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A $15 million offer

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WIN Waste says it’s willing to pay Saugus up to that amount if it can use the ash landfill for another 25 years

  WIN Waste Innovations – by far the biggest taxpayer in town – pays Saugus $3 million in a year in property taxes. The company that owns and operates the trash-to-energy plant on Route 107 this week offered to pay the town up to five times that amount if it can extend the life of the ash landfill (or so-called monofil) for an additional 25 years.

  “We’re proposing to share economic benefits,” WIN Waste Innovations Vice President of Environment James Connolly said Wednesday night (July 27) as he unveiled the company’s suggested Host Community Agreement.

  The key component of the agreement outlined by Connolly in his PowerPoint presentation to the Board of Health’s Landfill Subcommittee is the one providing “a $15-million economic benefit – a lump sum payment of $12 million plus $125,000 in 25 annual payments (for a total additional value of $3 million).”

  “If required to spend more than $5 million in capital to operate beyond Valley Fill, WIN Waste pays the town $10 million, including: approximately $10 million paid at a rate of $2.50 per ton.” The PowerPoint presentation also noted that capital improvements made at the plant would generate additional tax revenue.

  WIN Waste Innovation’s proposed Host Community Agreement, if approved by the town and the state, would also require WIN Waste Innovations to:

  • Reduce NOX and other emissions below current permit limits in place at time of agreement that are protective of public health and environment
  • Conduct optimization testing to determine levels of additional NOX reductions
  • Fund the installation of one stand-alone, ambient NOX monitoring station in Saugus
  • Request the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to update its 2016 health study of Saugus residents as it relates to the plant’s operations and the landfill
  • Provide $26,000 per year to fund an independent third-party consultant to inspect the waste-to-energy facility and monofill

  “Being a good corporate citizen and community partner is paramount in what we do and we present the proposed Host Community Agreement in that spirit,” Connolly said.

  “We strive to help make Saugus a better place to live, work and play,” he said.

Next meeting for public comment

  More than 50 people – mostly Saugus residents and several town officials – attended the presentation in the second floor auditorium at Town Hall hoping to get a chance to ask questions. Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano, who co-chairs the Landfill Subcommittee with Board of Health Chair William Heffernan, initially welcomed questions from the public. But Cogliano decided earlier Wednesday that the meeting would be limited to WIN Waste Innovation’s presentation and an opportunity for subcommittee members to ask questions.

  “It’s important to note that tonight is the first step in a process,” Cogliano said at the outset of the meeting.

  “At our next meeting, there will be an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal. If there are specific questions, they may be submitted to Selectman [Corinne] Riley, the committee secretary, in advance of that meeting. We look forward to an open and meaningful discussion,” he said.

  The subcommittee’s next meeting has been set for 7 p.m. Aug. 17 in the second floor auditorium at Town Hall. Cogliano said the subcommittee decided to switch from the Aug. 10 meeting because three members wouldn’t be able to attend. Town residents and others who wish to submit questions or comments for the Aug. 17 meeting can email them to Selectman Riley at criley@Saugus-ma.gov.

Is $15 million enough?

  During his presentation, Connolly stressed “the proposed Host Community Agreement reflects sentiments expressed by the Landfill Committee.”

  He also noted that “the most important thing for us – to listen.”

  In an interview after the meeting, Cogliano said he was pleased with the overall presentation. “I think they did a good job addressing the concerns of all committee members,” Cogliano told The Saugus Advocate.

  “However, some of the members and I think we have a way to go on the dollar amount. But I am confident we will get there. The process may take another meeting or two, as I’d like to address all the concerns of the residents,” he said.

  While Cogliano said he wants to see WIN Waste Innovations increase the amount of money the town receives, he said he didn’t want to talk about a specific dollar amount at this point in the discussions.

  Cogliano said the process that could lead to a Host Community Agreement will entail many meetings involving several town and state agencies before it becomes a reality. Connolly said the permitting process could take as long as three years. “The Subcommittee will recommend to the BOS [Board of Selectmen] to approve a Host Community Agreement,” Cogliano said.

  “Then, WIN must meet all the requirements of the DEP [state Department of Environmental Protection] before they can apply for a site assignment from the BOH [Saugus Board of Health],” he said.

