Selectmen increase sticker fee, but leave Transfer Station hours as they are

by susan on June 5, 2013

There were a number of potential changes on the table last night as selectmen discussed Transfer Station operations – reduced hours, an increased sticker fee, new fees for disposal of bulky items, and a wintertime closure for the Swap Shop. In the end, selectmen voted to increase the cost of a Transfer Station sticker, but rejected most of the other changes.

Selectmen voted 2-1 to raise the cost of a sticker from $175 to $220. The full rate will be charged if you purchase your sticker in person at the DPW office, but a discounted rate of $200 is available to those who apply by mail. If you purchase your sticker late – after October 1 – the price jumps to $250. Seniors will continue to get their stickers at no cost.

The $220 rate was a middle ground for the board. Chairman Dan Kolenda initially proposed a fee of $250, which would bring in enough revenue to fully cover the cost of operating the Transfer Station. Selectman Bill Boland, on the other hand, felt tax money should be used to subsidize trash disposal, and suggested a sticker fee of $210, with a $25 fee for seniors.

Selectman John Rooney voted to oppose raising the sticker fee, preferring instead to consider a use-based model like pay as you throw.

The proposal to reduce Transfer Station hours from four 10-hour days to three 8-hour days – a proposal that concerned many of you – was never even discussed by the board. At the start of last night’s meeting, DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan cited a lack of support and called the proposal a “no-go.”

Galligan’s initial proposal also called for closing the Swap Shop from mid-October to mid-April. Later this summer the Swap Shop will take up residence in two of the three new sheds built by Assabet students adjacent to the recycling area. The driveway to the sheds will not be paved, and Galligan told the board she wanted to close the area for safety reasons during months that may be muddy or snowy.

Boland agreed with the proposal on the condition the Swap Shop would reopen for a few weeks over the Christmas holiday, but Kolenda and Rooney opposed the idea, saying the Swap Shop should be open year-round. Boland ultimately voted in favor of keeping the Swap Shop open throughout the winter, except for temporary closures due to safety reasons.

The board also rejected proposed fees for bulky items like furniture and construction debris. Boland said he would support charging for disposal of appliances like refrigerators which contain chemicals the town must pay to dispose of properly, but the board did not vote to enact such a fee on white goods.

At Kolenda’s suggestion, the board voted to institute two yard waste days each year – one in April and one in October – to allow residents without a Transfer Station sticker to dispose of yard debris.

Rooney opposed the board’s vote last night, saying the town needs to make substantive changes to its operations in the face of a dim fiscal outlook. Rooney said expenses will outweigh revenue by approximately $500K next year, with residents facing a 10% rise in property taxes over the next two years combined, along with a possible Proposition 2-1/2 override.

“We can ignore the problem and increase the fees,” Rooney said. “But we need to recognize if we are not going to address this issue…property taxes are surely going up, and other services in town are going to suffer.”

What do you think? Do you agree with the board’s decision? Did they go far enough? Too far? Share your thougths in the comments below.

1 Pat Q. June 5, 2013 at 12:32 PM

“Rooney opposed the board’s vote last night, saying the town needs to make substantive changes to its operations in the face of a dim fiscal outlook. Rooney said expenses will outweigh revenue by approximately $500K next year, with residents facing a 10% rise in property taxes over the next two years combined, along with a possible Proposition 2-1/2 override.”
What do I think? I think this town will never be able to make the tough decisions it needs to make to address its fiscal woes. I agree with Mr. Rooney and his willingness to not want to raise fees but to actually address the issue. PAYT is not popular…so what? Reducing hours at the Transfer station is not popular and makes it a little more difficult for some people…..so what? This isn’t about making it easier to dispose of trash, it is about starting to address the financial issues of the town one small step at a time.

If the handling of this issue is any indication, there is no hope for tackling the bigger issues. It is very frustrating.

