SEABROOK — After weeks of listening to residents complain about the Sunday closing of the transfer station, selectmen voted Monday to reopen the facility for both weekend days — but with an abbreviated schedule.
Starting this weekend, under a pilot program, the station will be open both Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon. But selectmen have ordered workers to keep count on the number of people who actually use the transfer station on Sundays, to validate the additional expense.
Selectmen made the decision to close the dump on Sundays a few months ago in order to conserve funds in their multi-pronged approach to hold the line on the tax rate. The move would have saved about $30,000 a year.
And since Seabrook is the only town in the Greater Newburyport area that kept its transfer station open seven days a week, Town Manager Bill Manzi and selectmen believed townspeople would be able to alter their schedules to accommodate the change.
The board has been trimming the town’s $20 million operating budget, economizing where they can. Along with cutting Sunday hours at the transfer station, selectman froze spending and hiring except to fill vacancies for required personnel, are investigating a new centralized purchasing policy to reduce costs and for the first time have instituted resident fees for dumping certain items at the transfer station — like electronics and refrigerators — that are expensive to haul away.
The goal in all of it, Manzi said, is to have money left at the end of the year to put into the unexpended fund balance account.
These reserves can then be used to lower the tax rate, with the approval of selectmen or for unexpected emergencies.
But complaints about Sunday closings started as soon as news spread. Those who worked six days a week or who worked on Saturdays felt the new rule prevented them from accessing the facility when they could.