Residents Bring Tons of Cardboard During Saturday’s Drop Off Event

Photo: Cardboard drop-off remains a popular event in Belmont

The line of cars and other vehicles stretched down C Street and out onto Waverley Street this past Saturday, Jan. 9, all driven by Belmontians with a single goal in common: take our cardboard – PLEASE!

With holiday shopping favoring the use of online sites, residents were undeterred by a first-time ever fee or the anticipated long waits to have someone to take away all the empty boxes and packages that were piling up in garages and basements.

In just five hours on Saturday morning into the afternoon, the Department of Public Works’ Highway Division collected 22 tons of cardboard filling five 40-yard long containers, two truck bays and six 6-wheel dump trucks, said Jay Marcotte, Belmont’s director of public works to the Select Board at its Monday, Jan. 11 meeting.

In total, 348 vehicles came through the DPW Yard at the new year’s first drop off event and the town’s inaugural fee-based service. Marcotte said 211 residents paid the $5 fee using the on-line registration (another 20 paid early but didn’t show up) resulting in the town pocketing approximately $1,750. With cardboard selling for something like $50 a ton, Belmont’s coffer will all told take in about $3,000.

With expenses such as a police detail and overtime for DPW personnel, the revenue taken in meant that “we’ll break even,” said Marcotte.

“So you’ll be off the hook,” said Select Board member Adam Dash referring to Select Chair Roy Epstein’s pledge to pay off any deficit saying he was confident that people would not be troubled by a small fee.

For Epstein, the more important outcome of Saturday’s event is that it has “shown its proof of concept.”

Cardboard Drop-Off Fee Could Be Coming To Belmont, Just Not Now

Photo: Questions to the DPW concerning cardboard collection spike during the holidays

Will Belmont residents have to pay to get rid of the glut of cardboard coming their way this holiday?

That was the suggestion from the Department of Public Works as it came before the Select Board on Monday, Nov. 9, to discuss setting dates for the annual holiday season collection of cardboard by the town’s Department of Public Works.

Saying the subject of cardboard produces the largest number of calls to his department, DPW Director Jay Marcotte said the town is scheduling a handful of cardboard events in the next few months to collect the excessive amount of corrugated material many residents collect especially during the holiday season.

(Cardboard drop offs is a relatively new event, starting after the introduction of automated trash pickup in 2018 when residents discovered they “had no space in their new recycling bin” to place the excessive amount of cardboard they were acculating, said Marcotte.)

And if past events are the norm, Public Works is expecting upwards of 300 hundred vehicles jam packed with cardboard along Waverley Street and C Street attempting to enter the DPW Yard originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5.

But as Select Board Chair Roy Epstein said during Marcotte’s presentation before the board there is “a new wrinkle” to upcoming events: a fee.

The call for a “pay as you throw” scheme for cardboard stems from this spring when the town froze overtime spending due to the reduction of town revenues associated with COVID-19 pandemic.

Marcotte said cardboard can’t stake itself in the five truck-sized containers ready to be filled. The DPW needs a crew.

“We usually have one foreman with three to four workers along with one of the administrative assistants working between five to eight hours,” he said. Add to that expense the likely need for a police detail – yes, cardboard drop-off is like holding a rock concert in Belmont – due to the expected overflow of participants for the upcoming event.

“I’m anticipating that high number for this event because we did not have any drop offs during the spring. Usually by now we would have had two to three events,” said Marcotte. After speaking with the town’s Health Department, the DPW will need additional staff to take down contract tracing information due to the pandemic.

By the end of the day, such an event is expected to cost the DPW up to $2,400 for a Saturday event running from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Without overtime, “this will have to be a self-sustaining event, said Epstein. The cardboard will bring in $400 so the net expense to the town will be in the order of $2,000. A quick back of the envelope calculation came out to approximately $8 to $9.

The initial plan was for residents wanting to drop-off cardboard to head over to the Recreation Department page on the town’s web site to sign up with their contact info and prepay the fee as the event will be cash-free due to COVID-19 and just the ease of making everyone pay online.

“That will probably be the biggest hurdle, getting the documentation,” said Marcotte.

