NORTH ADAMS - City officials are looking to clean up the city's transfer station once and for all.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright told the Finance Committee Thursday night that the city is looking at an investment of $1.8 million to $2 million in the transfer station in the near future; a move that would keep the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from fining the city and solve the bigger issue of scattered trash billowing in the wind.
"It would basically repair the building that we have, which we all know was initially built for recycling but has [always] been used for solids," he said. "This would add another building another containment pit and redirect traffic to a new residential (trash) area - totally take it to another level and once and for all clean the place up."
The mayor said that since taking office, the transfer station has "always been a sore spot" despite the city's best efforts for containment.
"Part of this is driven by the DEP," Alcombright said. "The last time they contacted the city about the transfer station, let's just say they used the word ‘displeased.' We're almost at the point where we have to do something and we'll be in a much better position with the DEP if we're in the process of doing something about it."
He said that Department of Public Services Commissioner Timothy Lescarbeau has been working with the engineering firm Tighe & Bond to find new ways to improve the facilities.
"The city's been written up by the DEP eight times since 2000 for non-compliance, the last being on my watch," Lescarbeau said. "There are days that we can't keep up with the loads that are being dropped off and they get outside the doors, which is a big ‘no-no.' Sometimes it can't be helped and we can't keep up with the trash blowing in the wind."
One of the solutions, he said, has been to take possession of the former Maxymillian Construction building on the site.
"We have a temporary permit to use the building for recycling," Lescarbeau said. "But it doesn't solve our problems. We found out that we've been operating without a permit for many years. We've been working on the application for the last six months, but every time we submit it, the DEP comes back with a stack of stipulations. That's why we brought Tighe & Bond in."
Administrative Officer Michael Canales said as part of the process, the city is undertaking a cost analysis of the transfer station to determine if it should continue taking commercial waste or convert to a residential-only station or a recycling-only station.
"We're not going to make any decisions right away, but we need to look at the cost of the buildings and then do a cost analysis," he said. "We also want to know which way people want us to go."
City Councilor Lisa Blackmer, a committee member, said she didn't want to see the transfer station convert to a recycling-only station. "I like being able to bring my trash up when I want. I don't want to pay a hauler. I think it would add to the bills residents already have," she said.
Canales said the city is exploring its avenues, but at the same time it must move quickly, as the DEP will put it "under consent decree" -- a move that could bring fines of $25,000 per day with it.
Lescarbeau said he believes the changes put forth by Tighe & Bond would make the station more efficient.
"I believe more efficient operation would lead the revenues to increase," he said. "It still costs us money to run this transfer station. It should be self-sufficient. It's not, but it can be."
Alcombright said that while they weren't looking for the Finance Committee to take any action, they wanted the members to be aware that it would be coming to the City Council by September.
"This is something that wouldn't be on this budget, something that would be bonded," Finance Chairman Alan Marden said.
In other action, the Finance Committee voted to recommend the city's share of the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School Committee's $8.1 million fiscal 2014 budget, as well as the North Adams Public School's $15.8 million fiscal 2014 budget to the City Council.