Shaftsbury Select Board votes to double trash disposal fees

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SHAFTSBURY — In an move to reduce operating deficits, the Select Board has unanimously voted to double the cost of disposing of trash at the transfer station.

The change increases the cost of disposal by $1 per 12 pounds, and goes into effect July 1. This is the first rate change in nearly 14 years.

Every year, the town runs about $50,000 to $70,000 behind in operating the transfer station, said David Kiernan, town administrator, who attended the Jan. 6 meeting.

"We've been talking about it for a while — the fact that we haven't raised the cost," Board Chairman Tim Scoggins said on Wednesday. "[The town is] subsidizing the transfer station more than we want to at the moment. It's just time to make an adjustment."

Going from $1 to $2 sounds like "quite a jump," but the fact is, it's not convenient to handle fractions of a dollar in cash at the transfer station, he said.

This change isn't to make the transfer station fully user-funded, he said.

The town has always intended to subsidize part of the cost, in order to prevent people from disposing of trash unlawfully, he said.

The town receives money for the transfer station from trash disposal fees and access permits, and also gets taxpayer funding.

"It's just gotten to be too much," Scoggins said at Monday's meeting of the town's subsidizing the station. "By raising this a dollar, we'll still be subsidizing it significantly, just not ridiculously."

It's important to trust people, said board member Tony Krulikowski, adding that people in Shaftsbury are honest, and properly weigh their trash.

"If you get them bags [prices] too high, you're going to find them by the side of the road," said Ken Harrington, board member, adding that he wanted to keep the rates as low as possible.

At the meeting, Kiernan said he believes adding $1 per 12 pounds would generate $32,000 to $36,000 in increased revenue per fiscal year.

That represents "significant reduction" in the deficit, he said.

"There's no way [to stay] at $1 [per 12 pounds]," he said. "Landfill operations is losing about $50,000 a year — a good year. It's just time to equalize this, a little bit."

The transfer station rates have remained the same since 2006, when a rate of $1 for disposing of a 12-pound or lighter bag of trash at the transfer station went into effect, he said.

The current fee schedule for "pay-as-you-throw" municipal solid waste is $2 for 13-24 pounds, $3 for 25-36 pounds and $4 for 37-48 pounds, according to the town website.

That will change to $4 for 13-24 pounds, $6 for 25-36 pounds and $8 for 37-48 pounds come July 1, Kiernan said.

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Shaftsbury probably has the lowest disposal prices of towns in the area, Kiernan said, using Pownal as an example.

According to the town of Pownal's website, it currently costs $2 to dispose of a 13-gallon plastic bag of undesignated household trash at the town's transfer station.

"Essentially, what you have is the non-users are subsidizing the users of the transfer station," Kiernan said.

He said the town has to bring revenue up, to be in line with other towns.

The town sells about 440 access permits to the transfer station a year.

Kiernan said the transfer station collected, on average, 93 percent of the total payments for municipal solid waste disposal it should have over the course of fiscal years 2015-18.

"Ninety-three percent I think is pretty good," Kiernan said. "If you raise prices every 14 years, I think that's being kind of reasonable."

Last year, he said, that payment collection percentage was around 80 percent, but that corresponded with the time the station was "a mess" as operations were being moved to a new location on North Road.

When asked why the topic came up at this point, Kiernan said "we had been talking around the edges of this for a couple of years now."

"Everything's just simply more expensive," he said. "At some point, you have to make the decision — when are we going to raise our rates?"

At Monday's meeting, Kiernan told the board there's no reason to raise the cost for an access permit for the transfer station.

"We'll leave it at $20," he said. "It's really just to identify you as a resident."

The board did not voice any disagreement with that idea.

At the meeting, Kiernan also recommended the town look into its contract with Casella Waste Systems.

"I think we need to sit down and go over the contract with them," he said, adding that the town is paying the company for solid waste removal on top of the management contract.

"There are things to look at here," he said. "I think we have a lot of things to discuss with Casella over the next year, as we look into the new contract, but I think we can save some money there. There's ways to make this work better for everybody."

When reached Tuesday, Kiernan said he doesn't believe the town will revisit the trash disposal charges for "quite some time," unless there's a push from others to do so.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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