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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Berkshire Food Project Recognizes Hours Put in by Volunteers
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Three generations of volunteers with Linda Palumbo, left, Cindy Bolte, Alicia Rondeau and Cassandra Shoestack.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Five days a week a troop volunteers helps the small staff of the Berkshire Food Project feed hundreds of people.
On Monday night, the tables were turned.
More than 30 volunteers and attending family members were served up a choice of beef wellington and potato, salmon and rice, or a vegetarian meal, along with appetizers, dessert and beverages.
"Just from 2018 to 2019, [we served] 10,000 more meals, right, a 28 percent increase in 2019. So the numbers on the stove, same amount of counterspace. The only thing that changed is the capacity of our volunteers. So thank you, guys," said Executive Director Kim McMann.
The volunteers have been crucial in making that happen, she said, and thanked them for rolling with the changes the organization has implemented — some of which have worked and some that have not.
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Mark Steele-Knudslien, 49, pleaded guilty on Thursday in Berkshire Superior Court to second-degree murder in the death of his wife. Judge John Agostini sentenced him to life in state prison, with parole eligibility in 25 years.
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After a few days in the icebox, temperatures will be turning above freezing going into the weekend and there's a chance of snow — or more likely rain, as a storm system moves north of the Berkshires.
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The Finance Committee took a tour of the building on Tuesday afternoon to get a better sense of the condition of the J. Stanley Sullivan Elementary School as the City Council has been weighing an offer on the property made more than two months ago.
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