Beatrice “Cookie” Pelletier, 73, estimates she needs about six cords of wood to get through the winter. So far she’s stacked up two cords and she is questioning whether she can get …
Beatrice “Cookie” Pelletier, 73, estimates she needs about six cords of wood to get through the winter. So far she’s stacked up two cords and she is questioning whether she can get more having been told she can’t pick over the branches, tree trunks and wood at the city compost station.
Pelletier is angry, feeling she is being discriminated because of her gender and age. She claims men are pulling wood from the yard waste dumped at the station, but she’s being told because of liability issues she can’t.
“If you live in the City of Warwick, you have a right to the wood,” Pelletier says.
Pelletier said she and her husband have salvaged wood from the compost station for more than 20 years. It’s how they heat their home on Scolly Street, off Armory Drive that is a short drive from the compost station. In addition, the house has gas heat, but with the increase in the cost of gas, Pelletier questions if she can afford it.
“Where would I get the money?” she asks. Pelletier said she gets $765 monthly from Social Security and has some money saved but doesn’t want to touch it.
“People save money and use it when they have to,” she said. She doesn’t feel this is the time to dip into reserves and if she is able to collect wood, or even if people looking to get rid of wood they are bringing to the compost station dropped it off in her yard, she could get by.
“I would be glad to take it [the wood] off their hands,” she said.
Eric Earls, director of public works, said Monday nothing has changed at the compost station and people are free to take wood provided they aren’t obstructing operations or endangering themselves. He said wood picked up by city crews is mixed in with leaves and yard waste that is then put through the tub grinder that converts it into wood chips. The chips are the first step in converting the material to compost that is made available at no cost to residents.
“We have equipment moving around and she’s back there just walking around and trying to pull things out. We can’t just have anyone back there,” he said. Earls said one operator heard something as he was moving a pile of leaves and brush, stopped to investigate and found Pelletier. Evidently he told her to get out in no uncertain terms.
Earls said there is not a designated area where residents can retrieve wood. There is a pile of compost close to the entrance away from operations for people to access. For $10 people can have a front end loader fill their truck bed with compost.
“But there’s no way we can have the public roaming around the facility,” he said.
There’s more to Pelletier’s story.
She and her husband were involved in an argument that turned violent. Police responded and the neighborhood wedged between Veterans Middle School and Sandy Lane didn’t take sides. Pelletier said that is also the case with family members and she feels abandoned. She hasn’t seen or talked with her husband since the incident. She said he is under a no-contact order and is living at their home in Maine.
Pelletier hardly looks like a woodsman. She’s petite, wiry and packed with energy. She barely takes breaths describing how she was cut off from the compost station wood.
“Those were all in the front yard,” she says gesturing to a jumbled pile of limbs and tree trunks, some nearly three feet in diameter. One trunk standing on end shows scars of a chain saw where it has used to cut limbs into stove lengths. She points to another trunk that is starting to crack. She plans on splitting that with a sledge since the log splitter is in Maine.
“I’m getting my exercise,” she says walking to the backyard. Wood has been neatly stacked beneath a roof extending from a back door. In a separate pile, smaller branches are stacked chest high.
“That’s kindling,” she says.
Pelletier fiercely defends her ability to safely load wood on her truck. She demonstrates her strength pulling a four-foot limb probably weighing 50 pounds from the pile and tossing it like toothpick. The heavier pieces she flips end over end until she arrives at the truck. She then props it on a wedge-shaped piece of wood until it is almost evenly balanced on the tailgate and slides it into the truck bed.
“I don’t need anyone to tell me how to handle wood,” she says. She’s careful.
“You don’t need any accidents. You have got to think of every move you make.”
Pelletier doesn’t have an answer as to how it might work out for her.
“You’ve got to keep going,” she said.
Meanwhile, she would be grateful for any wood people might want to drop off beside the red truck in her front yard at 38 Scolly St.
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