2 SB Resident June 5, 2013 at 3:29 PM

The point is we are willing to pay for this. We don’t want it cut! It’s about value and the little money to be gained isn’t worth the cost.

In my personal finances if I am about to go into debt and I don’t want to give up my daily coffee, that doesn’t mean I won’t trade in my bmw for honda.

3 Pat Q. June 5, 2013 at 5:24 PM

Who is “we” as in “we don’t want it cut”? Don’t include me in that “we” and don’t include “elder” who posted below.

To me, it’s not about the “little money to be gained not being worth the cost” but more about people not being able to deal with a little bit of change (so we can keep sticker prices the same) without their world coming to a screeching halt because they can’t dispose of trash on a Wednesday anymore. Sheesh…

Also, “little money to be gained”? How about it will mean a little more money staying in our pockets for once?

Yet again, we are going to see sticker prices rise for everyone. No changes made for commercial plates, no fees for bulky items like furniture, refrigerators, or construction debris? Nothing? I get to continue to help fund the disposal of someone’s home construction debris and people who lug in their refrigerator or stove? No changes to make it more fair, or cut backs to service to save just a little….both in taxes and fees.
Nope. It’s all much ado about nothing.

4 resident June 5, 2013 at 5:46 PM

I agree with Pat and the great points made. Especially about those with commercial plates having to pay an increased fee was that even talked. Instead just increase everyones fee and we can just pay for them to dispose of their commercial debri.

5 pdietz June 6, 2013 at 6:20 AM

I feel bad for people who don’t have much trash. I can remember and not too long ago when the sticker prices were $75 in Southborough. WOW, times surely have changed. I keep careful track of my PAYT expenses in a neighboring town and they don’t come close to what Southborough residents will soon be paying.

6 SB Resident June 5, 2013 at 12:54 PM

All seems to be going to plan, raise it 2-3x the amount that the actually cost is increasing and in a few years it will be self-funding.

My bigger concern is how willing Rooney is to say the most ridiculous things.

7 Elder June 5, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Looking at the 5 year financial documents, my taxes are set to go up 10.75% in the next two years. I live on a fixed income, take advantage of senior center discounts, already rely on family, and really will not be able to afford this type of increase. I already get a free sticker, but who cares since I can’t afford a town I’ve been in for 42 years.

8 Unreal June 5, 2013 at 5:49 PM

We have the opportunity to potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars by changing our trash system to the way other towns do it, but we won’t because we don’t like to buy bags or stickers or because we can’t hang out at the dump. This is the ultimate in snobbery. SB Resident, if that is who you include as “we” count me out also.

9 SB Resident June 6, 2013 at 11:24 AM

To all who wonder who the ‘we’ is? It is the ‘we the majority’ as derived from this doc.

http://www.southboroughtown.com/administration/SouthboroughCapstoneFinal.pdf

10 Matthew June 5, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Is it too late to get the BOS to revise a few things?
The TS should start watching for commercial waste violators and raise commercial vehicle sticker prices by three times since they likely pass off this expense as tipping charges to their clients and its a tax deduction for their business. We all know it happens, it’s time to put a stop to it!

Big items should get charged a separate fee. It’s how it’s done all over and those that don’t will be doing so soon.

The trouble is really with the availability of labor at the TS. They don’t always have someone watching the hopper and they can’t even police who it tossing TVs in the metal section. How were they going to go through with PAYT if there isn’t anyone there to watch? That additional expense would have come up later as a surprise I’m sure.

I think it’s time to put recycling dumpsters by the hopper maybe just on the busiest days so that people can get the whole job done in one stop. Or a trash dumpster in place of one of the recycling hoppers.

“WE” can do better than just raising fees and threatening to reduce availability of services. How about more effort to make the process more efficient. I think making it more of a one stop facility is a start but are there other suggestions?

11 Jerry C June 5, 2013 at 6:50 PM

The selectmen did a good job on this. Thanks again for the hard work… and for being willing to do that job and make these decisions.

