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District raises fees, changes recycling access

BRATTLEBORO—In response to money woes and an anticipated increase in recycling bin traffic after the fiscal year ends, the Windham Solid Waste Management District Board of Supervisors recently announced a new fee structure and a change in access for its recycling bins.

The District has a deficit and needs to rework its fees to help offset that deficit, District Executive Director Bob Spencer told the Board of Supervisors at their March 9 meeting.

“There’s a sense of urgency,” he said. “We need to get some revenue coming in here."

Part of the problem is recycling. Once the Materials Recovery Facility closes on June 30, the District will have to pay tipping fees of between $65 and $80 per ton to dispose of the recyclables. The District can’t budget for this because “it’s hard to know how much recyclables will come in,” Spencer said.

Another challenge is the wording of Act 148, the state’s law governing trash, recyclables, and composting. “Under Vermont law, you can’t charge more for recycling pickup,” Spencer said.

“So, we had to look at which fees we can raise,” he said.

Changes in fees

The Board discussed a number of changes to the fee structure for clients holding dump permits: adding a service fee per use, upping the construction and debris price, raising the daily minimum fee, and increasing the per-bag cost.

“It’s crazy, these surcharges,” said Lester Dunklee, Dummerston’s alternate Board of Supervisors member.

“It adds a lot of administration labor, and I don’t think it’s good business. Instead, raise the [cost of the] daily pass,” Dunklee said.

Westminster’s representative to the Board of Supervisors, Jan Ameen, cautioned against raising the bag fee from $3 to $3.50 per bag.

“A bag price increase of fifty cents is too much,” Ameen said, noting “bag fees are in your face” and the likely result of this is, “people will dump or hoard” their trash.

Kristen Benoit, District Program Coordinator, said raising the daily minimum will absorb the various fees and give the District the revenue it needs.

After a few amendments, a motion to add a $1 service fee per transaction, raise the minimum per-visit cost to $15, and make the changes effective on April 1 passed. The bag fees are unchanged.

Locals hoping to use the District’s Old Ferry Road roll-off bins after the Materials Recovery Facility closes on June 30 must make other plans, unless they have a dump sticker.

Two Dummerston Selectboard members and one Dummerston resident came to the March 9 meeting to complain about this sudden change in policy.

“This is a major topic of discussion at our Town Meeting. We all know the fiscal problems [but] we only learned about [this change] a week ago,” said Dummerston Selectboard Clerk Joe Cook.

Cook told the District’s Board of Supervisors his town’s Selectboard decided to get rid of their roll-off bins and not contract with a private hauler to maintain them “with the understanding [residents] could recycle here. We’ve already made our budget."

“The timing of this could not be worse,” Cook said.

Moratorium is requested

Cook, and Dummerston’s representative to the District, Michelle Cherrier, asked for a one-year moratorium on making this change so the affected towns’ Selectboards have time to figure out what to do next.

“I know you guys need money, but we don’t have money, the independent residents of Dummerston,” said Joyce Marcel. She noted the Old Ferry Road facility’s hours of operation “are a big issue” that makes it hard for her and her husband to get their trash to the dump.

“We’re working on expanded hours,” Spencer said.

Jim Damato, Readsboro’s alternate representative, said the Board of Supervisors and Finance Committee are working on a proposal “to allow some towns to keep their bins, and they’d pay a fee to the District to dump them here."

Board of Supervisors Chair Lou Bruso wasn’t convinced there was a problem with limiting access to the recycling bins to those with dump stickers.

“What are the residents doing with their trash now?” he asked.

“If they use a private hauler, [the haulers] have to pick up recycling and there’s not a separate charge” under state statute, Bruso said. For those residents who already bring their trash to the District’s Old Ferry Road facility, nothing will change, Bruso said. “You can also bring your recycling."

Guilford District representative Cheryl Franklin, co-owner of Franklin & Sons Rubbish, confirmed this. She said her company charges by the number of trips the truck takes to a home, “whether it’s trash or recycling."

“If we don’t charge the user, the only other option is to charge the towns, and they already set their budgets,” said Ameen. “We’re just shifting [the cost] to a user fee."

“Recycling is not free. It costs money” to collect it, Benoit said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #401 (Wednesday, March 29, 2017).

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