Progress Report on Swap Shed

A meeting to make progress on an Acton Swap Shed at the Transfer station.
July 22, 4pm at the Transfer Station

From: Jim Snyder-Grant <>
Subject: Notes and observations from 7/22 Acton Swap Shed meeting
From the Town of Acton: Dickie Waite and Corey York
From Green Acton: Debby Andell, Heather Haines, Jim Snyder-Grant

We are all headed in the same direction, with the goal of a limited but operational swap shed for some of Fall 2014, and a wider opening in Spring of 2015. This will be a Town of Acton swap shed (not a Green Acton shed) , with Green Acton providing research and advice for now, and looking to donate some time and materials later.
Dickie and Corey showed us their preferred spot, which seemed like a great location to all present. The space would be created by rearranging the Salvation Army and Red Cross donation bins to create room for a wide walk-through shed with doors on both sides, with parking also available on both sides. The composted dirt pile may need to be moved as well: that’s under discussion between Dickie and Corey.
Size and budget:
It was agreed that Corey and Dickie would pick out one of the pre-fabricated, commercially available storage sheds. Corey had previously sent Green Acton a list of possible vendors. We agreed that they should get the largest shed they could with a $10K limit to keep the procurement swift and easy. A quick look suggested this might get Acton, for example, a 20′ x 14′ shed. This is bigger than sheds in many other town, but will allow room for expanding the number and type of items over time.
The notion we agreed on was that the middle would be an open, fully accessible corridor. On one side would be storage shelves, and on the other side would be tables (for larger items, on top and underneath). At least one of these tables should be movable, for placing out in the outdoor public space in good weather to draw customers in.
Green Acton, in particular Heather, is willing to look for appropriate tables and shelves once we know the size of the shed. She mentioned looking on Freecycle, and/or recruiting among Green Acton for specific donations of time, materials, or complete tables and shelves. We will gift these items to the town when the time is right. Dickie mentioned that sometimes good shelves and tables are dumped in to the metals area.
Once a preferred building is picked out by Corey and Dickie, the DEP consultant the Town uses will guide them through the permitting process, which appears so far to be relatively simple and routine, but the Town will learn more as they get into the process. It still seems to Corey and Dick that an opening in the Fall of 2014 is entirely possible, and a reasonable goal.
Days and Hours of Operation:
There is some trade-off that will need to be made between being open on the busiest day (Saturday) and/or being open on one or two weekdays (Tuesday and Friday are probably the busiest days besides Saturday). More people would come on Saturday, but there is some concern about handling the extra traffic. The notion that emerged was possibly to start in the Fall on Tuesday and Friday, and then open on Saturday once the shed operation is running smoothly and traffic and use patterns are better understood. The Town will make the final decision on operating days and hours and how and when to stage them. Green Acton emphasized that eventually a Saturday operating day will be important.
Green Acton noted that using Seniors from the tax-work program seems to be the best sustainable solution for staffing. Typically one person is needed at a time, with some overlap to provide two people at a time sometimes. Corey has opened a conversation with the Human Resources director to understand how many hours could be made available for this position: the tax work program is budgeted with only a limited number of hours. The initial outcome of this staffing conversation may also have an impact on the initial hours of operation: the Town may need to seek authorization for more hours for this program if it is a limiting factor in operations. Green Acton will be able to provide some volunteer labor as well, although most of Green Acton volunteer time is available on weekends rather than weekdays.
Materials to be accepted or excluded:
We reviewed together some of the materials allowed or excluded in other programs, and talked through some of the pros and cons. Green Acton will do more research and present Corey and Dickie with a recommended starting list, and also a stretch list for later.
Moving materials out:
Salvation Army and Red Cross already come about once a week, and may be interested in taking some of the materials. We discussed contacting Household Goods in Acton to see if they might want to swoop by from time to time. The Friends of the Acton Library might want to look through any donated books regularly. In the end, uncollected items will end up in the dump area. It was suggested that once a week might be a fine schedule for taking most of the unclaimed stuff away. This level of detail will be revisited when we get closer to operating.
Any level of sticker would be OK for being able to use the Swap shed for drop-offs or pickups. There is the possibility that, with changes to be proposed to Transfer Station pricing, the least expensive sticker (the recycling sticker) may become even less costly than it is now. That would help bring to the swap shed people who might otherwise not think of coming.
Signage and Publicity:
It was agreed that good signage and publicity will be vital to getting this to work well. We did not get into the details. Another subset of Green Acton will be working with Corey and Dickie to offer help on general signage and communication issues at the Transfer Station.
Summary of Action Items:
Town of Acton:
  1. Finalize details on location and choose a shed size and vendor, and start the permitting process. Let Green Acton know the size.
  2. Work with Director of HR to understand how many hours of senior labor would be available
  3. Decide on days and hours of initial operation for the Fall.
Green Acton:
  1. Prepare and send to Corey and Dick a suggested list of items to accept or reject at the initial opening, and items to consider for later.
  2. When shed size is determined, start sourcing tables, shelves and other needed initial operating equipment
  3. When operating days and hours are determined, recruit some Green Acton volunteers to help with staffing, especially if Saturdays are included.
To be discussed later
  1. Creating an operations manual for town staff and for volunteers
  2. Signage and publicity
  3. Finding another time to meet to make progress on these items
-Jim Snyder-Grant, for Green Acton

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