Randolph selectmen oppose Holbrook transfer station
Randolph’s selectmen have made it clear they’re against the proposed waste transfer station in nearby Holbrook.
The board voted 3-1 Monday to take this stand, with Chairman Paul Connors dissenting because he said that he wanted more information. Selectman James Burgess was absent.
The selectmen’s vote was more symbolic then substantive since the only Randolph boards that will have some say in the matter will be the board of health and the conservation commission.
“It is important to get the facts out to the residents,” said Braintree District 6 Councilor Paul “Dan” Clifford, a leader of the Braintree Holbrook Randolph Civic Group that is against the project. “This would have serious detrimental effects on not just Braintree, Holbrook, and Randolph, but Avon, Stoughton, and Weymouth, too.
“There are 72 waste transfer stations in Norfolk County," he said. "The overwhelming majority of them are not used to capacity, including Braintree’s. There is no need for another. There are alternative opportunities for both Randolph and Holbrook that Braintree is open to discuss.”
Michael Barbuto, co-founder of the BHR Civic Group, said, “We are delighted with and honored by the vote. We are going to Beacon Hill very soon with more than 3,000 petition signatures we have secured, plus the endorsements of state Sen. Brian Joyce, state Rep. Walter Timilty, Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, and Braintree’s town council and school committee. These endorsements, and now the support of the Randolph selectmen, speak volumes for our case against this project.”
In Randolph, although the matter has yet to make it before the board of health, members of the conservation commission have been opposed to the project from the outset because of its nearness to wetlands and the Cochato River.
The vote came after the selectmen sponsored a meeting at the Randolph Senior Center where residents from Randolph, as well as Braintree and Holbrook, could express concerns and ask questions of the project’s proponent: TransLoad America and specifically principal Jack Walsh.
Walsh was not at the meeting, unlike his attorney, Holbrook resident William Merrigan. Two other representatives from the firm were present but did not speak.
Connors announced at 8:48 p.m., 90 minutes after the meeting started, that Walsh would not be there.
“It’s almost like a slap in the face,” Randolph Conservation Commission Member Jean Gately said.
Gately and other Randolph residents like Jean Duddy and Barbara Finkle had specific questions about the operation of the transfer station that they said could only be answered by Walsh.
“There’s nothing that could have been misconstrued that he should (not) have been here,” Gately said.
The selectmen also expressed disappointment that Walsh was not in attendance.
“I thought it was very clear,” Connors said. “I sense that a lot of questions still haven’t been answered.”
He said there are plans for another forum during which Walsh will be invited to answer questions.
“I want to be part of that process,” said Connors, even though his term as a selectman ends in early January when the new town council is sworn in.
In a phone interview the next day, Walsh said, “There has been a misunderstanding about our participation in the meeting. We previously made a presentation to the selectmen. We knew of the meeting, but we did not think we were invited. I called the selectmen’s office and left a courtesy message because I wanted to let them know that we would have two people there to take notes, but I would not be there because I was ill and in no condition to go to a meeting. We’ve very open to participating in future meetings.”
The proposed transfer station is billed as state-of-the-art, using European technology that unloads household trash, shreds it, and then compresses it into 5-foot-by-6-foot cubes, or bales, that are shrink-wrapped before being placed on rail cars for transportation to landfills.
Getting the trash to the station would increase traffic for Randolph’s already congested intersections, a bone of contention for many residents, particularly since the Randolph public schools do not provide bus service, which leads to a lot of students walking to and from the town’s six school buildings.
Selectmen William Alexopoulos and Paul Fernandes, who had been mum on their positions prior to the vote, decided to oppose the project.
In the weeks leading up to the hearing, the selectmen heard a series of presentations: one from the town of Holbrook, one of the project’s proponents, and another from the BHR Civic Group.
Fernandes, who will serve on the town council, said it took two meetings to make up his mind.
During those meetings, he said, it appeared that none of the elected officials or proponents had visited an operational facility like the one they were planning, nor did they refute any of the health issues raised by residents.
“No one made a compelling argument that this project does something good for the greater good of the community,” Fernandes said. “The very best I could come up with (was) that it may reduce our trash contract.”
Alexopoulos will also serve on the town council.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing for the town of Randolph,” he said. “We definitely don’t need it.”
Selectman Maureen Kenney, who spoke out fervently against the project earlier this month, called it “a grotesque engine of air pollution.”
The Holbrook board of selectmen voted 4-0 in February to enter into a 20-year lease with Holbrook Environmental Logistical Partnership.
Holbrook residents have approved the transfer station at the ballot box, and Town Meeting has also endorsed the proposal.
Holbrook could see as much as $30 million in revenue over the life of the lease through a combination of savings from trash pickup and HELP picking up the $1 to $2 million tab for cleaning up the site: an 11-acre parcel of land on Phillips Road.
Once the station is operational, it is expected to process two million pounds of waste and trash daily.
The project is still winding through the municipal permitting process and must obtain clearance from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The industrial park has a long and not-so-ecological history since it was previously home to Baird & McGuire.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which has classified the property as a Superfund site (one contaminated by hazardous materials and in need of clean up), Baird & McGuire operated as a chemical mixing and batching company from 1912 to 1983.
Later activities included mixing, packaging, storing, and distributing various products including pesticides, disinfectants, soaps, floor waxes, and solvents.
Holbrook Chemical was also located near the site. That corporation abandoned the property 27 years ago, owing Holbrook, which now owns it, $200,000 in unpaid taxes.
Randolph Herald staff writers Robert Aicardi and Tom Gorman contributed to this story. Lauren DeFilippo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-967-3516.