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Selectboard deals with trash, recycling issues

VERNON—Representatives from Triple T Trucking appeared at a recent Selectboard meeting about options for the town beyond raising the pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) bag fees — again.

President Norm Mallory and General Manager Peter Gaskill of Triple T — the waste management firm that services the town — spoke to the board and the recycling committee on Feb. 1.

In January, the Selectboard voted to immediately raise the price of PAYT bags to help control a deficit — mostly caused by lower-than-expected PAYT bag sales.

From data the recycling committee presented to the board, it appeared as though Vernon’s recycling and composting programs were too successful, and residents were not purchasing as many bags as the committee expected — and planned for in the budget.

Although members of the board and the recycling committee agreed raising the bag fees would not solve the entire problem, it was seen as a worthy first step.

But, “we’ve had nothing but complaints” about the increase in PAYT bag fees, Board Chair Christiane Howe said.

Recycling Committee member Heather Frost said her experience was the opposite.

She said that, in conversations with locals, “they were okay with it after they were explained to."

Frost said that after she would share with residents the costs associated with trash collection, “they’d say, ‘Oh! I’d rather pay more and take charge of my trash and how I dispose or recycle.’"

Howe said she does not think residents realize “we were running a huge deficit here and if we didn’t do something, we were really going to go down."

She said the town needed to explore options beyond raising the PAYT bag fees again, and asked Mallory and Gaskill, “what can you do to save us money?"

“You can change your service level” to reduce fees, Gaskill said.

Mallory noted that later this year, Brattleboro — another town Triple T services — will only have trash collection every other week. Although recyclables and compost will still get picked up once per week, the change will save Brattleboro money. As The Commons reported on Jan. 13, “The move is expected to save the town approximately $96,188 in Fiscal Year 2017.” ["Trash pickup schedule to change in July,” issue 339]

“We can help you bring [your budget] in-line,” Mallory said.

But, he noted, it would have been better if the board had included Triple T in the discussion before raising the bag fees.

“The concern is, you raised the bag price before you looked into the options,” Mallory said, cautioning the town against doing it again. He said it may lead to illegal dumping.

Howe assured everyone the board and the recycling committee would visit this issue after town meeting.

Recycling Committee concerned with recycling center

Heather Frost, along with recycling committee members Cheryl Franklin and Peggy Frost — shared her concerns about the recycling center. She noted that while the center “sets us apart from other towns,” because residents can use it to recycle books and clothing, “things get overlooked."

The “thing” she referred to was a big mess, mostly just outside the bottle redemption bin.

“It’s amazing the number of bottles people fail to put in the [bin’s] little hole,” Heather Frost said.

Instead, some patrons of the recycling center leave big bags of bottles near the bins. She is concerned this presents a safety hazard, and makes it harder to keep the center clean and free of snow and ice.

“There’s a lot of stuff there,” Frost said, asking the board to consider clearing up whose responsibility it is to keep the area clean.

Howe suggested members of the recycling committee speak with members of the fire department — they are the beneficiary of proceeds from the redeemable bottles.

But, the organization receiving the sum of so many nickel-deposits may change every year, noted board member Emily Vergobbe. So, establishing clean-up as the fire department’s responsibility is not the way to go.

Still, Heather Frost said the beneficiary should be involved in maintaining the site.

She asked everyone — members of the recycling committee, the selectboard, the fire department, and the general public — to “give 110 percent” and monitor the recycling center every time they drive by.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #348 (Wednesday, March 16, 2016). This story appeared on page D1.

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