But the fee proposal quickly earned pushback from Board Member Tom Caputo. “I get the principle when it relates to overtime but I also wonder if we are … creating a great deal of resident frustration,” Caputo asked. By forcing the public to pony up for a previously free service on top of requiring them to use a new payment system in the knowledge that many will show up having not paid the new fee “[i]s going to generate a great deal of ill-will,” he said.

A compromise, suggested Caputo, would be to hold the event on a weekday and thus taking overtime out of the equation, a solution fellow board member Adam Dash was amenable to try.

“The whole cost of $2,352 … is such small money that your going to get $2,300 worth of trouble charging $5 or $10 for this,” said Dash, saying that many residents will note the town passed an override a quarter century ago to establish free curbside pickup.

“I’m not happy taking $2,000 away from something else for a repeated event because we’ll have to do it two more times. That’s $6,000,” said Epstein.

And a weekday solution would create its own issues, said Epstein, with long lines of vehicles likely to impede traffic on a busy roadway, annoy the neighbors and clogging up the Town Yard during a busy work day.

While proposals such as drop-offs on consecutive Friday and Saturday one-paid and the other free were bantied about, Marcotte told the board his department simply could not conduct the service “if we don’t charge. I don’t have a budget for it.”

While Caputo said he understood Marcotte’s frustration, “we’ll have to be creative in how we can enable this. Can we try [drop offs] a couple of times during the week and see how that works.”

It was Town Administrator Patrice Garvin who broke the logjam by injecting “I think it’s worth at least a try,” followed by Marcotte saying “I’m open to that.”

Garvin added a caveat of significant outreach to residents along Waverley and C streets on the time span and traffic mitigation for the event now set for the week of Dec. 1.

“We’ll figure it out,” said Garvin.

Trash/Recycling Update: Carts Are (Still) Coming; A Day For The Old Barrels: Sept 29

Photo: Carts and barrels are on the way.

It was anticipated Belmont’s new automated trash and recycling collection program would be up and running by the first week in July. That was the plan developed by the town over half-a-year of preparation; it turns out the weather had other plans.

According to a Friday, July 6 press release from the Belmont Department of Public Works, the intense temperatures generated by the week-long heat wave slowed the carts distribution to a crawl.

The new deadline for all of Belmont to receive trash and recycling carts is Thursday, July 13.

“Please be patient and we appreciate your cooperation,” asked the DPW news release.

The DPW has also set the day for residents to drop off their old trash barrels: Saturday, Sept. 29, 9 a.m. to noon at the Town Yard, 37 C St.

The DPW is telling the public not to place old trash barrels or recycling bins on the curbside to be picked up. In fact, they are advising residents to use barrels that are 32-gallon or smaller as Yard Waste receptacles. The blue and green recycling bins can be used as storage or a way to bring your recycling from your house to the cart. 

The town will also be accepting cardboard on Sept. 29; it will need to be cut and folded to be accepted.

Trash Update: Keep Using The Old Barrels If Your ‘Carts’ Haven’t Arrived

Photo: Ready to go!

“Where’rah my barrels?”

That clarion call has been heard from homeowners throughout Belmont as the slow rollout of the new trash and recycling carts scheduled for the past week has reached just about half of Belmont’s households.

And while the new automated garbage and recycling collection system starting today, Monday, July 2, don’t fret that you’ll need to store your trash during the ongoing heat wave. According to the Department of Public Works, if you haven’t seen your new trash and recycling carts, just continue using the old barrels. At least for one more week.

Micheal Santoro, head of the DPW’s Highway Division, said Waste Management – Belmont’s new collection provider –  has supplied just about 50 percent residences with a pair of carts. Santoro said that percentage of carts is what Waste Management expected to deliver the first week with the rest of the households receiving their either this week or next week. Some streets such as Pleasant and Beech received new carts this morning.

No resident who still hasn’t obtained carts will be left holding the bag (of garbage); just keep using existing barrels until the new ones arrive, said Santoro.

