Monday, June 22, 2015

Council Kills Casella Contract Amendment

Ken O’Brien

By a vote of 7 to 2 the Southbridge Town Council voted down a proposed amendment to the contract with Casella.

I have listened with interest to the debate regarding this amendment.

After listening to tonight’s discussion I have come to the conclusion that the Council has made a serious mistake. 

In my opinion the Council should have amended the agreement to deal with the two primary areas of contention pointed out by Town Manager Paicos – the acceptance of out-of-town leachate and the clawback arrangement.

Although I never thought I would say this, I agreed strongly with the sentiment expressed by former Town Council Chair Cathy Nikolla. The agreement would have provided what Manager Paicos called breathing space in allowing the town to extend the revenue stream from the landfill. This is especially important in light of the Council’s decision not to raise taxes. The need is to use that extended time and revenue to develop alternatives to the landfill’s contribution to the community’s coffers.

The whole preoccupation with leachate is a red herring. As was repeatedly pointed out, we already have leachate. The problem is how we dispose of it. By pre-treating it and sending the treated water to our water treatment facility we actually reduce the risks associated with our current methods of disposal.

In addition, the permitting of a site assignment on the triangle land does little to affect anything other than the longevity of our revenue stream.

Also we would increase the potential value of additional property for the industrial park site due to the presence of sewer lines that do not currently exist.

My only real reservation, aside from the alterations mentioned above, is the financing mechanism. I do not like imposing an additional constraint on the town’s future bonding capacity as well as being further dependent upon Casella for repaying the principal and interest on that loan.

However, that is the apparent consequence of the deal we made with Casella in the first place as well as our fiscal carelessness over the last seven years. 

I hope that s new Council will resurrect this proposal with the mentioned revisions. Otherwise be prepared for either dramatic tax increases or severe service cutbacks or both.


  1. You're joking right? Didn't you vote against the original Casella contract? The problem with the argument about rising property taxes is our taxes have increased anyway. When the council voted to expand the landfill our tax rate was at about 11 per $1,000. Today it's a little over 21 per $1,000. Also, our property values have plummeted as a result of having a large regional landfill in our backyard. And what has the landfill money provided Southbridge? Our schools need funds, our roads are in bad shape. If Casella was funding all the town's needs then maybe we could go along with it. Otherwise, they want a leachate plant let them pay for it. And charge them for the water.

    1. I wasn't on the Council that voted to accept the contract. I was on the subsequent Council and attemoted to get that vote rescinded because the effective date of the contract had not transpired.

      That having been said, I stand by the article. Let's see how you all react when the money stops and you have no option but to raise taxes or cut services or both.

  2. Biggest problem with the "first amendment" is truly the expansion of the landfill 3 additional cells. Leachate is awful but we already have it. Glad councilors voted the way they did. Will we experience cuts most likely but TM during budget hearing said that we are living over our means. We need to create revenue for our town but not just counting on Casella money.

  3. This town needs to stop operating as a business and start operating for those who live and work here. Create incentives to get businesses back on Main St. and stop settling for making money off taking other people's sh*t. The goal to offsetting landfill royalties is simple. Improve quality of life for residents and people will want to live here. They will buy and fix up homes, they will do business here and people will open shops in the numerous empty storefronts. Then when property values increase across the board, you have all kinds of leeway to lower taxes, water and sewer rates and invest in important capital improvements. It's not complicated. It's what good towns that work for their citizenry do. Between Cassandra Acly and Nick "brownbag" Tortis, we've had an anti-business climate (unless you were one of their cronies). They're both retired, so replace them with competent people. Cut out the extra TM secretaries that Christopher Clark hired who have made that office run less effectively. Cut out the economic development office's extra-employees. Reduce salaries for key positions all over town and go out and find qualified people to fill them. Bravo to the council for saying no to landfill expansion and here's to hoping we get a strong council who make it clear to the new manager that he (and not just them) answer to us.

    1. Look Boss -- the plane, the plane!

    2. Curious TaxpayerJune 24, 2015 at 1:28 PM

      John S. I would love to know exactly who the "extra TM secretaries" might be. The TM's office runs with one full time and two part time staff members. They are one of the busiest offices in the Town Hall and one of the the lowest staffed for the volume they receive.

    3. Typical response. Exactly the attitude that thinks the best we can do is be a dump.


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