WINTHROP — Someone’s trash can be another’s treasure, as the truism goes, but town officials are specifying new rules about how that exchange will work at the municipal dump to address safety concerns and misconceptions.

Town Manager Jeff Woolston has issued an executive order defining what can and can’t be picked up at Winthrop’s transfer station. Environmentally hazardous items, among other materials, may not be reclaimed; and certain areas, such as the wood pile, are off-limits.

By a 7-0 vote Monday night, the Town Council approved a provisional measure that retained the major features of Woolston’s executive order, with the added stipulation that transfer station employees would not be able to reclaim newly surrendered items until after the day’s close, thus giving town residents the right of first refusal.

Many unwanted items dumped at the transfer station — such as books, old furniture, and broken appliances — still have value for others, Woolston said.

“What people don’t realize is that once property enters the transfer station, it becomes town property,” Woolston said.

For years, the practice of “picking” has taken place at the transfer station in an informal, unregulated, and sometimes dangerous fashion, according to Town Council Chairman Kevin Cookson.

For example, a woman was caught in the act of climbing into the garbage hopper to claim an object just as the operator was preparing to start the crusher. She escaped unharmed, although whether the object did is unknown, Woolston said.

Woolston’s executive order also gave right of first picking to transfer station employees, provided they put work first and refrain from reselling reclaimed items.

“Ultimately what I want to be able to do,” Woolston said, “is help the people who are at the transfer station and help the residents to take whatever the Town Council says they can take, without any more misconceptions or misinterpretations about what the rules are, because we’ll finally have some rules out there.”

During Monday’s council meeting, resident Carl Swanson asked whether the town’s insurance policy would allow taking anything. Linda Huff, a member of Winthrop’s Green Committee, suggested the council research other towns’ experiences with setting up “swap shops.”

Councilors Linda Caprara, Ken Buck and Larry Fitzgerald objected to giving transfer station employees first dibs on the goods.

“I don’t want employees monitoring a swap station all day instead of doing their jobs,” Fitzgerald said.

There will be a meeting in August to iron out the details of a permanent picking policy for the transfer station.

In other matters Monday night, the council voted to accept a gift of $100,000 arising from the dissolution of the Morrill Trust. The money is earmarked for support of the Bailey Library addition. They also expressed support for an effort to create a dog park in Winthrop using independently raised funds.


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