Merrimack marks a garbage landmark

MERRIMACK – The first will be last – unless she chooses to be first.

Maryanne Bonislawski of 33 Valley View Drive won the raffle drawing for the coveted distinction of throwing the last bag of trash into the town landfill when it closes Dec. 31, or throwing the first bag of trash onto the floor of the new transfer station when it opens Jan. 2.

Her name was the first drawn Saturday during ceremonies at the open house of the transfer station, which is nearing completion at the landfill site on Lawrence Road.

Second prize in the raffle went to Rod Randlett of 14 Erik St. Like the loser of a football game coin toss, he gets the other option after Bonislawski chooses.

As to what choice that will be, for now her lips are as tightly sealed as a well-tied Hefty bag.

“She’s ecstatic,” said her husband, Stanley Bonislawski, who told his wife the good news by phone – she was traveling back home from Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon and was due to arrive in the evening.

“She’s been very excited about the whole drawing right along,” he said.

Stanley Bonislawski said his wife hadn’t decided which option to take – to close the landfill, or like the team captain who opts to receive the ball in the second half, to open the new transfer station.

“I told her she’ll be ‘Queen of the Dump’ for the day,” he said. “She was joking, telling me she had to buy new clothes to have her picture taken at the dump.”

Bonislawski said he had planned to attend the raffle – which benefited the Library Building Fund – but he “chickened out” because of the cold.

He wasn’t alone.

About 30 people did brave the chill Saturday morning for the grand opening of the $1.5 million solid waste transfer station. Most were town officials or employees and members of a solid waste committee that planned for how the town would dispose of its trash after the landfill closed.

As the crowd gathered in the partially completed building, a line of pickup trucks behind them scaled the mountainous landfill. The dump, like the state’s most famous peak, Mount Washington, was white-crested – only, the white was created by hundreds of seagulls, not a snowcap.

The transfer station is 11,300 square feet, with a small administrative office building attached. It can accommodate 14 cars at a time, plus it has two large doors for commercial haulers.

Trash thrown there will be smashed down by a backhoe and then loaded onto trucks for transportation to Turnkey Recycling and Environmental Enterprises of Rochester.

The station will be efficient, integrating disposal and recycling at one location, as there will be trailers for construction debris and metal scraps at the site, said Jeff Murray, of CMA Engineering of Portsmouth, the firm that designed the structure.

“This is a big deal for the town,” Murray said, noting the long years of debate and numerous votes before the transfer station was finally approved by voters at last April’s annual Town Meeting.

From there, the project was fast-tracked, with the design and construction occurring over an eight-month period.

“It was tight,” Murray said.

In fact, construction work continued at the station during the ceremonies. Workers lost some time because of last weekend’s storm, though officials said the transfer station will be finished in time for the Jan. 2 opening.

Selectmen’s Chairman Dick Hinch noted that fact during his remarks at the open house ceremony.

Ed Chase, the Public Works director, would say “we’re half a day ahead of schedule, and we’d pray he was right,” Hinch joked.

Hinch also acknowledged the long, sometimes heated debate about whether the town should build the transfer station or instead institute curbside trash collection.

He said officials have endeavored to make the transfer station “as user-friendly as we possibly could.”

“It was the will of the community to have a transfer station,” Selectman Carolyn Whitlock added.

Selectman Norm Carr also gave remarks, noting the station came about because of long-term planning and saving.

Selectmen honored present and past members of a solid waste committee with certificates, and made special mention of Ted Parmenter, who had been involved in the issue since 1991.

Hinch praised Parmenter as being someone to whom officials always turned for sound advice and his steadfast work on the issue over the years.

For his part, Parmenter praised the selectmen for their work making the transfer station a reality, even though some board members didn’t think that was the best option.

After more than a decade of involvement in the issue, Parmenter said he was pleased that the transfer station, which had been “a long time coming,” is within weeks of opening.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” he said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or