The solid waste district board held its meeting last week outside the Adams Visitors Center to comply with needed social distancing.
ADAMS, Mass. — Members of the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District are expected to see increases in their waste removal rates as the district negotiates a five-year contract with Casella Waste Management that includes prevailing wage.
The previous contract was for 10 years with Republic and was viewed by waste district Coordinator Linda Cernik as very town friendly.
"The contract was set with Republic but then Casella purchased [them]. That contract had been set for 10 years. I say it was like a gift, the towns were only charged a per ton fee, there was no pull fee. Now with the prevailing wage ... before drivers were given a sort of DPW rate. But then prevailing wage set in with the Teamsters a couple years ago. So that's a big factor," she explained to the board on Thursday. "Now the big change is every time a container gets removed it's a pull fee of $365 plus a per ton fee ($97). Every solid waste district is facing it."
Cernik and some of her colleagues went so far as to travel to Boston to appeal the prevailing wage measure with the state Department of Labor but were ultimately unsuccessful.
"We took so many steps to reduce the cost but prevailing wage is set. The Teamsters are sticking with it," Cernik said.
When Casella Waste Management purchased some assets of Republic Services in 2019, it included the Cheshire location, which handled waste for the district and other municipalities including Pittsfield.
Cernik said that while there are other local haulers, Casella is the only one that can handle the needs of large districts. Essentially the waste district was negotiating with only one provider.
"We anticipated an increase. There is not a lot of competition. There are smaller haulers who do a great job but to manage what we need, even just for our capital expenses for our containers ... . Each container is about $7,400 to purchase," she said.
Board member and former Williamstown Department of Public Works head Timothy Kaiser thought that given the circumstances, the contract was palatable.
"This is the product of there not really being any competition. I think we did as good as we could expect. It's going to be a shock to adjust to these prices but we all knew it was coming so … ." he said.
The effects of the rate increases are already being seen as the town of Adams at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting voted to increase its landfill sticker price from $50 to $75. The new price does include six bags, however, and the transfer station has added Thursday hours through mid-September.
The board voted to send the proposed contract to Kessler Consulting for final vetting. Kessler is the solid waste consulting firm the district contracted to help it through the renegotiation process. The district has worked for six months to get to this point and wanted to make sure members felt comfortable before deciding the district's future for the next five years.
There are a few special collections on tap for the summer but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are subject to change:
• Lanesborough Town Hall will host a community paper shredding event Saturday, June 13, from 9 to noon. The event is open and free to all members of the district. Out-of-district residents can also participate but a donation is suggested.
• Adams will hold its annual bulky waste collection for residents at the old landfill garage on East Road from 8 to noon, Saturday, June 27. See the website for a list of acceptable items and prices. Because of COVID-19, residents will need to unload their own items and are asked to wear masks
• Adams will also host a districtwide event on Saturday, Aug. 22, from 9 to 1 for the collection of household hazardous waste. Advance registration is required because of limited capacity. See the website for details.
Cernik shared some good news from the Green Team program. The environmental club sponsored by the Department of Environmental Protection aims to educate kids on waste reduction, pollution, and other environmental concerns. Cernik said the club at Hoosac Valley Middle and High School was one of only 20 across the commonwealth to be awarded a grand prize for their efforts.
The next meeting will be Thursday, July 9, at 4:30 p.m. at the Adams Visitor Center.
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