BELLOWS FALLS — Daniel Hoviss and friends want to reinstate the popular “swap shop” at the Rockingham transfer station and recycling center.
Hoviss said Tuesday that several people are circulating petitions, which he hopes to present to the Rockingham Select Board in the near future.
In addition, Hoviss said, the petition is also being circulated in Westminster because the recycling center is actually located in Westminster (on village of Bellows Falls-owned land). Many Westminster residents use the facility, as well.
Hoviss, who works at the Bellows Falls Community Bike Project and is a resident of Putney, said that while the swap shop was suspended during the COVID pandemic, residents believe it’s a sorely missed community service.
He said the petition acknowledges that there were problems with the operation of the former swap shop, and the petition specifically asks that it be staffed so that there is a gatekeeper to supervise what can be left at the recycling center.
Hoviss said reinstating the swap shop would help counter the cheap, throwaway culture, and help keep more money in the local community, as well as re-establishing a community resource.
Other towns, including Springfield and Brattleboro, as well as Walpole, N.H., successfully operate swap shops at their transfer and recycling centers, and the town should take some clues from them. Some of the shops charge people to drop off things, he said.
He said he had found many wonderful books for himself and his grandchildren at the swap shop, as well as small electronics.
He said many items get thrown away in the state’s electronics disposal dumpster that could have another useful life because people don’t have access to a swap shop.
“We need a good gatekeeper,” Hoviss said. He proposed the return of the swap shop to the board last year, but the idea was rejected.
The return of the swap shop does not have a fan in Peter Golec, chairman of the Rockingham Select Board and a former longtime volunteer at the recycling center.
The swap shop was too popular, Golec said, and many people used it to “beat the system” and avoid paying disposal costs for useless or broken items. He said he had seen broken and chipped glasses dropped off at the swap shop, or vacuum cleaners with no cord. “All to avoid a $3 disposal fee,” he said of the vacuum cleaner.
“The whole place was full of junk,” he said.
Golec said the recycling center, which also includes trash disposal, is no longer staffed by volunteers, but by part-time, paid workers. And, he said, because the town has raised its disposal charges to eliminate the persistent red ink in the town’s ledgers, the center is finally being supported by the users. Out-of-town users must buy a user’s sticker from the town, as well as pay the normal disposal fees.
Golec said that he had used the swap shop in the past, particularly in getting books. But he said too many people — including some libraries — had used the swap shop to get rid of out of date encyclopedias and dictionaries.
“Nobody uses encyclopedias or dictionaries any more,” he said. “They use the computer.”
“It’s just not going to happen,” Golec said.
Hoviss said that people who support the swap shop and want to sign the petition have to do so in person. He and others have the petition, and he said he works at the community bike project Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. if people want to stop by and sign.
“On the whole everyone I have talked with thinks it is a good idea, including many people that actually run the transfer station,” he said.