There is a major step forward in the effort to update Marblehead’s Transfer Station after the Planning Board approved a site plan for the $1.6 million project on Aug. 8. Public Health Director Andrew Petty hopes to put the project out to bid and have construction start before winter.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Petty told the Current as the meeting ended. “A lot of hard work has gone into this.”
The plan includes modifications to upgrade the existing Transfer Station structure, replace its compactor, improve site grading, relocate the existing scale, replace the scale house with a new structure, replace the existing swap shop and add a new personnel transaction shed at the residential drop-off area.
The traffic flow will also be changed, with most residents now entering the Transfer Station from Green Street and exiting onto Beacon Street. About 6,500 people use the Transfer Station each week in the spring, summer and fall, according to Petty.
Many neighbors have spoken out against the new traffic configuration.
At the meeting, Ellen Epstein of Green Street said she is concerned about safety.
“There are two big hills that go down to where the access road is. You’ve got trucks and cars going down there with kids whizzing down on bikes and skateboards. “
There is also concern that trucks, waiting to enter the facility, will idle along Arnold Terrace, creating noise and exhaust pollution.
Planning Board members acknowledged their initial concerns about the congestion and circulation. However, a traffic study reported minimal impact on the neighborhood.
“My biggest concern was traffic, but I’m satisfied,” said member Andrew Christensen.
The Board unanimously approved the plan with conditions, including signage to help people navigate the new traffic patterns inside the facility and a follow-up traffic study, with input from neighbors, in six-to-12 months.
“This project has gotten better and better,” said member Ed Nilsson. “Let’s try it out and see how it works. I don’t think it’s irreversible. I think it’s time to implement it and test it.”
Member Mark Liebman acknowledged that the situation isn’t perfect for neighbors.
“This project is in the best interest of the majority of the town, but it may have a negative impact on the area closest to the dump,” he said. “The greater solution for the primary part of town is always going to be somewhat objectionable to the area closest [to the Transfer Station.]”
The Board of Health, which oversees the Transfer Station project, is waiting for a final permit from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, according to Petty.
“We don’t see any reason why the permit would be rejected,” he said. “We’re going to tell our architects to bring designs to spec so we can put them out to bid. We want to put it out to bid in September or October and start construction before the winter.”
Transfer Station stickers
Board of Health member Tom McMahon has raised concerns that the town is losing more than $100,000 a year because many people are using the Transfer Station without buying the required $80 sticker.
At a Board of Health meeting on Aug. 7, McMahon suggested a new system by Eagle Eye Network that would photograph license plates and fine scofflaws who use the Transfer Station without paying for access. The “all-in” price for the system would be about $5,000, according to McMahon.
Petty suggested that Transfer Station stickers be added to a September meeting agenda.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of discussion about stickers. Let’s start to think about who our users are, who do we want them to be.”
Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.