AYER -- Residents again backed the town's transfer station on Thursday night at a public-input meeting on possible townwide curbside trash pickup.
Department of Public Works Superintendent Mark Wetzel presented the results of a study looking into options for curbside pickup, which a working group compiled over the past few months.
Of the 3,150 households in town, 1,250 use the transfer station, which costs about $492,000 to operate, Wetzel said.
"That will go up next year, assuming we vote in some improvements that we need to do," he said.
About 35 percent of the station's budget is subsidized by taxes, but the money also comes from $80 access stickers and trash bags that carry a lesser price for seniors.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 use private curbside pickup at an average cost of $500 per year, the study found.
Without going into specific details of the cost, Wetzel outlined three possibilities -- keep the transfer station and private curbside services as is, offer both townwide curbside pickup and the transfer station, or go for curbside service only.
The transfer station, he said, would be the least expensive.
He told the crowd the estimated yearly cost per household for the transfer station is about $350, while the cheapest curbside estimate could be more than $450.
"There's not a savings to the town. There might be a savings to some people," he said.
Residents mostly presented the same arguments that came up at a public hearing in March -- that the local dump is not only helpful, but also a social place.
Resident Ernie Guertin argued that if the town switched to curbside pickup, residents would not have a choice as they do now.
"It's just more government that's coming down on you telling you what to do," he said. "And when it comes down to government telling you what to do with your trash, I think that's getting pretty bad."
Kristine Hall asked if the curbside pickup would be limited to one day a week.
"I have dirty diapers, I will miss the dump because I depend on it two days a week," she said.
Wetzel said pick-up would just be once a week, noting that the scenarios he looked at were for 48-gallon carts for solid waste and 96-gallon carts for recyclables.
Hall also mentioned the social aspect of the station.
"The dump means something to me," she said to some laughter. "I just need some stability here."
Some residents voiced concern with having to drag trash to the curb, and others wanted to know what the situation would be for condominiums.
Wetzel said the group hasn't looked at all of the details, although some apartment complexes do have Dumpsters.
Pam Papineau offered a rare argument for curbside trash pickup, and said she had it for 10 years without a problem on her street.
Her trash barrel is heavy, sturdy, and has never blown away, she said.
"I'm not saying the transfer station should be gone away with, but I like the idea of having an option. I would love to, for my tax dollars, get a little bit back," she said, adding that she pays closer to $600 for the service.
Jan Jeffords said it seemed people had no problem with curbside pickup or the transfer station.
"It sounds like the easiest thing is to try to keep the transfer station open and try to offer townwide curbside pickup, which would be less expensive for those who want it," she said.
Wetzel said the danger with having both is that less people could use the transfer station, causing the cost per user to increase.
Selectmen will take input from the meeting and consider how to move forward at their Aug. 19 meeting.
Selectman Jannice Livingston, who served on the working group, stressed that any decision will be based on the public input and that no decisions have been made.
"Whoever's screaming the most, the many, the loudest -- those are the ones I'm going to listen to," she said. "So if the majority of people are saying to me, 'I want the transfer station,' then I have no choice, I have to listen to you, because that's why I'm here."
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