Should Portsmouth transfer station be put back into budget?

Vehicle sticker fee hiked to $180 for 2019


PORTSMOUTH — The town is taking a hard look at its 46-year-old transfer station, its future and how to finance its operations.

With another vehicle sticker fee hike on the horizon and usage down due to many households switching to private curbside pickup options (see related story), the town is exploring whether the transfer station operations should be put back onto the tax rolls, rather than relying on the existing enterprise fund for financing.

On Monday night, the Town Council voted unanimously to have the town’s Solid Waste/Recycling Committee and Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. study both the pros and cons of rolling the transfer station operations back into the town budget. 

The idea was suggested by council member Daniela Abbott, who said the town needs to explore better longterm solutions to its waste disposal system, which is fast becoming non-sustainable.

“We just increased stickers 30 percent,” Ms. Abbott said. “I would expect a few more people to drop out of that 3,000 number. There’s over 7,000 households in Portsmouth, yet we’re selling only 3,000 stickers.”

In a separate motion also made by Ms. Abbott, the council voted to look into a request for proposals (RFP) to provide curbside pickup to local residents as an enterprise fund, so users could enjoy a better rate. 

Anyone who wants to contract for curbside pickup could do so by buying a sticker that would be applied to the side of the trash bins, Ms. Abbott said. The RFP would consider proposals both with and without pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) options, she said.

“This contract would reduce the number of operators in our town, provide trash and recycling pickup weekly, yard waste pickup in the spring (and) fall, and should have a rate that is more competitive than a private contract,” she stated in a memo to the council.

Ms. Abbott said she believed the estimates received during last year’s bidding process were about $25 per month, per household. The council rejected the idea of funding a curbside pickup program after most residents at a public meeting last year opposed the idea. (Results from an earlier town-wide survey showed respondents were basically split on the options.)

Challenges ahead

The town has some time to explore the ideas, as it’s locked into a contract for transfer station operations for two more years. Mr. Rainer said he welcomed the challenge, but pointed out that if the transfer station were to be put back on the tax rolls, it would have to be for everybody’s use. 

“We’d have to figure out how to manage that. We’re going to go right back to a management problem,” said Mr. Rainer, adding that the transfer station was built in 1972 and served only about 9,000 residents at the time. 

“We’re going to double that size,” he said.

Council members seemed to agree that moving the town’s waste disposal program into the budget would also necessitate offering the same program for all residents — either “all curbside pickup or all transfer station,” as Council Vice President Linda Ujifusa said. 

Both Mr. Rainer and council member Keith Hamilton said moving trash operations into the budget would have to be phased in over several years so as not to exceed the state-mandated cap on expenditures.

“Don’t figure on not doing much else if you’re going to put it all back in one year,” Mr. Hamilton said.

Invested in station

Dave Gleason, who lost his seat on the council earlier this month, urged the council to retain the transfer station, which he said is a more affordable option than curbside pickup for most residents. “The transfer station has been for people who are less well off,” he said.

Ms. Abbott said the town is “invested in the transfer station” and is just looking at other options in hopes of improving the town’s solid waste program.

Mr. Rainer assured the council that his staff, along with the solid waste panel, will take great pains to study the issue thoroughly before making any recommendations.

“If we don’t do this right, it’s going to be a mess,” he said. “This is not something we’re going to be able to solve overnight.”

Portsmouth Town Council, Portsmouth transfer station

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.