Now, what to do with your old barrels and recycling bins? Well, the DPW hopes you’ll keep them around for collecting yard waste (they’ll need “Yard Waste” stickers), leaves and other for other uses. The reason they aren’t being disposed of by the town? Apparently, there currently isn’t a market for “rigid plastics” which the old barrels are considered. The DPW is hoping to take the old barrels during the annual DPW Recycle Day in October when it will be profitable or breakeven. If not, the DPW will likely hold a day to collect these items and dispose of them as trash.

Controlling Trash And Rats: Carry-In/Carry-Out Trial Set For Joey’s Park, Town Field

Photo: Goodbye, rat magnet.

There were two photos projected on the wide screen at the Board of Selectmen’s Room during the board’s meeting on Monday, March 26.

On the left of the screen was a collection of garbage loaded up on a broken water fountain including what appeared to be a dirty diaper. The right side showed what appeared to be a birthday party but with all the paper plates and napkins, balloons, containers and food left on the benches and tables as if the people were suddenly taken in the Rapture.

The scenes presented to the board of recent conditions at Joey’s Park in the Winn Brook neighborhood was just the spark to light the fuse to launch Selectman Mark Paolillo into orbit.

“That’s disgusting! How do people do this? It’s so disrespectful!” said Paolillo in an extended animated response, sending a message to the community that he and the town have had enough of those who litter and run.

“Those of you at home who did this; it’s outrageous!” said Paolillo.

The evidence of residents and possibly visitors from surrounding communities behaving badly by illegal dumping trash in the parks is prompting the town to reintroduce a program removing all trash barrels in town’s eight parks and playground to be replaced with a program where if you bring something into the parks, you’ll have to take the resulting waste out yourself.

“While there is no silver bullet that will end illegal dumping, this [policy] will be a long-term benefit,” said Jay Marcotte, Belmont Public Works director, as he presented the plan to the board.

While many residents were not in favor of the program known as Carry-In/Carry-Out when it was first introduced a year ago, the proposed policy is now also being used as a weapon to attack another issue facing residents: rats.

The rodent infestation has begun to plague certain parks and neighborhoods as the rats have discovered a ready source of food, coming from compost piles, pet food left outdoors, birdseed dispensers and household trash. And one of the easiest is the waste and food scraps left in and around the many barrels located in each park.

Currently, the town empties barrels Monday, Wednesday and Friday and whenever they are called, said Marcotte. But just by having trash containers creates a problem. “If you build it, they will come. And if you have trash barrels, the trash will come. It’s just the nature of what humans do, even if its overflowing,” said Marcotte.

While some residents contend the problem can be solved with more barrel pickups, Marcotte believes the best long-term approach is a conscious and sustained effort of re-educating the public.

A pilot program at Joey’s Park and Town Field between Beech and Waverley streets beginning in the next few months. The policy of taking away the trash is gaining in popularity locally and around the country. Nearby Walden Pond in Concord, the Boston Harbour Islands, the National Park System and the municipalities of Gloucester, Beverly, Reading, and Needham have joined the trend.

The DPW is working with the Board of Health to bring its expertise in educating the public. 

Board of Health member Dr. David Alper said while the board had reservations on a complete ban of receptacles, “Let’s try it. It certainly doesn’t cost us anything to hit the two big parks.”

“It comes back to education. You wouldn’t think you’d have to educate the public to pick up after themselves but you do,” said Alper. He also said the DPW will work with Winn Brook Elementary students to create signs and message to be placed around the parks to reinforce the policy.

“And hopefully the byproduct will be the rats will look elsewhere for food,” said Alper.

Joey’s Park Reopening Tentatively Set For April 9

Photo: Joey’s Park to reopen mid-April.

With the second attempt to rid the rats at Joey’s Park about to conclude, the Belmont Department of Public Works has set a date when the popular playground in the town’s Winn Brook neighborhood will reopen.

The treatment of the playground for a persistent rat infestation by Assurance Pest Control is expected to end this week, Jay Marcotte, DPW director stated in a memo to Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.

Marcotte said that Assurance anticipates that the playground can reopen within a week to 10 days after the final application of a non-toxic irritant known as Rat-Out Gel. The same treatment was attempted in October but it failed to expel the rodents who live in tunnels under the ground. 

