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Pittsfield Public Works Subcommittee Recommend Recycling Contract

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Public Works Subcommittee will recommend a new recycling contract  to the full City Council.
City Engineer and interim Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales presented to the subcommittee on Thursday some changes in the new contract with the state Department of Environmental Protection and WM Recycle America who will operate Springfield Materials Recycling Facility (MRF).
"We are getting more out of recycling and we are saving taxpayers money," Chairman Peter White said. "More than if it could be thrown away, which state law would not allow anyway." 
The proposed five-year dual stream contract with the DEP and WM Recycle America would designate the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility as the city's recycling processing facility as it has done for the past two decades.
DEP's contract with the operator will expire in June. This prompted the state agency to seek a new operator for the facility. This process began in 2019 and DEP came to an agreement with WM Recycle America, which ran the facility in the past.
This meant new contracts for participating communities. 
Pittsfield was notified in October of the new contract and the Resource Recovery Committee and city officials reviewed the terms and conditions of the new contract and evaluated alternatives.
"We started meeting as committees ... to review and understand the new terms," Morales said. "We also explored alternatives."
In November, the group made the recommendation that the city enter the contract. The deadline was the end of that month to opt in, however, this was extended to Feb. 28
Morales said many things stay the same and the city would still be responsible for transporting material to the facility and there would still be a public education fee of 5 cents per capita.
As for changes there is a processing fee that will start at $93.50 per ton that the city will be responsible for.
In the past, the city actually generated revenue through the arrangement but with changes in the recycling market this is no longer the case — most notably the $93.50 per ton processing fee. 
This fee is new to communities in Western Massachusetts and could decrease or increase depending on the market place.
This fee is projected to increase over the life of the contract by 2.5 percent. The fee is projected to hit $103.21 by 2024.
Morales said the contract is not a flat 15 years but actually a five-year contract with two five-year extensions. These two extensions would allow the city the opportunity to negotiate the yearly increase percentage. 
"Beyond that it will have to be renegotiated beyond that five years," he said.
In the original order, the contract was said to be 10 years and the subcommittee actually voted to recommend this change to correct the term to five years.
He said there is also a new tonnage requirement of 17,000 tons per year between the dual stream communities.
"They want to ensure that they have enough material coming in...if they start receiving less it will be a problem for them to continue to operate profitably," Morales said. "If it is not met they will not enter into operations for a dual stream."
He said Pittsfiled typically generates around 1,800 tons and, in years, passed this 17,000 ton metric has been hit. He said Holyoke has already signed in and the city has not heard about any communities dropping out.
"We are close to 20,000 and that is above 17,000 tons," he said. 
He said there are additional fees if there is contamination past 15 percent. He said this fee would be a $120 per ton disposal charge. He said Pittsfield is typically around 8 percent.
"We are not worried about that but it is a change in their structure," he said.
He said there are also some materials the facility will no longer take. This includes shredded paper and aerosol cans but they now will accept plastic cups and plastic egg cartons.
Morales said if they do not opt in, they still have to find a way to recycle because it is a state law.
Morales said the city was also in contact with waste-hauler Casella, which could not provide a fee structure. He said it would either cost the same or more.
The committee heard from a resident David Pill urging it to seek a shorter contract term allowing the city time to maybe work out a new agreement with another company — possibly Casella.
Pill said he was under the impression that communities were pulling out of the MRF and it may not be a stable option for the city.
"I don't want to see us enter a contract where Pittsfield will be in the wrong position," Pill said. "I just see this as a train to nowhere." 
There was also some discussion of switching to single stream, which would allow for a shorter contract, however, Morales said the city would have to change the way it recycles and the processing fee would increase.
The full council will now have to vote on the contract that would go into effect in July.

Tags: recycling,   waste collections,   

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Brewery Planned For Downtown Pittsfield

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council will consider a tax financing agreement with 41 North Tap Room, which has eyed North Street to develop a brewery, tap room and kitchen.
The council on Tuesday referred an allocation of funds from the Economic Development Fund and a tax increment financing agreement to benefit the development of a brewery and tap room at 41 North St. 
"Prior restaurants that have occupied the space proposed for the brewery and tap room have struggled, in part due to the size and layout of the space," Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer wrote in a letter to City Council. "The proposed development of a brewery in this space is able to take advantage of ... the layout and size of the space, thus, increasing the likelihood of long-term success for a business in this critical location in the center of downtown." 
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