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Committee formed to create volunteer SWAP shop

May 22, 2019
TUFTONBORO — Selectmen responded in a meeting at the Town House on May 20 to a petition signed by 160 residents asking the town to reopen the SWAP shop at the Transfer Station. The board voted 2-1 this spring not to reopen it, expressing concern for staff's time and labor involved in clearing excess materials from the shop with the bucket loader for deposit into the construction and debris (C&D) area.

Bonnie Pennell spoke to the petition first, saying that she was told that around $20,000 worth of electronics that should be deposited in the C&D collection for a fee are left at the shop. Asked by Jackie Rollins to explain the cost, Selectman Chip Albee said a significant amount is going into the C&D without fees leaving the town to bear the cost for disposal of the tonnage. He added that the town has a liability for items that someone picks up and brings home.

John Levesque said that signage detailing what can and cannot be deposited would help alleviate the situation and said he has told Transfer Station Manager Clay Gallagher that he would make signs that's what he does- but Gallagher did not take him up on the offer.

Steve Brinser suggested that the shop be set up in the transfer building, stating, "There is plenty of space if someone wants it to work."

He termed the numbers "nebulous" and said, "I like Clay, but if he can't make it happen, we can find someone who can."

Albee mentioned that there are "junkies," not just from Tuftonboro, who want to have yard sales, so come to pick over the items in the shop.

Phil Hunter answered, "I could care less who takes my old whatever if someone wants to upcycle it. Why does it have to be a resident?"

He expanded that he thought the numbers were a "gross exaggeration," and reiterated that the signage is not adequate. As for liability, he suggested the town could have a sign stating that the town is not responsible.

He continued, asking, "What is our goal? Is it to keep items out of the roadsides and woods or to build revenue?"

"I applaud the Board of Selectmen and Clay," commented Dwight Pennell, but "when did it become a revenue process? We want to encourage people to bring things in. The board is not listening to the working people of the town. We don't ask the Road Agent to make money on the roads. There's perfectly good stuff up there. The town's philosophy has to be looked at. Maybe a committee could be formed to do that."

"A business model has been created with fees and cost imposed," responded Albee. "Personally, I'd be glad to have no fees, ...change the business model."

The budget is set for this year, he said, but changes could be enacted for the next year. Pennell commented that "should have nothing to do with reopening the shop." Albee agreed.

Discussion continued with trash hauler Richie Piper, noting the number of trips he makes to the station, said that without the shop, the municipal waste will go up.

There were complaints about the trash around the perimeter of the facility, which is scheduled to be picked up by prisoners from the county jail. Brinser asked if they could come on a regular basis.

Mary Ann Stockman shared the opinion that volunteers could run the shop, and said it "didn't make sense to pay someone $25,000 to run the shop when half the town is retired."

Selectman Bill Marcussen wrapped up the discussion with agreement that a committee sounded like a good idea. When he asked for a show of hands of who would like to volunteer to be on it, about a dozen hands went up. Hunter passed around a yellow legal pad to collect the signatures, and Michael Haeger suggested that they meet in the parking lot to come up with a place and a time to get together.

July 1 was floated as the target date to gain approval for reopening the shop. Michael Phelps asked for a list of concrete issues from Gallagher for the group to address.

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