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The Commons
Town and Village

Town mulls setting up its own recycling site

Originally published in The Commons issue #408 (Wednesday, May 17, 2017).



PUTNEY—With the Windham Solid Waste Management District recycling bins set to disappear after June 30, Putney officials continue to work on whether to replace them, and with what.

During the April 26 regular Selectboard meeting, Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard and Highway Superintendent Brian Harlow joined Board members for a site visit to the Town Garage — a possible location of town-owned recycling bins in the new fiscal year.

They discussed logistics, such as whether or not the center should have a fence and a gate for security, and lights and cameras for safety and to ward off illegal dumping.

Stoddard strongly advocated for surveillance cameras, and she expressed concerns with keeping the recycling center open every day, around the clock.

“We need to limit [access] to Putney residents as much as we can,” she said. “We’re paying the bill.”

If the recycling center “gets abused or there’s a problem, it goes away,” Stoddard said.

The current setup has 24/7 recycling roll-off bins placed at a variety of locations throughout the District’s service area in most of Windham County, including next to the Putney Fire Station. The cost of maintaining and emptying the bins is shared among all District members, so there has been no reason to limit access to a town’s bins only to residents.

But when the District’s bins disappear at the end of FY17, each town will be responsible for purchasing or leasing bins, maintaining them, emptying them, and trucking the contents to a transfer station — or paying someone else to do it.

According to data Stoddard shared with Board members, Putney’s roll-off bins collect, on average, three times as much recycling as neighboring towns’ bins.

Town Meeting budgeted $40,000 for recycling this year, but Stoddard said if the town kept the current setup of three bins, accessible 24/7, the estimated cost would be $60,000 for the year.

“I don’t really like putting a gate on [the recycling center] at all because if you put a gate on it,” some people will leave their trash outside, Harlow said, “and we gotta pick it up every morning."

Harlow wasn’t convinced the Town Garage was even worth considering as the new recycling center location. He mentioned concerns with safety, liability, and theft of the town’s highway equipment stored at the facility.

“What about winter?” Harlow asked.

The department’s employees are the only ones using that road right now, he said. If a constant stream of visitors is expected, that means his staff has to spend time keeping the road clear, which would reduce their time spent plowing the rest of town.

Also, Harlow asked, would the Highway Department be responsible for pulling out a car that’s stuck in the snow and blocking the only road to the Town Garage?

Board Clerk Josh Laughlin asked Harlow to come up with a list of what it would take to turn a portion of the Town Garage property into a recycling center, and if it can even be done.

“I know it sounds like little things,” Stoddard said, “but all those little things add up."

“It adds up into [the town’s] going into the dump business,” said Board Chair Scott Henry, who asked if that was a good idea for the town.

Stoddard and the Board discussed some alternatives.

Townspeople could contract with their individual trash haulers to remove their recyclables, which is mandated by Act 148, the state’s universal recycling law, passed in 2012.

“Haulers cannot charge a separate fee for the collection of listed recyclables from residential customers, but the costs of collecting these items can be included in residential trash collection fees,” according to a Hauler’s Fact Sheet issued by the state’s Agency of Natural Resources.

Another possibility is to share services with Rockingham or Brattleboro. Under such an arrangement, Putney would pay those towns a fee to use their transfer stations, and Putney wouldn’t have its own recycling bins. Stoddard said she is in contact with those towns’ officials to discuss the matter.

Stoddard said the Board had to decide soon, so she could start getting estimates for a new facility and trucking company to remove the recyclables. “July 1 is when those bins at the Fire Department will go away,” she said.

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