, Newburyport, MA

January 22, 2013

Newbury's handling of trash changes 'abysmal'

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

The headline on page 4 of the Jan. 16 Daily News, “Residents adjusting to pay-as-you-throw,” may accurately reflect Newbury residents’ ability to conform, but neither the headline nor the article provide a full picture of the blindsiding Newbury residents experienced. The changes to how Newbury residents can use the Newbury dump have been handled in an underhanded and furtive manner. The increase in cost of this program to me is not as important as the abysmal way in which it was planned and carried out.

General information about this significant change was not widely, publicly available until an article was published in your paper just before Christmas and after the deal was finalized. Prior to the program becoming effective Jan. 1, it was very convenient that no Newbury employees or elected officials were available to respond to questions and e-mails sent to local officials at that time remain unanswered. A meeting regarding concerns about the program hurriedly scheduled for 9 a.m. on Dec. 27 ended up occurring during a significant storm that negatively affected many Newbury residents’ ability to attend. A review of the town’s Board of Health minutes for the past several months provides absolutely no information as to how this decision came about. Many questions go unanswered and the stock reply, as stated in your most recent article about the supposed “success” of the program, “Questions about the program should be directed to G. Mello Disposal Corp.,” is unsatisfactory. This is not how the public’s business should be conducted.

I would like to know:

Why were citizens of Newbury not given more advance notice of the plan or an opportunity to voice concerns prior to the plan’s adoption? Handouts of information could have been available at the special town meeting of Oct. 23 to alert citizens to the changes being considered.

How and why was G. Mello Corp. selected? What are the duration and parameters of the agreement with this organization?

What is the status of the transfer station in terms of ownership, general management and maintenance? Who is responsible for oversight of these matters?

Upon what criteria and how will we evaluate the success of this program?

Since selectman would not permit town employees at the dump to handle fees for dump stickers, why are we now entrusting the collection of money belonging to the town to employees of the contractor? What record keeping is in place regarding money collected?

Who is managing accountability in this undertaking and how will it be reported on to the citizens of the town?