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WSWMD board raises fees, extends hours, distributes bins

Spencer also asks supervisors to consider selling equipment from Materials Recovery Facility

BRATTLEBORO—Patrons hoping to dump items at the Windham Solid Waste Management District’s Old Ferry Road convenience center now have to pay a little more for the service, but they’ll have more opportunities to do so.

Some towns will also get their roll-off recycling bins back after the Materials Recovery Facility closes, but the District won’t collect their contents after the end of June.

After a somewhat lengthy debate at the District’s Board of Supervisors June 8 regular meeting, the Board voted to charge an access fee to everyone using the convenience center to dump unwanted items — even one item — with a few exceptions. District Clerk Kristen Benoit asked the Board for guidance because she wanted a clear, consistent policy, and there were some gray areas.

As Benoit explained, if someone without an access permit calls the District offices and asks how much it costs to dump an air-conditioner, and she tells them $10, but the gatehouse staff tries charging them that amount, plus the $15 one-day access permit, this could create a conflict.

District employee Dale Bessette, who works at the gate house, expressed his opposition to charging patrons an access fee for one item.

“Some people are on a fixed income, and $25 [to dump] an air-conditioner will wipe them out,” he said.

Merrill Mundell, Wilmington’s representative to the Board, agreed.

“There’s all kinds of tires, air-conditioners, and couches in ditches and brooks,” and “anyone who owns land and doesn’t patrol it daily” will have to take these items to the dump themselves — and pay the dump fees — he said.

John Allen, Brattleboro’s representative to the Board, questioned the relevance of the topic.

“How many people bring in just an air-conditioner?” Allen asked.

“A lot,” Bessette said.

Benoit noted some pieces, such as computers and televisions, are automatically exempt from any fees.

The Board discussed whether to give a break to patrons bringing in one piece of trash. A motion to that effect failed.

Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors voted to charge everyone an access permit, even for one piece. Dummerston’s Representative to the Board, Michelle Cherrier, noted, “we can always change our minds,” if enough problems or complaints arise.

Longer hours

To give patrons more time to legally dump things like broken air-conditioners and old mattresses, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved extending the hours of the Old Ferry Road convenience center, as long as it doesn’t add to payroll.

District Executive Director Bob Spencer delivered the request to the Board on behalf of his staff, who have received feedback from many patrons complaining that “our hours aren’t outside ‘normal work hours’ and on Saturday we close at noon,” he said.

Spencer said his staff recommended keeping the facility open during the evening one weekday per week, and they would stagger their schedule accordingly.

The Board didn’t set the hours at the June 8 meeting. “If it doesn’t increase payroll, you guys figure it out,” Allen said.

“We believe it will generate more revenue with more friendly hours,” Spencer said.

Spencer had more good news for the bottom line. In the last few months, revenue from recycling went up by nearly $50,000. Most of that increase is because the ever-fluctuating market for waste paper and cardboard improved, Spencer said.

MRF equipment for sale?

Spencer brought another idea for raising some cash to the Board of Supervisors: Sell the Materials Recovery Facility equipment.

When the Board voted in December to close the MRF, they also decided to hold on to the equipment — partly in the hopes that they could gather enough support to reverse their vote and reopen the MRF. Because the member towns own the facility, they also own the equipment and are authorized to make that decision.

“But we should reconsider,” Spencer said, “because I’ve had offers to buy it."

Even if some town officials would like to reopen the MRF, many are signing long-term contracts with private haulers to handle their recycling, Spencer said, thus decreasing the likelihood of reopening.

Spencer reminded Board members the District needs revenue for capital improvements and loan repayments, and “I can raise $100,000 right away” by selling the equipment.

Holding on to the MRF’s infrastructure means “holding the building hostage,” Spencer said, which precludes other uses, and the equipment’s value will depreciate as time passes.

Bins for towns

The Board unanimously voted to direct District staff to compile a list of equipment and its assessed value for review at the July Board of Supervisors meeting.

But the roll-off recycling bins likely won’t be on that list.

Although the MRF will stop taking recyclables after June 30, some towns want to keep their roll-off recycling containers.

Benoit sent out a memo to officials in each member-town, asking them how many bins they would like. Most towns want bins to collect recyclables and a few extras so that their hauler can swap them out upon pickup.

Some town officials are still deciding if they want to keep the roll-off bins and contract a private hauler to pick up the recyclables, Benoit said. But availability is limited, and late-comers may have to wait until mid-July, when the District gets back all of its bins from the member towns, empties them, and then can assess how many they have to send out.

As Benoit explained, the member towns collectively own the bins, and they can use them with whatever private hauler will collect their recycling after July 1.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #413 (Wednesday, June 21, 2017).

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