Royalston residents speak against proposed transfer station partnership

Costs for continuing to run the Royalston Transfer Station are being examined as officials decide whether the facility will remain open.

Costs for continuing to run the Royalston Transfer Station are being examined as officials decide whether the facility will remain open. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

Winchendon Department of Public Works Director Brian Croteau (standing) explains a proposed agreement to allow Royalston residents to use Winchendon's transfer station.

Winchendon Department of Public Works Director Brian Croteau (standing) explains a proposed agreement to allow Royalston residents to use Winchendon's transfer station. PHOTO BY GREG VINE—

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 01-30-2024 5:00 PM

Modified: 01-30-2024 6:22 PM


ROYALSTON – Voters will get an opportunity at April’s annual Town Election to tell officials if they want to keep the transfer station open or close it and instead take their trash to Winchendon.

Winchendon Public Works Director Brian Coteau recently proposed a three-year intermunicipal agreement to allow Royalston residents to use Winchendon’s transfer station.

Last Thursday, a public meeting was held to discuss the matter. Those in attendance did not hesitate to express their skepticism regarding a regional agreement.

Information was distributed at the meeting explaining that Royalston’s transfer station operated at a deficit of $12,661 in FY23. Expenses, according to the handout, totaled $73,621, while income amounted to just under $61,000. Those expenses did not include the $21,000 the town pays to staff the transfer station each Saturday.

Croteau explained an agreement already exists under which Templeton residents use the Winchendon facility, paying the same fees as Toy Town residents.

“Fees are based off what is coming in and what is going out,” Croteau said. “As the market changes, the prices change, but I can say the prices have been very stable. I’ve been director going on four years now and last year was the first year we raised the price of a sticker $5, and we raised the bags up by 25 cents.”

At present, an annual sticker in Winchendon is $75, with a second household sticker costing $25. Annual stickers in Royalston are $50 and $25 for a second family vehicle. Large trash bags cost slightly more in Winchendon, and smaller bags are also available. In addition, Royalston would make annual payments to Winchendon of $1,250, $1,500, and $2,000, respectively, over the course of the three-year agreement.

Some of the residents at Thursday’s meeting balked at having to travel to Winchendon Town Hall to purchase stickers and bags, a distance of about eight miles from Royalston Town Hall. Croteau said stickers and bags can be purchased at the transfer station, with no need to travel to Winchendon center. In addition, he said he was looking at the possibility of making bags available at Royalston Town Hall.

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Croteau added that he has also been in talks with Ashburnham because that town “is going through some of the same struggles that you are. They’re open one day a week on Saturday; they’re losing money.”

He said Winchendon, which recently purchased a “roll off” truck, has its own ability to truck trash off-site once compactors are full, whereas neighboring communities have to pay private companies for the service. That, he said, can cost in the vicinity of $250 per load.

“We’re looking at about a $50,000 savings by doing our own trucking,” said Croteau.

Royalston resident Stephen Dembroske said, “I’m here to defend the workers at the town’s transfer station. Those are the people who make it happen. They do it every week, faithfully – two guys. Let’s keep it in-house. Let’s keep it in town. Why do we have to regionalize everything?”

“Other towns want to regionalize with us because that will save us money?” asked Gary Winitzer rhetorically. “That is a silly idea.”

Margaret Green, who lives on Jolly Road, said she did “a trial run” to see how many miles it is from her home to the Winchendon transfer station.

“It’s 7.5 miles, times two, at a cost of 58 cents per mile – that’s what they say it costs us to run a vehicle. So, that’s about $10.50 a week,” Green said. “That’s about $450 it’s costing us to do this run.”

In addition, she said, the social aspect of visits to Royalston’s transfer station “is very precious. It truly is. We are a community. I’m almost 83 years old and I don’t get out much anymore, but I look forward to doing the dump run.”

In response to a question from former Selectboard member Roland Hamel, Royalston Board of Health Cchair Phil Leger said that Croteau would consider buying the used cardboard compactor purchased from Monadnock Disposal in August of last year. Leger said the compactor itself cost $28,000, with another $5,000 for the three-phase converter.

Asked about the April referendum question, Leger said if the majority of people vote against regionalization “we’re fine with that, if that’s the will of the people. At the same time, we want folks to realize that there’s a cost, and then we have to work on dealing with that cost. But at least people will understand that and buy into that.”

Leger explained that, while the vote would be non-binding, “we’re not stupid. If 75 percent of the people want to keep it open and are aware of the cost, then we’ll go with that.”

He went on to explain that the Board of Health would make a recommendation but the final decision on whether or not to keep the transfer station open will be up to the Selectboard.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.