NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council is expected to be presented in February with the option of joining the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District.
Waste management Program Director Linda Cernik told the district's commission at its most recent meeting that she is preparing to welcome North Adams into the fold early in the new year.
"I am looking forward to 2020 and hopefully it goes in the right direction," she said. "We all feel really confident."
Last year, city officials had reached out to the district and inquired about possibly rejoining after opting out of the program some years ago. The commissioners voted to begin exploring the request knowing that adding North Adams to the 13-member district would increase their size and buying power.
Williams College Environmental Studies students conduct an environmental planning project this past semester to analyze cost benefits should the city join the district.
"I think we did it the right way with the students and I learned a lot from them and I think they learned a lot from us," Cernik said. "I don't think people know the complexities of solid waste and recycling."
After three months of analyzing the pros and cons for the city and the district, the four students presented their findings to the City Council in early December.
Their recommendation was clear: Join the district.
"I felt really good about the presentation ... we all felt really confident and the students did a great job," Cernik said.
All in all, it is estimated to cost the city $20,000 to join the district, which is relatively cost-neutral to not joining.
If the city does not join, it will continue to be responsible for annual inspections and hazardous waste collections that cost it nearly $10,000 a year. Also, the city may need to look into hiring a part-time coordinator to organize community and educational outreach.
It was noted in the presentation that without educational outreach, contamination will continue to increase the cost of disposal. A regular load costs $557 but a contaminated load could cost between $1,000 and $1,200 to dispose of.
These educational and community outreach opportunities are provided by the district.
The city's transfer station would also become a "Center for Hard to Recycle Materials" (CHRM). On days when the transfer station is acting as a CHRM all district members could drop off bulky waste, construction/ demolition waste, e-waste, brush, mattresses, and tires among other objects.
This status also opens up the transfer station for more grant funding that would expand services in the city. The transfer station already received a $36,000 mattress collection grant but the city could apply for a universal-waste shed and a textile recovery program.
Cernik outlined final steps and said the item will go before the City Council in February. From there, councilors will likely vote to send it the Public Services Committee before it will be kicked back to the full council for a final vote.
She said the waste management commission will also have to take a final vote.
"The committee is in favor of it and we would have to draw up an agreement with DEP," she said. "They are already aware of what is going on...everyone is supportive and it makes sense."
Cernik said the district is really working against a single June deadline when new contract negotiations begin. With North Adams in the district, it will have more buying power when it comes to locking in district services.
She said they split the cost with North Adams and hired Kessler Consulting to help with these negotiations. The hope is to have everything wrapped up long before then so they can provide member communities with accurate membership fees.
Dalton has also shown interest in joining the district but Cernik said the conversation has not yet gone beyond an initial meeting.
The district is happy to increase its numbers as long as it makes sense, she said, and noted it may never happen but a countywide solid waste district makes sense in a region with a shrinking population and resources.
"I don't know if it would ever happen but I am up for the challenge," she said. "It would make sense and I think it is crazy to have all of these little districts. It makes more sense to pool them too try to get these contracts and bids."
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A tropical storm heading north up the Atlantic coast could bring more rain to the Berkshires over the weekend.
Dubbed "Fay," the storm began as a tropical depression off the coast of North Carolina midweek and formed late Thursday.
According to Accuweather, the storm has sustained winds of 60 mph and could bring 2 to 4 inches of rain over Western Mass and Southern Vermont from late Friday through Saturday morning.
"Fay will make landfall along the New Jersey coast during Friday afternoon," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Lead Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said. "Fay will be a mostly heavy rain producer but could still bring wind gusts of 50-60 mph along coastal areas of eastern Long Island and over southern coastal areas of New England."