Derry board delays action on Hunter Excavating proposal on taking some Transfer Station waste

The Londonderry Select Board meets to discuss a proposal from Hunter Excavating of S. Londonderry.

By Cherise Madigan
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Londonderry Select Board delayed a vote on a motion that would allow the town to begin coordinating a proposed organic waste agreement between Hunter Excavating Inc. and the town Transfer Station, pending review from Zoning Administrator Will Goodwin.

According to Hunter, the plan promises benefits that “have a net positive impact on the community, save the town money,” and go toward a locally made product that supports local jobs. However, landowners abutting its mulch pile off  Route 11 have had complaints about the odor as well as the proposed plan.

Bret Carter of Hunter Excavating.

Hunter Excavating’s proposal to the town encompasses several types of waste. For wood debris, the company offered to allow town road crews and other wood processors to take stumps and other forest materials directly to its yard on Derrywoods Road, off of Route 11.

While residential brush would remain at the town Transfer Station, Hunter Excavating would pick up the excess upon request to accommodate new deposits. Transfer Station coordinator Esther Fishman said the leaf and yard debris pile is overflowing, and the company has offered to remove materials from that as soon as weather allows.

As for the town’s stump pile at the Transfer Station, the proposed agreement stipulated that the Select Board would look into whether an area there would be appropriate for Hunter to grind stumps on site.

While food scraps are not an immediate priority according to Fishman, Hunter’s proposal stipulates that the Transfer Station would continue to control the quality of that waste if the company picks up food scraps on a weekly basis. First, however, Hunter would need to ensure it meets food waste collection guidelines and registers with the state.

The two entities would jointly pursue a grant for the necessary containers, and the company offered to donate funds needed beyond that. Under the proposal, Hunter Excavating would also donate to the town wood chips and one load of mulch.

The Select Board paused action on the proposal at its Monday, March 1 meeting, however, after two South Londonderry residents expressed opposition to it as well as to Hunter’s existing mulch piles.

Lana Prouty argued that food scraps should remain at the Transfer Station, or at least farther from the entrance to Londonderry’s South Village. She criticized the plan as short-sighted and counterproductive to efforts aimed at revitalizing the village centers, an issue recently prioritized by the One Londonderry initiative.

Prouty, an abutting landowner, also questioned the environmental impacts of such operations, noting that the mulch piles already emitted a strong odor. Beyond that, Prouty said that the potential for fires, water pollution and the propagation of bacterial or fungal spores were concerning.

“I realize there’s no food there yet but those piles were pretty stinky,” she said, adding that the smell could repulse visitors. “Ask any of the neighboring residents.”

Brian Cameron, who lives across from Hunter Excavating, agreed that the smell was a problem and had even prevented his family from going outdoors on warmer days. He also expressed concerns about the health and environmental impacts of the mulch piles as well as the potential for increased bear activity.

“It doesn’t help property values in the area,” Cameron argued. “I didn’t choose to buy a property next to the Transfer Station and I don’t want it moved next to my property. I think that’s just unreasonable at this point.”

Fishman reiterated that the proposed plan would only begin with brush and tree stumps. She added that both she and Hunter representative Bret Carter had met with the Department of Environmental Conservation. According to Carter, the department did not cite any environmental concerns.

“We weren’t looking to become a food waste center and we’re still not,” Carter said, adding  that the amount of scraps accepted would me “minuscule” and padded with wood waste to cover any exposed food.

Ultimately, Select Board Chair George Mora said that Hunter’s mulch pile and its proposal should be reviewed and approved by Goodwin before the board takes any action on it.

Board gives green light for Town Hall renovations

The board did OK the hiring of a construction engineer, Chris Cole, to begin planning for renovations on Londonderry’s Town Hall. The motion authorizes up to $80,000 from the Town Building Reserve Fund, supplemented by $10,000 in unclaimed grant funds from the Preservation Trust of Vermont. According to Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe, the reserve fund has around $225,000 available

The $10,000 from the preservation fund must be used within six months, said Planning Commission Chair Sharon Crossman, and the addition from the reserve fund will allow the town to identify and execute its priorities for renovations to the Town Hall. Some plans may need to undergo the bidding process.

“I’m in favor of moving forward,” Mora said, before the motion passed unanimously. Town Hall “is such an important building and it has been neglected for so long.”

In other action

  • The board agreed to move forward with a project to raise the former Post Office in the North Village above the base flood elevation, despite recent delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The property is owned by Tom and Judy Platt, who also won the bid to elevate the property and agreed to hold to their original bid when progress resumes this spring. O’Keefe suggested that the town pursue an updated contract with the Platts. He also noted that the town will need to request an extension for the project’s completion from Vermont Emergency Management since a portion of the project will be funded by FEMA dollars.
  • Kevin Beattie, in his capacity as Tree Warden, announced that Green Mountain Power will soon be removing some ash trees from Middletown Road in response to the emerald ash borer.
  • The board approved an emergency expenditure of $4,000 to purchase a new hydraulic cylinder for the Transfer Station’s backhoe.
  • Upon recommendation from Londonderry’s IT consultant the board also authorized the purchase of anti-phishing software for approximately 20 town email accounts, which will come to $600 per year.
  • The board approved a bid of $7,560 from the Windham Regional Commission to help the town update its Local Hazard Mitigation Plan.
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About the Author: Journalist and photographer Cherise Madigan specializes in writing about outdoor recreation, the environment and travel. She has roots in Manchester and a history of reporting throughout Southern Vermont. Madigan is a graduate of Nazareth College of Rochester, earning her degree in Political Science summa cum laude in 2015.

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