“[W]e are looking at a tentative April 9thopening,” wrote Marcotte.

Belmont Households To Receive 96-Gallon Recycling Barrels This Fall

Photo: An example of recycling barrels from Cambridge.

In the past, whenever the topic of trash and recycling was on the Board of Selectmen’s agenda, it was likely the board’s second-floor meeting room at Town Hall would be overflowing with interested residents. So with the future of recycling collection as the only item before the Selectmen on Monday, Feb. 12, the board decided to move the meeting into the cavernous Town Hall auditorium anticipating a good number to attend.

But times have changed in the past few months as the special meeting began with only four citizens in attendance and that was cut in half by the end of the 80 minutes of deliberation and discussion. 

Whatever the reason for the lack of interest in what was once a hot topic in town, at the end of the meeting, the Selectmen unanimously approved the recommendation of the Belmont Department of Public Works that by the fall all recyclables – paper, plastic, glass, metal cans and cardboard – will be collected biweekly using a 96-gallon wheeled barrel that will be issued to every household in Belmont.

And like the weekly trash collection, recyclables will be collected curbside by a truck using an automated “arm”. 

“This is a major sea change for the town,” said Selectman Mark Paolillo.

The move to an automated system was out of necessity and economics, according to DPW Director Jay Marcotte. From radical changes in what type and condition recyclables will be accepted by China – which for the past two decades has been called “the world’s garbage dump” – to the sudden collapse in the secondary materials market, haulers and recycling facilities are streamlining their operations to remain in business.

One area that new efficient methods are taking place is with recyclables, where Belmont’s long-standing dual stream recycling – paper in one bin and everything else in another – is being replaced with the one-barrel system as recycling facilities will no longer maintain two separate staging area at its plants. 

“There’s not debate, it will be single stream” recycling going forward into the future, said Marcotte. 

Marcotte pointed out that over a decade, the cost of the automated pickup will fall below the current-used manual method (in which person throws the recycles into the back of a truck) as the cost of approximately 10,100 barrels is paid off. In the initial fiscal year, 2019, the manual pickup would cost $688,200 compared to $716,850 under the automated system, while in fiscal 2024, which would be the option year with a five-year contract, automated costs dip to $747,400 while the manual method would soar to $817,300. 

In addition, the automated system with the large containers have several advantages over the manual mode, according to Recycling Coordinator Mary Beth Calnan including less liter – windy days wreak havoc with the uncovered bins as papers and other recyclables are blown around neighborhoods – the covers keep the material dry lessening contamination, and the barrels will prevent rodents and squirrels from rummaging through the recyclables. 

And why did Belmont select the sizeable 96-gallon barrel for recycling? “It’s the industry standard,” said Marcotte.

While agreeing to the change in the coming contract – Marcotte said the town is very close to signing a five year agreement with one of the three firms that submitted acceptable proposals – the Selectmen advised the DPW to conduct an extensive public outreach on the recyclables  especially targeting older residents so they will be comfortable with the changes coming, including providing smaller recycling barrel options as the DPW is doing with garbage collection containers.

Marcotte said while the new garbage and recycling collection contract begin on July 1, the new containers will not be delivered to residents for about two months so the current system will continue until that time.

Paolillo said he believes household recycling rates through town will increase as residents have a single container to store their recycables.

Rats Begone! Joey’s Park Reopened; Town Asks Patrons To Carry Out Trash/Food

Photo: Joey’s Park, certified rat free.

After being closed for nearly a month due to an infestation of rats, Joey’s Park will reopen Wednesday, Nov. 22 – just in time for the Thanksgiving Holiday – to the public after the “rodent problem” has been resolved, according to a press release from the Belmont Department of Health.

The play structure adjacent to the Winn Brook Elementary School on Cross Street has been off-limits to the public since mid-October when the Belmont Department of Public Works and the Health Department discovered rats nesting in and around the facility. The town contracted Assurance Pest Solutions, a professional pest control operator to both investigate and treat the infestation using a non-chemical irritant to force the rodents out of the area.

