Selectmen get updates on a key issues, including trash/recycling pick-up, EEE threat

SHIRLEY – Paging through his report to the selectmen Monday night, Town Administrator Mike McGovern touched on topics that have been circulating on social media, like the hot-button issue of trash collection and the new curbside recycling program set to kick in October 1.

Besides trash/recycling, McGovern also updated the board on the EEE threat.

McGovern noted that a flyer mailed out last week outlined the details, including cost: approximately $245 per participating household per year, with bills sent out quarterly. The cost is discounted for seniors, who will pay $125 a year, or $30 quarterly.

Two bins, or “toters” one (64-gal.) for trash, one (96-gal.) for recycling, will be distributed to participating households the last week in September.

But how does the town know where to drop off the totes?

It’s an opt out scenario, McGovern explained, with likely participants identified by matching pickup points (homes where the hauler, E.L. Harvey, now stops on his weekly rounds) with assessors data.

The idea is to deliver totes to those addresses and sign the households up for the program.

If you don’t want the service, you can opt out, he said.

Just call town hall: 978-425-2600, ext. 200.

But it’s not an exact science and he acknowledged that there might be errors, early on. No problem. If you want totes but didn’t get them, the town will fix that, and the same goes the other way around.

The pickup schedule will be the same as it is now: weekly for trash, every other week for recycling.

Speaking of which, recycling could be the sticky part until everybody gets the hang of it.

Although most people have lists, refrigerator magnets, etc., to go by, items that can and can’t be recycled, the process has changed. “It’s more complicated now, more restrictive,” McGovern said.

Grocery store plastic bags, for example, are out, also dry cleaners’ bags and other single-use plastic items. Jars must be cleaned before tossing; otherwise, they are “contaminated” and can’t be recycled, he said.

There will be two more mailings before the program starts, he said, plus a public forum on September 17 at 7 pm. A DEP representative will be there to sketch out the details and answer questions.

Moving on to the EEE threat, McGovern rehashed the process he initiated after the Nashoba health board notified the town on Aug. 21 that a mosquito collected from a site in Shirley had tested positive for the virus, which poses serious risk to people and animals, with no cure or human vaccine.

Several years ago, the state sanctioned about a dozen organizations to deal with the mosquito problem.

The Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project serves this area, but Shirley is not a member, based on a Town Meeting vote to opt out.

Citing on-line sources, McGovern said people were wondering how the bug collection/test site – off Lancaster Road near the town line – was chosen. Because an EEE-infected mosquito was found in the town of Lancaster, next door, which is a CMMCP member, he said. “That was beneficial to us.”

Otherwise, “we’d never have known” about the threat, he said, which the state public health department categorized as “moderate.” That level allows “emergency” measures such as truck spraying, he said, but does not qualify for aerial spraying (from a plane,) which requires a “critical” designation.

The upshot is that the control project sent out a truck last week to spray the area within a mile of the test site. It was done overnight to minimize impact in the neighborhood, which includes the Lura A. White Elementary School and densely clustered homes. After a delay due to rain, everything went smoothly.

Notifications went out before the spray date last week, to ensure that precautions could be taken and “everybody was safe,” McGovern said, noting a call-out list that included public safety officials such as the police and fire chiefs, the school district and the town recreation commission.

Some perfect storm type conditions, but no issues, as it turned out. School started the day before the spray date and McGovern was on vacation. He praised administrative assistant Mike Gibbons, who coordinated in his absence.

Selectman Debra Flagg added that Shirley Police Lt. Alfreda Cromwell went the extra mile by contacting the state police to set up a temporary “reverse 911” system so that calls went out to residents all over town, informing them of the EEE threat and when and where spraying would take place.

In the end, “it all went off without a hitch,” McGovern said.