By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Town Manager Andrew Nota has been a bit in the hot seat since he announced last week there would be no yard waste pickup for the month of April and possibly longer. Now he’s closing parking areas for town parks and asking everyone to cut the town some slack. 

“We are in a national, state, and local state of emergency,” he said. Things are different, said Nota, but they need to be – for now. 

Nota said the yard waste decision came after the town’s trash hauling contractor – MEGA Disposal – said last Monday it could not continue to pick up both the town’s trash and yard waste. The contractor said it was because of the increase in residential trash since Gov. Gina Raimondo’s stay-at-home order in March but also due to illness among staff. 

“We came back to work on Monday [March 30] and immediately got notification from our private provider they couldn’t pick up everything,” said Nota.

Quick decisions needed to be made. Nota said the easiest decision would have been to discontinue yard waste pickup and offer no alternative. Instead, the town has provided a space at the highway garage on Bear Swamp Road off Frenchtown Road for residents to bring their yard waste Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The transfer station off Crompton Avenue remains open Saturdays from 8:30 to 2, but residents are asked not to bring yard waste there. Nota said if a lot of people brought yard waste to the transfer station, it would be overwhelmed. 

“We are aware of the trade offs and the short notice,” Nota said. The announcement came after the start of the week, when many residents had already filled bags and left them curbside in anticipation of the normal pickup. 

Still, Nota said he hoped residents would understand and have some patience. 

“We’re talking about yard waste – leaves and grass,” he said. Maybe you can’t get it to Bear Swamp but your neighbor could, or the lawn service you use could take it, or you could just hold on to it for now. in 

The gate to Scalloptown Park was closed Monday. It’s never closed.

He noted that loads of yard waste had been dropped off at the highway garage on Bear Swamp since last week. 

The other news from town was a decision to lock up parking lots this week at various town recreation areas, including Frenchtown and Scalloptown parks. 

That came after town officials saw lots of cars and people at town parks in recent days. It’s OK to walk to parks but not to drive to them, Nota said.

“Residents should not be driving to recreation,” said Nota. “I wish it was different – everybody needs a release.” But, he said, “the next two or three weeks are are the most important weeks we’re going to have” during the COVID-19 crisis.

Nota added, “This is a different time. We need people to be patient, to prioritize what the most important things are.”

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