By M.E. Jones
SHIRLEY -- The Board of Health harshly admonished Northside Carting owner Mark George Monday night for failing to live up to the trash hauling and recycling contract his firm has had with the town for the past five years.
It wasn't the first time the board has called George on the carpet. Past infractions have included leaving properly packaged trash behind while picking up barrels without official town trash bags in them.
As part of the pay-as-you-throw initiative Town Meeting adopted several years ago, those pre-paid bags help pay for the program, which is only partially town-funded and according to the health board, barely breaking even.
"Here we go again," Chairman Joseph Howlett said, referencing a letter the health board recently sent to George that outlined the hauler's "disappointing" recent performance. "After five years, we still get (the same) complaints," he said. "This is really not acceptable."
Member Donald Farrar went into specifics, such as Northside "forgetting" to pick up recycling left out on designated days in the village area "from Chapel Street down," including 200-300 pounds of paper set out in recycling bins at the three municipal complex buildings, town offices, the police station and the library.
After bypassing the recycling bins on pickup day, drivers later showed up with trash trucks and "dumped it all in," Farrar said.
Materials intended for recycling, a free contract perk, instead went in with regular trash and the town paid for it, Farrar said. "We're going to do something about this," he warned George.
Howlett said it's not a one-time incident and the board has taken notice, but policing contractors should not be necessary. "It's not our job to follow you around," he said.
The board aims to consult Town Counsel about terminating the contract for "lack of performance," he told George.
Members said Northside's flawed pickup practices thwart the intent of the PAYT program, which provides free recycling and offsets tipping fees via official green trash bags residents pay for and must use if they want their trash picked up at the curb every week.
"Without those green bags to pay for tipping fees, we're in the soup," member Jackie Esielionis said. She said she's tired of George's excuses and apologies, which range from bad weather to new employee errors.
For his part, George denied the board has reprimanded him often. The last time he was called in was six months ago, he said. Then came the recent letter and "conversation" with Farrar. Other than a couple of complaints, isolated incidents that were corrected, he had not heard of "our lax performance," he said.
George admitted the recycling mix-up at the municipal complex and said it won't happen again. An employee took it on himself to fix the problem the wrong way, he said, and as a result was levied time off without pay.
But what about leaving green bags behind at the town's expense while picking up white bags or bag-less barrels that nobody paid for? George promised not to do that anymore.
Not good enough, Howlett said. "The problem is your employees are not doing their jobs," he said.
Farrar agreed. If it's an employee's fault, "fire him," he said to George. "We're barely scraping by with the program now."
To save money, Farrar distributes the green trash bags for sale and collects the revenue. "As volunteers, we don't get paid to do that," he said. But it makes it doubly hard to accept Northside's lax performance at the other end, he added.
Private haulers in the area have complied with the board's directive to provide recycling bins to their customers, Howlett said, and none of them have generated such headaches.
The board voted unanimously to consult Town Counsel, as discussed. "We'll let you know" the outcome, Howlett told George.