ROCKLAND—A well-regarded swap shop at the Rockland solid waste facility nicknamed “Wink’s Place” abruptly closed in early January, 2020, but City Manager Tom Luttrell sees the situation as temporary.
The swap shop, named after David “Wink” Winchenbach, a former gatehouse attendant of the transfer station, started in 2004 as a way for local residents to drop off reusable household items such as clothes, appliances, and other items that the community found uses for. It also served as a sort of a free GoodWill for neighbors and families who were in need.
For many it was a treasure trove.
“I’ve talked to people who said they’ve found old pictures and old wooden boats that had value for them,” said Luttrell.
In January, an incident involving an individual who wouldn’t leave prompted the police to issue a trespass order. That incident was the last straw for the unmonitored shop, which, according to Luttrell, had other issues.
“We had that one complaint with a citizen who was behaving aggressively, but looking into that issue further with my staff, it became clear that the reason we had to close Wink’s Place wasn’t just about this complaint,” he said. “We have heard and our research has shown, that this wasn’t an isolated incident; that there have been other issues of aggressive behavior, and arguments over items. We’ve also had other incidents where people were not following the rules and dumping their household trash in the swap shop.”
There is now a padlock on the door and citizens who have frequented Wink’s have spoken out about the closure on social media and letters to the editor, emphasizing its merits as a resource to the community.
“We’re not trying to close Wink’s down for good,” said Luttrell. “My public services director is researching other swap shops and how they operate and we’re finding the successful ones are only open if there are volunteers to oversee it and to make sure everyone is following the rules.”
Luttrell said the city hopes to re-open Wink’s Place this spring. “There’s a group called Renew Rockland [a group that works toward sustainable communities] and we’re reaching out to see if they want to get involved in the shop,” he said. “We’re looking into it to see if there is any interest in supplying some volunteers to open it back up.”
Luttrell said he has heard the community feedback.
“We just want to let people know that we’re listening to them and know how important Wink’s is to the community,” he said. “It’s nothing we want to penalize the community for the actions of a handful of people. We’re looking at remedies to open it but we need better oversight from people dumping their trash; we’re diligently working toward a resolution and hopefully we can get that solved by the time the warm weather arrives.”
Follow this ongoing story by liking the Rockland Transfer Station’s Facebook group.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com