BRANDON — The company that manages the town’s transfer station says a conversation needs to happen regarding who pays for what at the facility.
Stephanie Elnicki, spokeswoman and administrator for Earth Waste and Metal, the company that leases and operates the town transfer station at 61 Corona St., said Tuesday the main issue at the station is that the scales don’t work.
“This year, I said I’m starting to see a loss of income,” she said. “I have customers who are turned away or who elect to go elsewhere because they have large loads of (construction and demolition debris), and we don’t have a scale that can accommodate it, so we have to do a measure of yardage.”
Many prefer their waste be weighed, not measured, she said.
Elnicki said her company pays monthly rent to the town to operate the transfer station, while the town retains ownership over the land, buildings and equipment. The lease is renewed every five years, Elnicki said. When it came time to renew in 2017, Elnicki said, she notified the town that the scales had reached the end of their useful life and needed to be replaced.
“Anything that goes on there, we’ve taken care of things,” she said. “A window gets broken, we fix the window. I don’t think these things were clearly identified or spelled out in the agreement. It was more or less an operational agreement. We’d operate the transfer station, they’d retain ownership of the equipment, but the equipment is no longer functioning.”
Elnicki said she’s raised the issue with the town several times since 2017. She sent the board a letter Jan. 8 asking for the transfer station to be considered in the town’s budget. In a letter sent on March 20, she requested the town waive the rent for 2019.
“It is our assertion that the rent that we have paid to the Town of Brandon is in exchange for the infrastructure that has been provided for years to us,” reads part of her March 20 letter. “The last couple of years, that infrastructure has been diminished significantly. We have no fair way to offset the losses and costs and respectfully request that you waive rent for the year 2019. If you folks budget a new scale and office for us in 2020, we would consider reinstating the rental portion of the agreement.”
She said Tuesday her company didn’t pay rent in January, February and March, but those payments were made up in April’s rent check, so it will be caught up once the town receives it.
Elnicki said her company wants to continue managing the transfer station, and the letter was meant to start a needed conversation.
“I just thought it was something we should discuss,” she said. “I’m paying for a facility and everything around this facility, and there are certain things that are not functioning well in the facility, and it’s affecting the bottom line.”
Besides the scales, there are issues with heating and the safety of the station’s buildings. One, Elnicki said, was heated with a wood stove, but because of ventilation problems, it’s no longer used, and the electric heater being employed is expensive to operate.
She said the town has agreed to sand, salt and plow the area during winter, which helps. In the March 20 letter, she said plowing had cost the company $2,200 that season.
According to minutes from an April 8 Select Board meeting, some town officials were offended about the non-payment of rent, and the request to waive it in 2019 was voted down. The board also voted to send Earth Waste and Metals a letter telling it that it was in violation of the contract by withholding rent.
Board Chairman Seth Hopkins said Monday the board has appointed Selectman Tim Guiles to act as a liaison between the board and Earth Waste and Metals. The intention is to arrange a meeting between town officials and the waste company to work out a solution. He said Tuesday he doesn’t believe that meeting has been scheduled yet. Elnicki said she hadn’t heard from the town, as of yet, about a meeting.
The transfer station is on what used to be a town-owned landfill, Hopkins said. He said there’s little appetite for the town taking it over and managing it on its own.
According to part of the 2012 contract, which Hopkins shared with the Herald, Earth Waste and Metals paid $500 in monthly rent between 2013 and 2018. For the first renewal period, it’s $600 per month, $700 in the second period, and $800 in the third.
According to minutes from the April 8 meeting, Town Manager David Atherton told the board there are gray areas in the lease agreement, and it’s vague about what elements the town is responsible for. He said the town is being asked to spend a great deal of money on a facility it doesn’t run.
Guiles, in the minutes, said recycling is important and its benefits aren’t easily measurable. He said it’s important to keep the recycling option available for residents and wants to see the board study the matter and find some way to keep the service available locally.