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A subcommittee’s mission:

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Negotiating what town should get for being a host community for a trash-to-energy plant

  Members of the Board of Health’s WIN (Wheelabrator) Subcommittee want WIN Waste Innovations to present them with a written proposal of what they are willing to include in a potential host agreement between the town and the operators of the trash-to-energy plant on Route 107.

  “Once we get them here, we need to fire away,” Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano said at Wednesday (Nov. 17) night’s subcommittee meeting.

  “We’re not going to get anything unless we ask for it,” Cogliano told members.

  Cogliano and Board of Health Chair William Heffernan co-chair the subcommittee, which has been meeting this year and discussing issues of mutual interest between WIN and the town. A major objective of the subcommittee is to develop a host agreement for the town, which is home to the trash-to-energy plant.

  The subcommittee has scheduled its next meeting for 6:30 p.m., Jan. 19 in the second floor auditorium at Saugus Town Hall. The panel plans to invite WIN Waste Innovations representatives to come with a written proposal to begin negotiations on a draft agreement that will be submitted to the Board of Health.

  “I’d like to see Saugus get everything we ask for,” Cogliano said in an interview after the meeting.

  “Personally, I’d like to see any agreement include a Westside Fire Station, a lowering of the plant’s NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions and free tipping fees as the host community,” he said.

  During meetings over the past year, members have suggested that any agreement should also include continued efforts to modernize and improve the plant, a comprehensive health study of how the plant affects residents, testing of the air and water surrounding the plant, an emphasis on clean quality air coming out of the stacks and a process and timetable for closing the ash landfill.

  Jackie Mercurio, one of the toughest plant critics on the subcommittee, said she had some concerns about the subcommittee going into negotiations with WIN regarding the ash landfill. She presented copies of a letter written by Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner Martin Suuberg which said the state would not allow WIN to expand the ash landfill (see related story). Mercurio said the letter was the result of a meeting held at Suuberg’s office several weeks ago “with a bunch of people doing their due diligence.”

  Cogliano said he wasn’t aware of Suuberg’s letter, but planned to call the commissioner to find out more about it. He stressed that there wasn’t any current landfill expansion plan before MassDEP to deny.

  “When I put this committee together, I always thought the emissions were worse than what they were putting into the ground,” Cogliano said.

  “Even if they are going to close that landfill, they’re never going to go away. I think there’s more to gain here than to lose here,” he said.

  Cogliano said he is satisfied that the subcommittee has improved relations between the plant operators and the town. “I would say – over the past two years – I think they’re better than years past,” he said.

  Saugus Fire Department Lt. and Precinct 8 Town Meeting Member William E. Cross III – one of the subcommittee members – said he’s seen evidence of improvements at the plant through his job as a veteran firefighter. “It’s a lot better now than the last 26 years [he’s worked at the Saugus Fire Department],” Cross said.

  “They’ve done a much better job – just the way it’s run. They’ve done a good job at safety. They just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new sprinkler system,” he said.

  But Cross said the town needs to remain vigilant in its oversight of the plant. “We’ve got to do what’s in the best interests of the town. We’ve got to make sure what’s coming out of there is safe,” he said.

  WIN doesn’t have any issue with a comprehensive health study being conducted. “I think there are some things that they agree on,” Cogliano said.

  “I don’t think there was anything brought up at a meeting that they said ‘no’ to,” he said.

  Board of Health Chair Heffernan couldn’t make Wednesday night’s meeting. But in a cell phone call to the subcommittee from Columbus, Ohio, he told members “everything is on the table at this point.”

  “They need to pitch us. We don’t need to pitch them,” Heffernan said.

  Subcommittee Member Diane Serino said she and her colleagues have covered a lot of ground over the past year. “Haven’t we talked to them enough?” she asked.

  “I think it’s in their court to give us something,” Serino said.

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