  State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) said he thinks WIN Waste Innovations covered some important ground in the presentation. “I think it was good,” Wong said.

  “I would have liked to have seen more information – more information and what the Town will use the money for,” he said.

  Selectman Riley, who is secretary for the subcommittee, said she’s happy with the progress of the subcommittee since it began its discussions with WIN Waste Innovations about 18 months ago. “I am pleased that the committee, from the beginning, worked collaboratively with WIN to get to this point,” Riley said after the meeting.

  “I will do my homework on the presentation: what I feel are important points to ask about during our next meeting. Going into this, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know and learned much during these meetings,” Riley said.

  “I look forward to our next step to continue to work towards the environmental improvements, like reduced NOXlevels and improved monitoring, as well as having the town benefit from the revenue that the agreement might provide,” she said.

  “As it was stated at the meeting, this is just the beginning of a long process. Our committee was to open the dialogue, share our concerns and ask questions as well as listening to what WIN had to present on their future plans,” she said.

  “I feel our committee did what we set out to do and the rest of this process will be determined by the Board of Health and the state once our committee votes to move the agreement to the Selectmen or not. No matter what happens moving forward, we were a committee of residents from all parts of town, meeting with WIN representatives with professionalism and respect for one another.”

Two years away from capacity

  WIN Waste Innovations is expected to reach capacity at its ash landfill within two years, according to Connolly. “What we are asking is that we continue using the monofill on the same footprint with the same environmental controls, rather than trucking the ash to facilities that could be hours away, with environmental impacts that long-haul trucking would present,” Connolly said.

  Connolly said WIN Waste appreciates the spirit of collaboration with the Town and looks forward to an open, fact-based discussion on the proposed Host Community Agreement. “Like in many towns across the region where essential industries call themselves home, we are confident we can achieve a solution that mutually benefits Saugus and WIN Waste,” he said.

  If WIN Waste Innovations is successful in securing the necessary permits to continue operating the ash landfill for another 25 years on top of the two years ’til capacity, Connolly said, the next step would be to develop an engineering plan and go through a rigorous environmental impact process. Cogliano said it’s inevitable that the trash-to-energy plant on Route 107 will continue to operate for many years to come.

  “To think we left money on the table for the past 40 years,” Cogliano said, while referring to a past history of adversarial relations with the company.

  “I think it’s time to work with them and come up with the best solution for the town,” he said, noting that Saugus has left many needed projects on the table that it didn’t have the funds for – like the West Side Fire Station.

  “It’s just high time the Town of Saugus started reaping the benefits of having this plant in town,” Cogliano said.

  Board of Health Chair William Heffernan, who co-chairs the Landfill Subcommittee, declared, “It’s important for everyone to keep an open mind.”

  He noted that relations with WIN Waste Innovations (formerly Wheelabrator Technologies) have improved dramatically over the past 18 months. In previous years, he recalled, public meetings about the trash-to-energy plant were “downright nasty” to the point where people were “pushing and shoving in the hallway.” In the days since the Landfill Subcommittee was created, Heffernan said, he’s noticed more collaboration between the town and the company.

LANDFILL SUBCOMMITTEE LEADERS: Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano and Board of Health Chair William Heffernan are co-chairs of the panel that was formed 18 months ago to improve relations between the Town of Saugus and WIN Waste Innovations. The two spearheaded the subcommittee’s questioning of WIN Waste’s proposed Host Community Agreement on Wednesday night. (Saugus Advocate photo by Mark E. Vogler)
MAKING USE OF WASTE: WIN Waste Innovations officials say their trash-to-energy plant on Route 107 in Saugus annually converts 400,000 tons of waste into renewable energy – enough to power 20,000 homes. (Saugus Advocate file photo by Mark E. Vogler)
LET’S MAKE A DEAL: James Connolly, WIN Waste Innovations Vice President of Environment, briefed the Board of Health’s Landfill Subcommittee on a proposed Host Community Agreement that would pay the Town of Saugus up to $15 million in exchange for adding 25 additional years to the life of the ash landfill. (Saugus Advocate photo by Mark E. Vogler)

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