Trashing Automated Collection

13Oct14

trash_barrels

For better or worse, automated trash collection started in Wakefield, MA on Sept. 29. And for better or worse, it’s here to stay – at least for as long as the current trash contract is in effect.

I’m not interested in arguing the merits pro or con of automated trash collection. But I am fascinated by the number of people for whom the new system apparently came as a complete surprise.

Some are on social media trashing the new system and calling for a return to the old system.

Facebook pundits are even asserting that the town implemented the automated trash collection unilaterally without the citizens having a chance to weigh in or vote on it. Others are suggesting that the details were kept quiet and people didn’t know what they were voting on when they approved Article 13, which included automated trash collection, at Annual Town Meeting last May.

That, if you’ll pardon the expression, is rubbish. Those people obviously didn’t attend Town Meeting.

Steve_Maio_hs2Article 13 came up at the Thursday, May 8 Town Meeting session and sought to appropriate $1,554,230 for Trash Collection and Recycling for Fiscal Year 2015. That budget was predicated on the move to automated trash collection.

Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio presented Article 13 and reviewed the details of the automated trash collection system. (The automated system had also been discussed in excruciating detail at open public meetings of the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee, and reported in the Wakefield Daily Item.)

bill_carrollThere was a spirited discussion of automated trash collection under Article 13 at that May 8 Annual Town Meeting session. A number of people spoke quite eloquently in opposition to the new system. After everyone who wanted to opine on the matter had spoken, Town Moderator William Carroll called for a vote on Article 13. It passed.

At the Monday, May 12 continued session of Annual Town Meeting, a voter made a motion to reconsider Article 13, arguing that more information was needed on automated trash collection. This led to another discussion of the automated system.

Ultimately, the vote was 56-52 in favor of reconsideration, but well short of the two-thirds necessary to revisit a previous article. So the original affirmative vote on Article 13 stood.

town_meeting050814

Attendance at the May 8 session of Town Meeting topped out at 162. There were 144 voters at the May 12 session.

Voters had two chances to vote down automated trash collection. They didn’t get themselves to Town Meeting in sufficient numbers to defeat it.

Whose fault is that?

[This column originally appeared in the October 9, 2014 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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