Claremont to switch to curbside trash pickup after bad behavior at transfer station

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 11-10-2023 9:24 AM

CLAREMONT — The company operating the city’s solid waste transfer station told the City Council Wednesday that the behavior of some residents toward its employees has become so out of control that it plans to switch to curbside pickup of trash and recyclables at no additional cost.

“We did have to make this difficult decision based on the behavior of a lot of patrons at the transfer station,” Kacey Gardner, office manager of DeCamp Waste Services of Claremont, told the Council. “It came down to the safety of our employees.”

Gardner said police had to be called once, and the “last straw” was when a number of customers swore at a young teen working at the gate one recent Saturday and called him names. She said they either accused him of overcharging or they objected to the pricing.

“Name-calling and threatening,” Gardner said. “We value our employees, and we can’t stand for that anymore.”

Councilors were unanimous in condemning the behavior and apologized to Gardner and DeCamp owner Travis DeCamp.

A divided City Council voted, 5-4, last year to privatize the operation in hopes of eliminating the estimated annual tax subsidy of $100,000.

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“I, too, am disappointed that people decided to respond to this board’s decision and take it out on your employees,” Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau said. “It angers me you are put in that position.”

Other councilors agreed, calling the actions “disgusting” and offering their support to DeCamp.

Councilor James Contois characterized those who have been verbally abusive as a “fringe” group that does not represent most residents.

Contois said he regularly uses the transfer station and has always been treated well by the DeCamp staff.

“It is really bothersome that somebody would bother a 14-year-old, so please, don’t think we are all like that,” Contois said.

Gardner did emphasize that many people are good customers and cause no problems.

“It will be sad not to see them,” Gardner said. “A lot have come and apologized for their fellow citizens.”

In a memo to the City Council, Public Works Director Alex Gleeson said the five-year contract with DeCamp allows either party to terminate the agreement with a 90-day notice, but DeCamp has proposed curbside service instead of ending the contract.

“This comes at no additional cost to the city and limits the potential for mistreatment of employees at the transfer station location,” Gleeson wrote. “It is the easiest solution.”

Beginning in early January, DeCamp will provide weekly service based on geographic locations of customers and they will use the same ticket system now used at the transfer station, Travis DeCamp said. The per-bag cost will not change, and once pickup has been scheduled, it will be the same each week.

DeCamp said the company will provide information on where tickets can be purchased along with other details on the change in service on its website. The transfer station, which is now open two days a week, will remain open one Saturday a month to accept items such as yard waste, waste oil, electronics, metal and large appliances.

The decision to privatize the operation was controversial, with a number of residents telling the City Council during public meetings last year they opposed the idea.

A majority of councilors, however, said the city could no longer ignore the annual operating deficit and saw privatization as the only solution.

DeCamp was the only company that submitted a proposal that met the requirements of the city.

A few councilors said at Wednesday’s meeting that the behavior described by Gardner won’t force them to reconsider privatization.

“I have no interest in going backwards and taking over the transfer station,” Councilor Nick Koloski said, adding that curbside was a “great alternative.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.