YARMOUTH — The Town Council has scrapped a plan to upgrade the transfer station to house a new pay-to-throw system after the original $770,000 estimate ballooned to just over $1 million.

The council voted Feb. 27 to spend $8,300 for a new engineering assessment, including whether moving trash and recycling hoppers in the back from the front would be cheaper and work better.

This week, Director of Public Works Erik Street said part of the problem is “to date we have been trying to make things work around some of the existing infrastructure, which has been a challenge when it comes to dealing with traffic, pedestrian safety and cost.”

He said the council now wants Woodard & Curran, the project engineers, “to consider the (transfer station) through the lens of a blank slate,” and act as if the site were empty, with no existing buildings or compactor.

“In summary, the team would design a facility plan that best fits our needs and select the best location onsite to build it,” Street said.

The town had hoped to implement pay-to-throw, which requires specially-marked trash bags, on Jan. 1. But Town Manager Nat Tupper warned the council this past fall that the timeline would need to be pushed back.


He said while pay-to-throw could go online before the upgrades are made to the transfer station, it was not recommended by town staff.

Councilors first approved moving to pay-to-throw nearly a year ago, when Street told them benefits to the system included better equity because residents only pay for what they dispose of.

He also said the system provides a significant incentive to increase recycling. With pay-to-throw, Street said, the town would aim for a recycling rate of 40%, as opposed to the current rate of about 36%.

In addition to higher than anticipated costs for the transfer station upgrade, Street said this week councilors were also “concerned that we were paying a lot of money for a facility that is still relying on some of the old infrastructure for its operations.” Specifically, the old recycling building, the compactor building and the foundation.

“Leaving these items in drives the rest of the layout, making the site challenging to meet all our safety and efficiency goals,” he said.  “(T)he question we asked was, ‘if we are looking at spending this much, could we design a better facility if the existing infrastructure was removed or if a new location was considered?'”

Street said the alternatives could still “carry a higher price tag (and) the council will then need to decide if the new concept plan is a better investment in the long run.”

Tim Shannon, the council vice chairman, said this week there’s still strong council support or pay-to-throw. However, he agreed with Tupper that it doesn’t make sense to implement the new trash system without making upgrades to the transfer station first.

His preference was to continue with the original plan, because “even with the slightly higher cost, the bag fees will more than cover the capital costs.” Street initially estimated the town would get $265,200 a year from the sale of trash bags and that it would save about $100,000 a year on trash disposal costs.

This week Shannon said he hopes the engineers will get back to the town as soon as possible with some alternative proposals, particularly since they’re “aware of all the issues down there.”

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