GUILFORD—After almost a year of researching whether to remain in the Windham Solid Waste Management District, the Selectboard unanimously voted at their Jan. 8 regular meeting to stay put, at least for now.
The debate goes back further than last year, though.
In November, 2016, some Selectboard members expressed confusion and frustration with the District’s budget process and fees. Board Chair Sheila Morse said she didn’t believe Guilford was getting enough services in exchange for what it pays the District. Her colleagues agreed.
The District, formed in 1988, is a chartered municipal entity owned by 20 towns in Windham County. Their mission is to provide solid-waste education, recycling management, and disposal services to its member-towns.
The Board of Supervisors oversees all aspects of its operation. Each member-town’s Selectboard appoints one voting representative to the Board of Supervisors, and one non-voting alternate.
Until July 1, 2017, the District operated a materials recovery facility, or MRF, where member-towns’ recyclables were collected and sorted. During the Fiscal Year 2018 budget talks, the Board of Supervisors voted to close the facility.
Recycling a key issue
Residents from Guilford and other member-towns could still bring their recyclables to the District’s Old Ferry Road location, as long as they paid for a one-time or a yearly pass.
Recycling was one of the main points of the Guilford Selectboard’s arguments for leaving the District. A few years before the MRF closed, Guilford lost its roll-off recycling bins when their previous location was lost and they couldn’t find a suitable place to put them.
With the District offering no recycling bins in Guilford, the Selectboard wondered if it was worth it to remain a member-town. Could they do it on their own? If so, the town would have to come up with its own Solid Waste Implementation Plan and get it approved by the Agency of Natural Resources.
Once the new Selectboard convened after the 2017 Annual Town Meeting last March, Board members began examining whether to leave the District.
They had a workshop, discussed it at Board meetings, and gathered comment from a variety of sources, including residents, District officials, and the town’s representative to the Board of Supervisors, Cheryl Franklin, co-owner of Franklin & Sons, a private rubbish hauler.
At the Jan. 8 Board meeting, Chair Sheila Morse said she wants “closure” on the issue, and noted “we’ve done our due diligence on it.”
The conclusion Morse came to is, “if we were to exit and create our own [Solid Waste Implementation Program], it would cost way more” than the FY19 assessment of approximately $18,500.
Not all Selectboard members were immediately persuaded, though. Gabrielle Ciufredda asked Morse for more information on the timeline and expenses related to withdrawing from the District, and remarked that “over three years, it might pay off.”
Board Member Gordon Little pointed out that if the town left the District, the Agency of Natural Resources would require Guilford to host its own thrice-yearly hazardous waste collections, and each costs $10,000. “That, to me, is a really big piece of it,” Little said.
Administrative Assistant Peder Rude and Morse outlined the major details of the timeline and costs for Guilford’s exiting the District.
If the Selectboard approved leaving the District, Rude said, the decision would then go to voters via Australian ballot. If it passes, the town has to notify the District of its exit by Oct. 1, 2018.
“Then, you still have that full, remaining, nearly 10 months of the fiscal year until you’re officially out,” he added.
$25,000 in fees?
Prior to notifying the District, the town must receive approval of its Solid Waste Implementation Program by the Agency of Natural Resources, Rude said.
To exit, the town would incur $25,000 in fees in one year, and that’s “even before we started implementing our own [SWIP],” Morse said.
Beyond that, Guilford would have to pay costs associated with creating and implementing a SWIP, and for setting up and managing its own solid waste facilities, and for hazardous waste collection and public education, Morse added.
Leaving the District “would exponentially put the burden on residents,” Rude said, because they “would no longer have access to [the District’s facility at] Old Ferry Road,” and would have to contract with a private trash hauler to remove their garbage and recyclables.
And, he added, residents would also have to pay for the town’s higher costs.
Board member Verandah Porche told her colleagues, “there’s a lot of concern from people who are still going to the dump, and what would they do if we left” the District. Little said he also received comments from residents “concerned about their [dump] sticker.”
“It just doesn’t seem to make sense in the short or the long run,” Morse said, noting that the Selectboard can revisit the issue in the future.