SOUTHBRIDGE – With the town-owned, regional landfill reaching capacity next year, free leaf bags and other services Casella Waste Systems provided “above and beyond” its contract are expected to end, a town official said.
In a public-private partnership, the landfill on Barefoot Road has been managed by Casella Waste Systems of Rutland, Vermont, since 2003. It conducts business as the Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park.
The facility is projected to reach capacity by December 2018.
In June, Southbridge voters overwhelmingly rejected a nonbinding referendum question posed by Casella that asked residents to consider expanding landfill operations onto nearby municipal airport land, and parcels to which the company has rights.
Before the June ballot vote, Casella applied to the state Department of Environmental Protection seeking an expansion on five parcels totaling approximately 7.25 acres. An overall expansion, with additional phases, aimed to add more than 19 acres to the landfill.
The DEP issued a “negative report” on the suitability of the 7-plus acres, based on three criteria. Casella filed papers seeking reconsideration, but later withdrew the request.
In August, company chairman and CEO John W. Casella announced a plan to close the landfill, noting “the innumerable regulatory and political roadblocks we have faced over the last three years as we have worked to develop additional capacity at the site.”
During last Monday’s meeting of the Town Council, Chairwoman Denise Clemence expressed concern to the town manager that residents weren’t notified ahead of time about Casella discontinuing its provision of leaf bags.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Health Director Andrew R. Pelletier clarified that Casella officials had “just found another pallet” of bags for leaf collection, and the company would deliver them to Big Bunny Market to provide to residents. After that, the waste management company will no longer provide free bags, he said.
Town Manager Ronald San Angelo said, “We’ve sort of been put on notice that they’re not going to provide these extra services anymore.”
Joseph Fusco, a company spokesman in Vermont, did not return an email Tuesday seeking comment.
Mr. San Angelo said: “They see that their profits are going away with closing a landfill. They’re not going to make expenditures when they have no return on investment. That’s kind of the perspective."
The town manager said Casella provided the leaf bags and other services to be supportive of the town, and in the spirit of having a good partnership.
Mr. San Angelo noted that Thomas Cue, Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park’s director of landfill development, had been serving as chairman of the Southbridge Business Partnership.
“He decided to no longer do that now that the landfill is going to be closing,” Mr. San Angelo said.
Third, Casella operates a transfer station near the landfill that residents of Southbridge and Charlton can use certain days.
Mr. San Angelo said: “I’ve been told that at some point they may very well close that because that’s not part of their contract.”
The manager also noted that Casella waste collectors had been picking up trash along the side of the road to keep the town clean.
"I don’t think they’re going to be doing that anymore,” Mr. San Angelo said.
In an email, Mr. Fusco said Casella representatives talk to the town fairly regularly, as it manages the closing of the landfill. But at this point in the process, he wrote, "those conversations and negotiations are supposed to be confidential, and we want to uphold our promise to keep them between the Town and us."