Bethel's Transfer Station is a friendly place to trade some recycling for some friendly banter
The Bethel Transfer Station just might be the friendliest spot in Town - and in Bethel that is truly saying something.
Located at the end of Sympaug Park Road, the Transfer Station collects residents' recycling and trash as well as brush and donations. But the staff there take what in other places is a dull, or just awful task, and make it a place that many in Bethel wouldn't miss going to.
Mike Flanagan and Todd Britton have been at the Transfer Station for 16 and 15 years respectively, and they bring a friendly, customer centric approach to their job, whether a welcoming "hi" and wave, a hand unloading some trash, a joke, or bit of town-grown wisdom.
The Transfer Station is also home to 15 cats and flocks of cardinals, sparrows and other birds. There even was a resident pheasant until an unfortunate accident a few years ago. And they have some very interesting stories there.
A woman once tossed an important check into the recycling container, accidentally tucked into a bag of newspapers. Mike and Todd got a description of the bag, dove in, found the bag and retrieved the tear-filled woman's check. But not all their stories are so happy. One unfortunate fellow lost his phone while dropping off some recycling. After a thorough search, including calling the phone to try to hear it ring, they came up empty handed. Later that week, while moving one of the containers, they heard a crunch as the phone was crushed under the wheels moving tons of recycling.
Ever vigilant, they returned the pulverized pieces to the owner.
They've also seen a lot of change over the years. "We used to see desktop PCs. Now we get laptops and android phones" explained Mike. "And we don't see tube TVs very much any more. Now it's flat screens. They're so inexpensive that it's often cheaper to just replace them when something breaks."
And the drop in recycled newsprint has been significant, too. "We used to see 4 tons of newsprint a week." Mike, the son of a newspaperman, said. "Now it's less than a ton and a half."
Over 2,200 residents, representing about a third of the households in Town, have the Transfer Station permits needed to access the station. Saturday is the busiest day, followed by Tuesday.
Leaves and Christmas trees can be dropped off at no charge, as can recycling such as paper, plastic, glass and metal. Trash is 25 cents a pound, used to offset the cost of trash removal at roughly $90 a ton.
The trash is processed and then brought to the Bridgeport trash to energy plant.
When asked what they like best about the job, Mike and Todd don't hesitate.
"The people," explains Todd. "They're great. They bring food for the cats, they're very helpful."
Mike told of when the cat that he kept in the office became ill, how residents donated money for the cat's veterinary bills. "They are wonderful people in this town." He said.
One area that seems to confuse the public is whether cardboard cereal boxes should go in with the corrugated cardboard or the newsprint. "Newsprint" they both say in unison.
"Thin smooth cardboard shouldn't go with corrugated cardboard," Mike explained. "But the boxes should be dry and flattened."Todd added.
Another trend both noticed this holiday season was a significant increase in Amazon boxes in the recycling container.
Another point of confusion for some in the public is the Transfer Station policy about bad weather.
"We follow the schools," Mike said. "They had a 2 hour delay, and we opened at 9 instead of 7."
This is partly due to the fact that Todd helps clear the roads with the rest of the Town's DPW team, and it definitely takes two to run the facility.
Weather permitting, the Transfer Station is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a 1 hour close from 12 noon to 1 p.m. for lunch and Friday from 7 a.m. to 12 noon.
Permits can be obtained at the Town Clerk's Office at the Municipal Center. Recycling and a friendly hand are always free.