If a $250 sticker fee is break even, that is an AMAZING deal. The people of Southborough get a convenient trash and re-cycling center, open several days a week, includes a swap shop, has an area for groups to sell raffle tickets, girl scout cookiers, etc and the cost is about $5 a week per family, and takes all of your trash.

We’re also able to subsidize seniors…. which we should do to the best extent we are able.

To sum it up, we are a fortunate town and the envy of most communities. We have some problems to solve, but I’m confident we’ll figure them out.

12 M June 5, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Thank you Jerry. That is truly a view we haven’t heard. While I was helping my family members who live in other towns, I have seen horrible “dumps” where I didn’t even want to get out of the car. One of the reasons that our citizens protest about changes to the TS here is because it is a useful and efficient place which also makes us feel good about our recycling effort. So $5 a wk, while subsidizing seniors, is a good deal. The BOS and the Advisory Board need to find bigger and more creative ways to address our tax situation.

13 Frank Crowell June 7, 2013 at 9:13 AM

Jerry C – do you think the two school committees can find $500K between the two school budgets so that taxes remain and town services remain constant?

Or is this just too much to ask?

14 Judy June 5, 2013 at 11:34 PM

I think when SB Resident used the “WE” statement he was referring to the 74% of respondents in the 2011 town survey that wanted the TS to remain the way it is. That being said, as a resident of 46 years I have seen the town go from a 100% tax funded landfill to a 100% tax funded TS to where we are currently with buying stickers. There is now doubt that the Southboro TS is one of the best dumps in that area if there can be such a thing. The fact that we can dispose of almost everything is unheard of in other towns. I too do not use the school system so it is sad to see the service picked on when its time to streamline the budget. I agree with Jerry that to fully fund the TS for $250.00 per year is a dream. People in other towns are paying much more a year for much less. The cost for private pickup would cost much more as well. Even at $250.00 a sticker it is still a good deal although I would still like to see it 100% tax funded. I think the reason Mr. Boland wants some to be tax funded is so we can still offer the free sticker for the seniors. If we go to a 100% sticker funded TS someone will complain that they are now paying for the seniors. If we charge more (or not allow at all) for commercial haulers to dump and figure out how to keep the free senior stickers with a 100% sticker funded TS the problem would be solved. I have yet to speak to anyone using a PAT system that is happy with it and has not seen an increase in littering and illegal dumping in there town. I also do not know when we started allowing commercial dumping. When the TS first opened and for many years, if a truck had a business name on the door they where not allowed to dump, period. The town is offering a service to the towns people, not the business, most other towns do not allow commercial dumping.

I do hope we can find a solution without changing the TS.

15 Publius June 6, 2013 at 11:07 AM

This decision kicks the can down the road. Eventually there must be separate charges for large items and higher fees for commerial. Question. Why do seniors essentially get a free pass ?

16 Mark Ford June 7, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Answer: Out of respect, Publius. It’s a small gesture we can give our Seniors.

Now as to commercial/large items, I don’t understand THAT at all. I’m so tired of seeing commercial trucks full of construction debris dumping at the station…

17 concerned_resident June 9, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Fellow SB residents.

I am just dumb founded that this Transfer Station issue is still unresolved. Town folk have weighed in via this site and BOS meetings and have expressed a strong desire to keep the TS operational including the Swap Shop and not reduce hours or services. Good suggestions were presented more than a year ago to reduce operating costs and place them where they belong…. on those that dump commercially or otherwise place an extraordinary amount of trash/waste into the system. I dont trust the DPW to make any valuable recommendations… all seem to lead to less work at the TS….. Hurray for John Rooney, the only BOS member who has his head on straight.

18 SouthSider June 10, 2013 at 1:33 PM

I believe it is Mr Rooney who has most insistently campaigned for changes to how the TS is operated and funded despite what concerned resident has said is the townfolks’ “strong desire” to maintain status quo.
I think this particular hooray is mis-directed..

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