“We are pleased to inform you that the rodent problem has been safely resolved at Joey’s Park and the park is again open for Belmont residents and the general public to enjoy!” read the press release.

To help prevent future rodent infestations at Joey’s Park, the Health Department is encouraging those using the park “to carry in/carry out any food, drinks, and trash items, which may attract nuisance wildlife to the area.”

The 411 On The Town’s New Trash Collection System

Photo: A 64-gallon bin being lifted into an automated trash collecting truck.

Note: Below is a letter from the Belmont Department of Public Works with details on the new automated trash collection system approved by the Board of Selectmen.

At their meeting this past Monday, Sept. 25, the Board of Selectmen voted in favor for the Department of Public Works to obtain competitive bids for automated trash collection. This change in service will require residents to place their trash in the provided 64-gallon wheeled cart and set in front of their residence. After the RFP is put out in October and a hauler is chosen there will be information on more specific details. However at this time here are the known details: 

This change in service will require residents to place their trash in the provided 64-gallon wheeled cart and set in front of their residence. After the Request For Proposal is put out in October and a hauler is chosen there will be information on more specific details.

However at this time here are the known details: 

  • Only trash will have automated collection 
  • The Town will provide wheeled 64-gallon containers. There will be a consideration for residents that have concerns maneuvering their carts to the curb. DPW will set up a home evaluation to determine the best method to accommodate the resident. 
  • The option to buy an overflow bag will be available. 

The selectman also voted for the following curbside services to be bid on the next contract. All of the services will remain the same except for bulky items. Residents will now only be allowed one bulky item per week and it must be scheduled through the DPW Office. Residents are now doing this for CRT’s and appliances. 

  • One bulky item per week 
  • Every other week dual stream recycling collection 
  • CRT’s (televisions, computer monitors and laptops) 
  • Appliances 
  • Yard waste collection 

The Belmont DPW feels that the automated collection with 64-gallon carts will balance Belmont residents’ expectations between services, costs and environmental impacts. This will put the Town in a better position now and in the future. 

There will be additional detail information with more specific details in the months after the RFP is awarded. Any questions or suggestions, please contact Mary Beth Calnan/Belmont Recycling Coordinator at mcalnan@belmont-ma.gov or 617-993-2689.

Belmont’s DPW Drivers Get A Simulating Lesson on Snow Plowing [VIDEO]

Photo: Vincent Nestor in the simulator

Joe Foti is holding steady at 55 mph in the cab of a snow plow as it glides down a stretch of road during a blizzard.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a car comes out of his blind spot on the left side of the truck.

As the Belmont Water Division employee puts on the breaks, over his right shoulder a voice booms out: “You gotta go, Joe. Keep it at 55, Joe. Let’s go, Joe.”

From over his left shoulder, another voice tells Foti to “answer your cell phone. Where is it? It’s next to you.” As Foti reaches for the phone, a truck in the oncoming lane swerves towards him. As he turns the steering wheel, the voice to this right yells, “You’re thirsty, Joe. Grabbed that water bottle.”

With a cell phone in one hand, Foti reaches for the center console when out of the steady falling snow he suddenly spots a parked SUV in front of this speeding truck.

“Look out, Joe” he hears, as his seat is being pushed back and forth as he hits the passenger vehicle.

For Foti and more than a dozen driver who push snow and spread sand and salt on town roadways, the combination of nightmarish senarios did not take place on town streets but in the driving simulator that was located in the Belmont Department of Public Works Yard last month. 

The employees drove through a number of driving challenges with the help of two instructors – the voices behind Foti’s shoulders – who spoke of best practices and tips on driving a big truck safely in bad New England winter weather.

The simulator came from L-3 Technologies, an international firm that provides real-world driving environments that can be configured for multiple vehicle types, including snowplow trucks, tractors, dump trucks, heavy-duty trucks and tractor trailers.

The training was part of a $10,000 grant from the DPW’s insurance company, said Michael Santoro, the town’s Highway Department manager who first the simulator in action four years ago at a public works conference.

For DPW employee Vincent Nestor, the training “is pretty lifelike and I will take this training to the job.”