Letter: Transfer station users deserve better option for RFP

Posted 10/31/23

To the editor:

On Oct. 23, I attended the 3 ½-hour meeting of the Portsmouth Town Council. The subject matter was the clarification of the proposal by the council (approved in May) for an …

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Letter: Transfer station users deserve better option for RFP


To the editor:

On Oct. 23, I attended the 3 ½-hour meeting of the Portsmouth Town Council. The subject matter was the clarification of the proposal by the council (approved in May) for an RFP (request for proposal) that would either replace the current waste management system of a transfer station (the Station) and private curbside pickup with one that mandated curbside pickup of all residents articles of waste by a single vendor or one that only allowed for limited large bulk disposal at the Station. Of the more than 25 speakers, no one was supportive of the council’s proposed RFP. 

Approximately one third of Portsmouth’s 7,200 eligible households utilize the Station. Several councilors stated that therefore two-thirds of households who use curbside pickup had “voted with their wallets” for the town to cease using the Station. However, this so-called “vote” is a completely false analogy. To say that because I may choose to use curbside pick-up that I would also vote to prevent my neighbor from using the Station, a fully self-funded service, is unsupported by any evidence. 

When a retired Army colonel pointed out that it would be impossible for him and many other senior citizens to drag the heavy totes to the curbside, councilors suggested that the waste management company could make special arrangements to help him. Residents broke out laughing. Many speakers (including myself) own homes that are several hundred feet from the road making use of curbside pickup practically impossible. The council had no solution. Other speakers noted that Portsmouth has many so-called paper and private streets that large trucks cannot come down without damaging the street. When it was suggested that in order to use mandated curbside pickup the town pay for paving these streets, the council members did not respond. 

It was suggested that an RFP be created for continuing use of the Station. Without such a Station RFP the council cannot compare the prospective costs for the town. Former councilor Liz Pedro pointed out that to be economical, the mandated curbside RFP needs to assume that all households will use it. Having been forced into curbside pickup, Station users will essentially be subsidizing those households that currently use private pickup, while Station users costs soar by 30 percent or more. Subsidy of curbside pickup by a third of Portsmouth’s households, combined with the elimination of a facility that provides a critical service and that costs the town nothing, is totally unacceptable.

Subsidizing of public programs is acceptable if the town finds the program vital. The best example of this is our public school system. It has 2,168 students representing perhaps 1,500 families, or only 20 percent of the town’s households. The annual cost of this subsidy is projected to be $40.7 million. We have a school system that we are proud of and this subsidy is necessary even though 80 percent of the town’s citizens derive no direct benefit. 

Finally, several councilors stated that only 56 comments were made during the prescribed period last March to May. However, residents pointed out that for an issue of such importance to the whole town the council should have directly informed 100 percent of the citizens by mail of this question before the council, as was previously done with the sewer and electric power issues. The council would have received hundreds if not thousands of comments. The Town Council needs to acknowledge they made a mistake in May and either abandon this process or at a minimum also include a Station RFP option. 

Jim Moore

217 Indian Ave.


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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.