Mayor Richard Alcombright updates the Public Services Committee (Councilors Marie Harpin, Chairwoman Nancy Bullett and Alan Marden) on capital projects.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The administration expects to be back before the City Council by December with a plan for the transfer station.
The waste station has been in noncompliance with state regulations for the past decade and requires a $2 million revamping to continue to function as it has.
Some changes have been made to satisfy the state Department of Environmental Protection, Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Public Services Committee on Monday. "DEP is very happy with what we've done so far but now we have to make some decisions."
Still, the DEP has stepped up the number of inspections and pushed the city to resolve the issue. The recyclables have been moved into the nearby Maxymillian shell building, which has cut down on the loose trash, but that's increased congestion and is only a temporary measure.
"You can't have trash outside. DEP will fine us if we have trash outside," said Administrative Officer Michael Canales, who continued that there was the added issue of training the commercial haulers to put the waste in the proper bins.
The cost — for a new storage building, inspections and security among other items — could be reduced if the city stopped accepting commercial waste. Or it could get out of the waste business altogether.
"If we're not taking people's trash they would have to get rid of it through a hauler," said the mayor. "So the decision is whether to continue accepting commercial waste and what that will mean to residents; or even get out of the business completely."
He didn't think Pittsfield's solution in incineration would be an option. "No matter where you put it,it's going to be 'no burning trash in my back yard.'"
Canales said the costs are based on plans drawn up by engineers Tighe & Bond.
"If we do a $2 million bond over 20 years it's $100,000 (a year) ... what would we have to set the fees at to make that viable?" he asked, because if it's too high, haulers will go elsewhere. "It's a delicate game."
The transfer station (which will be discussed at Tuesday's City Council meeting) was at the top of a list that the mayor wanted to bring forward to "get some of these things in front of the committee but out so the public is aware of them."
They include the city's aged and deteriorating water and septic systems. Canales said the pipes are more than 100 years old on at least 50 streets according to a survey by Tighe & Bond. "We keep patching minor breaks ... We're in a reactionary mode."
Committee member Alan Marden agreed that it was a "problem that's facing every city in the Northeast" and wondered if there were federal or state funding and grants available.
Alcombright and Canales said there is always a search for grants and some municipalities had been able to take advantage of stimulus funds. But those required "shovel ready" projects along a with a maintenance plan and commitment of funds — the tax base isn't considered enough. Some grants also require a match upfront.
The mayor said conversations on how to develop enterprise funds — such as for Windsor Lake or the waste water plant — will be taken up with accountants Scanlon & Associates and the Department of Revenue but it's been difficult to separate the revenue without "crippling" the city budget.
A $20 million capital plan to fix the city's water system woes was identified two years ago. The problems go beyond the pipes to the security of the reservoirs, the deterioration of two dams and the aqueduct and the water filtration plant. Canales said the city had to buy an old computer off eBay for the facility because its technology hasn't been updated in years.
Also on the capital projects wish list is a reconstruction and a maintenance plan for the roads, a fleet schedule for replacement of aging vehicles, the maintenance of flood chutes, drainage systems and retaining walls, and the ongoing efforts to comply with the Americans With Disabiities Act.
Exacerbating the problems are the high costs for long-term strategies and the decreased number of public works employees — down to 16 from 43.
"We know where we need to go, the question is how do we get there?" said Canales.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.