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Tri-town station turns down Bethlehem recyclables

August 13, 2009
"Thank you for coming to the table to talk about it," said Bethlehem selectman Jeanne Robillard.

It's the second time in a month that neighboring towns have approached Bethlehem officials to talk about helping that town out, as it moves forward to construct its own transfer station after the facility at the North Country Environmental Services site on Trudeau Road was closed down earlier this spring.

Last month, after some Littleton representatives approached Bethlehem selectmen about the possibility of allowing residents to bring recyclable material to its transfer station, Littleton selectmen ultimately reneged on pursuing the plan.

Selectmen from the three towns that share the Tri-town Transfer Station—Franconia, Easton and Sugar Hill—met Monday during the Franconia selectmen's meeting to discuss the possibility of extending a neighborly hand to Bethlehem by accepting that town's recyclables while it builds its own transfer station.

After the Littleton decision last month, Franconia selectman Rich McLeod contacted Bethlehem counterpart Robillard "to ask if she would like me to bring up a discussion" with the Tri-Town selectmen about offering assistance.

Bethlehem has been operating an emergency transfer station at the town's highway garage since the spring.

"How does Sugar Hill and Easton feel about" providing a place where some Bethlehem residents could bring recyclables, McLeod asked, beginning the discussion, which lasted nearly an hour.

Robillard, who was also at the meeting, said that an estimated 400 out of 1,000 households outside of the village district, where trash is picked up curbside, need a place to bring waste for recycling.

"I've thought long and hard about this—I'm all for helping a neighbor, but I am stretched to the max now," said Tri-Town transfer station manager Greg Wells.

He said he was concerned that opening up the station to potentially hundreds of Bethlehem residents could overwhelm his small staff and make for a difficult traffic situation. Even if he could hire additional help, the equipment on hand and storage space is limited.

"I'm just so afraid if you open up that door, it's going to be like the Atlantic Ocean is on the other side and you're not going to stop it," Wells said. " If you look at the populace of Bethlehem and the populace of our three towns, our facility is not big enough."

Robillard replied, "There is no reason for any (Bethlehem) resident to go elsewhere with trash."

Wells asked Robillard if her town had considered other alternatives for its situation, such as single stream recycling.

"Single stream is a fantastic idea," she said. "But it is incredibly expensive and we can't do it on this year's budget."

Monday's meeting, McLeod said, was to gauge the sentiment of the selectmen in the three towns about further pursuing a plan with Bethlehem, but following the discussion, the officials attending said they could not support the idea at this time.

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