It's time for me to come clean about my past misdeeds. I readily admit that I have broken the law - many times. I used to leave Town Hall after a Selectmen's meeting and head back to North Hill, hit the divided highway (which was empty most Monday nights after 11:00), and put the pedal down. In other words, I sped like a bat out of you know where. I never did get caught. While I'm bearing my soul, I might as well bear it fully. When I was a kid, we used to head over to Central Ave., which was less densely populated in those days, and see how fast we could go down that long, straight thoroughfare stretching from Route 28 to the tip of Menauhant Beach. K.C.'s 1984 Camaro sure could scream.
Now the fact that I broke the law, that I knew the rules and deliberately disobeyed them, and the law enforcers didn't catch up with me, does not mean that what I did was right. In fact, if upon reading this, Chief Riello himself sends me a citation in the mail, I will gladly pay it. I have a friend Dan who has a saying that, while not politically correct, demonstrates this dynamic in plain and powerful language. He says, "Chin up, chest out, take it like a man." In other words, I was wrong, I admit it, and I accept the consequences.
I sure wish that sentiment was expressed, even in a small way, by our local trash haulers. When the news broke recently that the "big three" in Falmouth trash companies, Waste Management, Allied Waste (formerly BFI), and local hauler Cavossa have been violating a local regulation for more than 20 years that the last two years alone have cost the taxpayers of this community $58,000, there collective and individual responses were a feeble and transparent attempt to mask their collective greed. They plainly offered that a. The Town has not enforced the regulation, and b. It was a bad regulation anyway. That's like me saying, "Well, there were no police on the highway those nights, and I think the speed limit should be 85 anyway." Chin up, boys. Admit your mistakes. Own up to your responsibilities, and do the right thing.
In the simplest of terms, the regulation calls for the haulers to bring their (our) trash to the Upper Cape Regional Transfer Station (UCRTS), a collaborative entity on the MMR where trash is collected then shipped by rail to its final destination in an incinerator at the SEMASS waste-to-energy plant in Rochester. Keeping things simple, the haulers have decided that their profits are more important than our rules, and they have been taking the trash directly by truck to SEMASS, bypassing the UCRTS and its fees. The agreement to run the UCRTS has minimum tonnage requirements for the rail company to ship to Rochester. If we don't meet it, we pay. It is that simple.
A couple of years back, the Supreme Court of the United States, which even for trash haulers has the final say on the law of the land, determined in a decision called the "Herkimer Case" that local governments have the right to direct where public trash goes. So, continuing with our theme of simplicity, the Town of Falmouth, and its partners in the transfer station, has the right to tell the big three what to do.
Somehow, that basic fact has been lost in the bombast coming from the haulers. They even had the gumption to make the case that by going straight to SEMASS, they are saving the taxpayers money. How does the $58,000 in direct fines fit into that Swiss cheese of argument?
What I would like to see is some decisive action on this one, both from the Town and the haulers. The Board of Health has taken the step to address the long languishing regulations. Nice work. The Board of Selectmen should follow suit by telling the haulers who have contracts to haul our trash that the deal is off until they straighten up - and the haulers themselves, well, they would do well to listen to my old friend Dan.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.