WESTERLY — Three to five solar-powered trash compacting stations will soon be installed at the town’s two beaches and other locations on Atlantic Avenue and one member of the Town Council said the town should haul state officials into court for allowing mounds of trash to litter the Misquamicut area.
The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved entering into a lease with Big Belly Solar Inc. of Needham, Mass., for five trash and recycling stations as a means to address a trash problem that officials say is largely due to big crowds at Misquamicut State Beach. The units hold about 37 pounds of trash, or five times more than a normal trash cans, and are equipped with technology that transmits email or text messages to signal when they are full, said Paul Duffy, the town’s recreation director.
The council approved leasing the five units at a cost of $1,382 per month, plus a one-time delivery fee of $1,006. Additional costs are incurred for bags that are placed in the units. The money will be taken from a contingency fund established in the town manager’s account in the municipal budget. Town Manager Derrik M. Kennedy proposed the contingency as source of funds to pay for professional development workshops for staff members and to cover the cost of pay increases for the staff.
As of Monday evening, officials planned to put units at each of the two town beaches and adjacent to the tourist information center on Atlantic Avenue. The other two units were to be placed either on each side of the state beach or in the downtown area.
Members of the council and interim Town Manager J. Mark Rooney also encouraged Police Chief Richard Silva to direct his officers to focus on litter enforcement by issuing citations to offenders. Caswell Cooke Jr., Misquamicut Business Association executive director, joined in the request.
“As a representative of the business association I wouldn’t normally ask you to ticket people, but I’m actually saying, ‘Please, will you ticket people,’ because I think the fire district, the taxpayers, residents and business owners down there, they’re just looking at this trash. I don’t know what the problem is this year or last year but it is so overwhelming,” Cooke said.
Cooke and Rooney will be on hand this morning for a press conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Misquamicut State Beach. Lt. Gov. Dan McKee is expected to attend along with Janet Coit, director of the state Department of Environmental Management, state Sen. Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, state Rep. Sam Azzinaro, D-Westerly and members of the Town Council.
Cooke and others speculated that crowds at the beach increased after parking fees at the state beaches were cut in half in the 2016 budget, reverting to 2011 levels. The eight state beaches have a carry in/carry out policy. Attendants distribute small plastic bags as beach-goers enter the beach.
News coverage and social media exposure of the trash problem has hurt, Cooke said. “It’s caused irreparable damage to Misquamicut, to Westerly and to the state,” he said.
Cooke asked Silva to have the police department’s mobile command unit parked across the street from the entrance to the state beach and recommended draping a “zero tolerance” banner over the vehicle.
Cooke also noted that the town receives a $190,000 payment from the state for costs associated with the beach such as police coverage. Some of those funds could be used toward the cost of purchasing the new trash receptacles, he said.
Councilor Philip Overton called on his fellow council members to take action.
The state, he said, “has the nerve to cut their rates and pull trash cans out of their beach and we have the ability to address the situation on an emergency basis.I think we should sue the hell out of the state for creating this public nuisance.”
Councilor Karen Cioffi asked those who attend the meeting this morning to “use a strong hand” with the state officials.
“Lots of luck trying to get something from the state. They leave a mess wherever they go...we just keep bailing them out. They lowered their rates and it has changed our town,” Cioffi said.