In the wake of the furor over the 60-day moratorium placed on the Reuse and Recycling Center at the Gardiner Transfer Station, effective March 28, and the subsequent resignation of recycling coordinator Wendy Toman, the Town Board decided on May 10 to hire a new part-time transfer station attendant. Based on a discussion in executive session of the qualifications of the seven applicants already interviewed, board members voted 4-1 to offer the position to a specific individual, who would not be identified publicly until he or she accepted. Councilman John Hinson cast the sole dissenting vote.
While additional hiring may be done after a management plan for the Recycling Center has been adopted, Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic indicated that she wants a possible second employee to split his or her time between working at the Transfer Station and as a general maintenance person under the auspices of the Department of Buildings and Grounds. In recent meetings, town officials have attributed deterioration of the Town Hall structure on the fact that no town employee has been officially designated to take responsibility for regular maintenance and minor repairs.
As a result, it appears that Gardiner’s recycling program is being de-emphasized, at least in the short term. The reuse component in particular was the target of a report by New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal raising concerns of the town’s potential liability to lawsuits if certain items being offered should end up causing injury to the recipient. While conventionally recyclable materials such as paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastic and glass containers are still being accepted for pickup by the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA), other items that were made available for reuse under Toman’s purview are not.
At the May 10 meeting, the Town Board continued its discussion as to what categories of items ought to be accepted for recycling or reuse after the moratorium is lifted. The insurance company raised particular concerns about baby items like cribs, strollers, carseats, electrical appliances and mattresses that might harbor vermin. Majestic also strongly objected to the reuse of potentially combustible items like stoves, heaters and gas grills, as well as “anything with wheels.”
Several Town Board members spoke up in favor of retaining the Reuse Center’s Bike Swap program, however. “Bikes are something that’s traded all the time,” argued Mike Reynolds, the most vocal supporter on the board of the Reuse Center. Noting that he had often relied on secondhand items for the use of his own three children, Reynolds added, “I agree with you on carseats, or a crib that has a recall on it. That we should avoid.”
Councilman David Dukler, an avid cyclist, said, “In bike culture, the working assumption is that you cannot make any assumptions about the integrity” of any bicycle equipment obtained secondhand; the onus is on the new owner to check it out thoroughly and tune it up before use. But, he added, “I have to think about what is an acceptable risk, as a custodian of the town.” Even when bicycles are new, Hinson argued, “These are things that have an inherent risk to begin with.”
“I don’t have a problem with bikes,” councilwoman Laura Walls chimed in.
Majestic withdrew her objection to bicycles in the face of the consensus on the board that they were a reasonable item to swap, but added, “I would like to see some kind of a waiver” that persons accepting used items from the Reuse Center would be asked to sign.
Previously, the Recycling Center set aside some mattresses for pickup by social service agencies such as homeless shelters. “If they came in a plastic bag, maybe,” said Walls. “But how do you make sure it’s not moldy or buggy?” Majestic said that her primary objection to holding the mattresses was the amount of space that they take up in the Recycling Center’s small sheltered areas. She nixed upholstered furniture on the same grounds, and suggested a system in which items donated for reuse be marked with tags color-coded to show the week in which they were received. If an item had not been claimed after four weeks, it would be relegated to the solid waste containers.
There was no strong consensus on a policy for accepting electrical appliances for reuse. Electronics like computer components are already accepted for recycling by the county, and Reynolds noted that “People don’t use old technology with electronics.” But he noted that items that can easily be rewired, like lamps, are popular on secondhand listings like Craigslist and the 5miles app. “I don’t like lamps. They can start a fire, if they have frayed cords,” Majestic said.
Books were also still a matter of disagreement. Dukler, a longtime Gardiner Library volunteer, noted that in his experience, many of the used books donated to the Library are unusable, sometimes water-damaged. “The quality was poor,” he said. But Majestic countered that books do not constitute a liability in terms of safety. “I had a volunteer come up to me who had a special place in her heart for the books,” the supervisor said. “When I was down there, I saw lots of people go through the books.”
Majestic seemed to be in no hurry to revive the Reuse Center, even after the moratorium ends, with no expertise in recycling included in the job description for the Transfer Station attendant. She suggested the formation of a committee of volunteers instead of a paid employee to oversee the Recycling and Reuse Programs, which got a lukewarm response from the board. “Right now, while we work on a management plan, we have to hire somebody to go down there and do the fundamentals,” said Walls.
“I would like to see someone [hired] who has that kind of a vision and the desire to be involved in that area of recycling,” said Reynolds. “I don’t believe we could micromanage it ourselves.”