Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Cart Monster That Wouldn’t Die

Kenneth M. O’Brien

The newly reconstituted town council of Casellaburg will hold its first regular meeting on Monday, July 25 at 7:00.

The community’s new power couple of town manager Christopher Clark and council chair Catherine Nickolla (which in the spirit of other such power couples as Brangelina and Bennifer I will dub Clickolla) has put forth their first collaborative agenda.

Among the items to be acted upon are the following:

“23. Vote to ratify the contract between the Town of Southbridge and Mass DEP Grant (as defined by 815 CMR 2.00) for “Save-Money-And-Reduce-Trash” (SMART) Program.

24. Vote to approve borrowing authorization of $240,000 to purchase up to 40-gallon trash containers or “smart carts” for residential use in conjunction with the Town’s solid waste disposal program, and for the payment of all other costs incidental and related thereto, and that to meet this appropriation, the Treasurer, with the approval of the Town Manager, is authorized to borrow said amount under and pursuant to Chapter 44, Section 7(9) of the General Laws, or pursuant to any other enabling authority, and to issue bonds or notes of the Town  herefore.
(2/3 Roll Call Required)”

Despite the fact that this proposal was previously defeated in January, it has risen zombie-like from the grave. Interestingly, it has been placed at the very end of the agenda, virtually guaranteeing an absence of citizens willing to wait in the stifling heat of the MacKinnon Council Chambers to comment on the issue.

Commenting on the plan’s original defeat in the Southbridge Evening News of January 12, the current council chair said, “You don’t have to hit me over the head with it,” said Nikolla in regards to the public’s disfavor for the SMART cart program. “It’s obvious that the people who are making their way to Town Hall are against this program. It doesn’t mean that all of the town is against it — it’s just the people who come to these meetings and go to Town Hall don’t want it. I do. But I’m a town councilor. I’m voting for the public, not myself.”

It will be interesting to see to what extent that sentiment is still operative on Monday night, now that the election is over.

A follow up article in the same paper on January 14 carried the following observation: Town Council Vice Chairman Butch McDonald’s reasons for voting against the program were more based on how this would affect the town’s landfill. “As time goes on, more and more money is going toward Casella and less and less money is going toward Southbridge for the usage of the landfill,” said McDonald. “I’ve seen three administrations in Town Council get forced into negotiations for the landfill and Casella has not done nearly enough for the town for how much they get from us. They aren’t providing us for the longterm effects. We need to make things more realistic for the people. It’s been proven that one person produces ‘X’ amount of garbage. You can’t change that. A family of five is going to produce five times as much as that one personand it just won’t fit into one bin.”

Naturally we are obviously so financially flush, and our borrowing capacity so unconstrained that there shouldn’t be any concern about incurring almost a quarter million dollars of new debt.

So sit back and enjoy the ride folks. This is merely the beginning of the Clickolla Future Of Casellaburg agenda. There’s at least a year more of it ahead of us.


  1. Clickolla? That's cute. Glad to see you're finally developing some semblance of a sense of humor. :)

  2. OK. I'm Anonymouse1. So we're going to borrow $240,000 to buy everyone in town a new garbage can and make a little extra room in the landfill for everyone else's garbage. When the dump is filled in ten years and all the new garbage cans are worn out, is the town going to buy us new ones? Is any dump money going to be left to help us pay for shipping our junk out of town to somebody elses landfill or will the town not give a sh*t then and tell us pay up or else? This is A1 financial planning.

  3. I think this time, we've put a stake in its heart. Good night.

  4. I don't have cable, what happened?

  5. The town council wisely saved the citizen's from wasting taxpayer money following the path of the DEP's silly not-so-smart program!

    The vote was 1-7 in favor of smart cart, with only Lady Vice Chairman Clemence supporting the failed proposal, but considering the chromium problems showing up at the landfill test well, she probably had no choice.

    This is not the time to party over a single sensible act by the Council. As the band plays celebrating the defeat of "smart cart. Mister Clark has authorised the use of problematic choloramine use, and there is almost nothing the Council can do about it.

  6. I don't understand why a Council vote isn't required for the Chloramines issue, especially considering it was voted down 2 to 1 by the Board of Health.

    At the very least, a Council vote would help me determine who not to vote for when the candidates come up for reelection.

  7. As you may have noticed last night when the Lady chairperson tried to shut down citizen's from speaking at the podium, the Councilor with the most backbone sits in a wheel chair.

    The Council allows the Town Manage to have near total authority-he can raise water and sewer rates, and he can add ammonia in the water.

    Think about this-most ammonia is made from animal urine. The town manager can approve processed urine in our water supply, blame it in the DEP, do it without the town council's approval, and against the Board of Health's advice.

    Like I said-no backbone. And in the springtime, Councilor Spinelli and Clemence can claim that they did not vote for chloramines. If they change the charter, give the Council more power and responsibility please.

  8. Does anybody know where I can get a copy of the Charter Review Committee's final report? I haven't read it personally and I would be interested in doing so. From what I've heard of it, they did good work.

  9. One more thing on the Chloramine issue: Councilor Clemence and Mr. Clark both spoke at the end of the meeting to clarify that the plan to switch our secondary disinfection to Chloramination was not because of Charlton; but rather because there are areas within our own town's water system that are "dead ends" and do not currently meet water quality standards.

    This was of great concern to me, and something that has continued to bother me since the meeting ended on Monday night.

    Apart from the lead issue (which don't get me wrong, is a huge roadblock for me in terms of accepting this proposal) I cannot fathom why our water system is such that in a small town of 16,000 residents, with our water sourced from within town lines, we have a water transport structure that is potentially inadequate in terms of meeting existing water quality standards without this premature and ill-advised plan of adopting stronger, more persistent chemical disinfectants that are typically only used in large urban water systems where there is no other choice.

    Yes, the City of Boston has Chloramine in the water, because there really doesn't seem like a better option for such a large system where water travels so far and stays in the pipes for such a long time. But to the best of my knowledge, the small towns around Quabbin (Boston's reservoir in Western MA) do not have Chloramine in their water, because they have smaller, more efficient water systems and they're close to their water source.

    I can't help but think if we really are in a position to use our AA bond rating for anything, it would be to ensure we can provide the purest, highest-quality water to our families, our neighbors, our tenants, our schoolchildren, and ourselves. If we're apparently open to risking our good municipal bond rating and taking on additional debt, I don't see why that issue isn't even on the table.


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