday, one of the members of that group, Wings Neck resident Gerard J. O’Brien, hand-delivered to selectmen a letter withdrawing that proposal.
The letter said that WERC spent almost a year reviewing landfill operations, not just to develop its operational model and partnership proposal, but also to develop a good working relationship with the town.
One of the reasons for its withdrawal of its offer, that letter said, was the “adversarial” and “dismissive” way the town met the group’s proposal, one that was made orally, but never reduced to a formal written submission.
The group’s letter also alleged that the documents within the public domain that it reviewed, including Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Revenue, Inspector General, and Cape Cod Commission paperwork, presented a different picture than that presented to Bourne citizens.
The letter listed 12 issues that it said made Bourne a poor candidate for partnership, including allegations that the odor problem at the landfill was caused by the town’s willingness to conduct experiments at the landfill at taxpayers’ expense, “procurement oddities in goods and services,” poor fiscal management decisions, and the development of a “technology platform” for the landfill’s future by consultants who “are involved in benefiting from the recommendations they make” to the department.
It suggests that selectmen have failed to insulate taxpayers from the threat of a tax increase that could result from the department’s poor operational and financial performance.
WERC, as it had introduced itself, included Pocasset residents Gerard J. O’Brien and William F. Rhattigan, and Dana Ashworth of Monument Beach, along with two corporate partners, Fiore Trucking, Recycle and Disposal Company of Groton, and Patrick Engineering, an Illinois-based national firm.
After appearing before selectmen and the board of health, WERC’s proponents asked to talk with the members of both boards in executive session, something they said was necessary to keep proprietary processes confidential, but that the board of health would find very difficult to justify. While the two town boards discussed whether they could find a way under state open meeting law to meet together in executive session, a number of other private companies approached the town with requests to present privatization opportunities.
All of those proposals came in the wake of a management study of the landfill performed by Joyce Engineering Inc., a Virginia-based consulting firm. That study gave the landfill high marks for innovation and modernization, but had a number of recommendations for the business side of the operation in the current down economy.
The consultants’ report concluded that the MacArthur Boulevard facility is a “tremendous asset.” It said that the Department of Integrated Solid Waste Management had “converted an old, unlined town dump-site into a modern facility with several operational areas that combine to make a unique, complex, and multifaceted operation with room to grow.”
The bottom line of the report was that the landfill had been transformed into a modern facility poised for the future.
Since the report had made selectmen aware that there were decisions to be made regarding the business side of the landfill operation, they requested that a group be formed to help determine the best business model for the department, as well as to look at all of the private company requests to run the landfill, WERC’s included.
Putting that business model working group together has taken several months.
During that time, Mr. O’Brien and other WERC members and supporters, including Joyce A. Lorman, who has picked up papers for a run for the board of selectmen, have come to selectmen’s meetings to watch the proceedings and to urge more speed in addressing the proposals.
At this Tuesday’s meeting, when Mr. O’Brien distributed WERC’s withdrawal letter, selectmen made their final appointment to that group and Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said its first meeting should be held in the next two weeks.
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