Cash-only Plan At Transfer Station Put On Hold

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Municipal Finance

The gatehouse at the Chatham Transfer Station. A plan to stop accepting cash at the facility Nov. 1 has been put on hold. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – A plan to stop taking cash at the town's transfer station has been put on hold.

Officials originally planned to switch to a credit card and checks only system for payments at the transfer station gate as of Nov. 1. It wasn't clear exactly why the move was halted; there was some push back from residents, officials said, but they still hope to move ahead with the plan at some point.

Department of Public Works Director Tom Temple said he anticipates the issue coming up during a transfer station update scheduled for the Oct. 29 board of selectmen's meeting.

“It's something everybody's moving to,” Temple said. Finance Director Alix Heilala said a survey showed five other Cape towns, including Orleans, do not accept cash at their transfer stations.

Last year the transfer station brought in $225,000 in revenue, a substantial amount of which was cash.

“There's a lot of money that goes through there,” said Temple. Payments are taken at the gate house for disposal of large items like mattresses and appliances, as well smaller specialty items like electronics and loads of mixed debris.

That amount of cash creates issues around handling, security and accountability, especially from an auditing standpoint, Heilala said, although she stressed that there have been no money handling issues. But the potential is there.

“There is better accounting with credit cards and better reconciling with credit cards and checks,” she said. “It's just for ease of processing” and provides better protection for employees.

The transfer station began taking credit and debit cards this summer, Temple said. “A lot of people love it. They went right over to it,” he said. The number of cash payments has dropped since then, he added. The idea was to ease the way for stopping acceptance of cash, but the idea was put on the back burner for the time being, Temple said.

Heilala acknowledged that there has been some concern among residents about security regarding use of debit and credit cards. The handling of cash, particularly at remote locations like the transfer station, is also a security concern, on top of the concern of the town's auditors regarding accountability.

The same holds true for the Nantucket Sound beaches where the town charges for parking. Gate guards there also collect cash and do not take credit cards or checks. While regular pickups of cash occur on summer days so as to minimize the amount on hand at any one time, it's still not an ideal situation, and is something officials are looking at, she said. One challenge is getting the right technology in place to accept credit cards at the beaches, she added.

“We want it to be easy and convenient,” Heilala said.