NORTH ADAMS -- City Council members agreed Tuesday night that something has to be done about the city's transfer station, but the solution to bring it into compliance with state regulations remains the subject of heated debate.
"I think we all agree that we need to move forward," Councilor David Bond said. "It's clear that we have issues. Let's think about where we are now and where we want to be."
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright has said the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has threatened to fine the city or even close the E Street transfer station if it is not brought into compliance.
Councilor Jennifer Breen brought the issues at the transfer station back before the council Tuesday, after the mayor sent out packets to the council containing a litany of letters of noncompliance sent to the city from DEP dating back to 2000. The correspondence also shows the city has failed to secure an "authorization to operate" (ATO) permit, with the earliest letter dated in 2000.
"Basically we've been told to clean up our act," Alcombright said. "All I really intended to do a few weeks ago was to let the public know that we have a problem. That we could be put under a consent decree or fined."
He added, "The problem is, the dump never quit being a dump. The biggest concern [the DEP] has, is that the trash isn't contained. We've done something to make them happy. We've been given permission to use the [former Maxymillian] building to dump the trash into. Is it perfect? No, but certainly the condition is much better than it was."
Councilor John Barrett III said he took issue with the DEP suddenly finding the transfer station's condition as being an emergency situation and questioned how the it could be without an ATO permit, as the agency continues to inspect the facility as if it has one.
"When I brought the transfer station before the council a few weeks ago, it was because I wanted to know why the city had paid $100,000 to Tighe & Bond for engineering work, when the council hadn't authorized it," he said. "We can't let the executive office spend money without our authorization."
Barrett reiterated his belief that a committee should be convened to review the issues at the transfer station and put together a plan to rectify the situation.
Breen disagreed, saying the transfer station's condition is an issue that needs to be handled as quickly as possible.
"I do consider it to be an emergency," she said. "I don't condone the mayor's behavior [moving forward without authorization], but we really need to move forward as quickly as possible. I don't think that is by committee."
Alcombright said the city is currently working with the DEP and with several large vendors to get a take on what is going on up there and what needs to be done.
"We're going to school on this," he said. "It's going to have an impact on everything. It could force up the fees. It could force up everyone's bills at home. It could eliminate commercial hauling and force residents to pay to have their trash hauled to Pittsfield or Hoosick Falls. We need to figure out what is best for the community. Whatever we decide to do is something we're going to have to live with for a while."
The mayor said he expects to bring a plan to the council before the end of the calendar year.