Officials in Tisbury and Oak Bluffs Say They're Willing to Rejoin Refuse District

By MANDY LOCKE

Tisbury and Oak Bluffs selectmen voted Monday afternoon to rejoin the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District as customers if the district completes negotiations to build a composting facility.

The decision could bring all the Island's trash to a single facility for the first time since eight and a half years ago, when Oak Bluffs and Tisbury pulled away to start their own transfer station at the Oak Bluffs landfill.

"They need us. They need the volume," Tisbury selectman Ray LaPorte said.

The refuse district committee has been negotiating a contract for more than a year with Waste Options - a Rhode Island composting company that operates a facility on Nantucket - to build a composting facility on the Island. The proposal now on the table includes building a facility to handle the average monthly flow of the district. When waste flow peaks in July and August, Waste Options would ship the excess off-Island to the company's composting facility in Marlboro.

While the contract is far from set, the refuse district committee voted Nov. 14 to send a few truckloads to the Marlboro facility to test the feasibility of shipping excess waste off-Island.

"The urgency of our commitment to the district cannot be stressed enough," said Fred LaPiana, director of Tisbury's department of public works. Mr. LaPiana said he suspects Waste Options was holding out to see if Tisbury and Oak Bluffs would join the composting program.

Tisbury and Oak Bluffs produce about 7,000 tons of waste a year - half of the Island's total waste.

The draft contract with Waste Options offers the district a price of $97 per ton after the facility is complete. Another $10 to $12 would be added for electricity in addition to a few dollars for a scale attendant. The total cost would be around $110. Waste Options offered that same $110 price for any tonnage they ship to Marlboro, even picking up the tab for the Steamship Authority. In addition to that $110 cost, however, labor and administrative costs would tack an additional $25 per ton to anything hauled off-Island, bringing the total cost to $135.

Those same figures are being offered to Tisbury and Oak Bluffs, although their inclusion in the district would double the volume. Thus, the draft contract offers no volume incentive; however, labor and administrative costs would decrease if spread across additional tonnage.

The district currently pays about $136 per ton through their contract with SEMASS. District officials are now studying the economics of shipping off-Island to the Marlboro plant. Richard Skidmore, chairman of the district committee, said one of their options is to rebid the contract.

But the price tag attached to the proposal certainly appeals to Oak Bluffs and Tisbury. Through a contract with BFI, the two towns now pay about $140 a ton, and that price will climb to $150 per ton in the next two years. The towns' BFI contract expires in two and a half years.

If Waste Options builds a facility at the current district transfer station in Oak Bluffs, each town must continue offering a recycling facility to residents. Oak Bluffs and Tisbury would continue to use their transfer station to handle recycling.

Mr. LaPiana asked selectmen if they might be willing to accept all of the Island's construction debris at their transfer station. The composting facility could handle the debris, but district officials would like to find another site for it, Mr. LaPiana said.

Oak Bluffs selectmen hesitated to make any such commitment. Selectman Roger Wey said neighbors of the transfer station already complain about the traffic. He said that increased traffic from Island construction trucks would exacerbate the problem.

But hosting the Island's construction debris might offer the towns leverage to negotiate further with the district, Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel said.

"If they are in a position to need us, we should get the best bang for our buck," Mr. Israel said.

In the end, selectmen from the two towns decided simply to commit to the opportunity of participating in a regional composting facility.

"We're just saying we like the idea of composting," Oak Bluffs selectman Richard Combra said.