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Town surprised by bill for Green-Up trash disposal

PUTNEY—Vermont’s annual Green-Up Day, when scores of volunteers roam the state’s roadsides picking up trash, is a longtime tradition municipal governments prepare for by hanging up posters and reserving town trucks to collect the refuse.

For towns served by the Windham Solid Waste Management District (WSWMD), this year’s Green-Up Day came with a surprise: a bill for services rendered.

Dan Toomey, Putney’s representative to the WSWMD, told town officials the organization “is running on a deficit.” Because of this, for the first time, the WSWMD is charging towns the hauling fees from the Green-Up Day clean-up.

Toomey and WSWMD Executive Director Bob Spencer appeared before the Selectboard at their June 1 regular meeting to discuss the bill and other district-related matters.

Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard told Spencer and Toomey the bill for $76.50, which includes disposal fees for four tires, “was a bit of a surprise.”

“It’s such a little number, and I get that, but we pay such a big number” to the WSWMD every year, Stoddard added.

Spencer explained that in his 40-plus years of running the WSWMD, he has seen Green-Up Day go from a fully staffed and funded event to a program that places a burden on his organization.

As the WSWMD has suffered decreased revenues, a spending freeze, and demands from member towns to trim its costs, “we’re trying to make our budget by the Fiscal Year’s end [on June 30],” he said, adding, “we’re on track.”

Part of getting on track, Spencer said, is billing towns for Green-Up Day hauling fees. Although each town’s portion is small, it all adds up, he said, noting, some towns were taking advantage of the event by “cleaning out their garages and sending tires by the dozens.”

“Have we got some tires for you!” Stoddard said, referring to the town’s infamous tire pile on Old Route 5.

Board Chair Joshua Laughlin assured Spencer and Toomey the bill is “not a huge burden” on the town’s budget, and said he and his colleagues want suggestions on how the town can further help the WSWMD.

He also expressed a wish for earlier communication from Spencer and his staff.

“If we know ahead of time, it helps us,” Laughlin said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #362 (Wednesday, June 22, 2016). This story appeared on page D1.

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