Transfer Station: Selectmen asked to eliminate Recycling only permits and look at gradual shift to fully tax funded model

by beth on May 6, 2019

Post image for Transfer Station: Selectmen asked to eliminate Recycling only permits and look at gradual shift to fully tax funded model

Above: When the Town began offering discounted “Recycle Only” permits five years ago, haulers took away recyclables for free. That’s no longer the case. (photo by Beth Melo)

Changes in the industry have made recycling materials more expensive than trashing them. Given that reality, the Public Works Planning Board recommends eliminating the option for residents to purchase Recycling Only permits for the Transfer Station. That’s one of the issues the Board of Selectmen are scheduled to address this Tuesday night.

Selectmen will review the recommended 2019-2020 Rules & Regs for the Transfer Station. A memo from DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan, explains the big change recommended by the PWPB. It also asks selectmen to discuss a plan to gradually shift to fully funding the station through the tax base.

The recycling only permit was first introduced in 2015 after Town Meeting voters supported a resolution asking selectmen to offer the option. The Citizen’s Petition was led by resident Jack Barron. 

Barron argued that since recycling materials was free, access to that service should be available for residents at a steep discount over full access to the Transfer Station. Originally, he called for a $25 fee. But he allowed that selectmen might determine a higher figure reasonable given the expense of staffing the station. Selectmen ultimately settled on $50 that first year. By last year, that was $75. Still, that amount was just 30% of the regular permit fee.

According to Galligan’s memo, the situation has drastically changed. Recycling materials now costs the Town 17% more than disposing of refuse. 

The memo details the following recommended changes from the PWPB:

1) Due to the increased cost for recycling — the Recycle Only permit has been eliminated

a. the current recycling issues in China have changed the Town’s cost for recyclables;

b. prior to the recycling issues, the Town’s recyclables were removed and processed for free;

c. currently it is costing the Town $80/tn for recyclables — refuse is $68.18/tn;

d. recycling is a law — recyclable items are prohibited from the waste stream.

2) Transfer Station permits can now be purchased online, by mail at the Clerk’s Office or at the DPW

a. being able to purchase a permit at the DPW adds convenience for residents — it increases the number of hours that permits can be purchased and allows residents to stop at the DPW Office on their way to the Transfer Station;

b. this also helps the Clerk’s Office since the Town Clerk had a concern that budget cuts would affect his ability to sell permits while the Assistant Town Clerk was at training in July — so he suggested starting selling permits on August 1 — it is not a problem for the DPW to sell permits during July and it is more convenient for residents to have 2.5 months to get their permits.

3) The Town will not be paying the 2.95% credit and debit card charges for online purchases

Selectmen are being asked to consider those changes as part of their annual review of Transfer Station Rules & Regs. Since the Town Meeting vote was non-binding, the board has full authority to change the fees.

The memo also touched on selectmen’s past discussions about potentially eliminating sticker fees all together. Under that model, the Transfer Station would be fully funded by the Town’s tax funded operating budget. Currently, the station is partially funded by taxes and partially by permit sticker fees. 

Selectmen have previously debated keeping that model or moving to having it fully funded either by permit fees or taxes. Considering those changes was one of the challenges the board intended to take on this year.

The memo shares that the PWPB recommends a gradual shift to tax funding. But, they advise waiting another year to look into a plan. Galligan disagrees, opining Selectmen should consider the approach for this coming year:

because, in my experience, it is never a good time to move items into the tax base. Whether the Selectmen will even entertain this approach needs to be determined, and if the Selectmen are interested in looking at a 4 or 5-year plan, the Treasurer and I can put those schedules together. Ultimately, each residence is paying less per year to run this service through the tax base.

Discussion and potential vote on the changes is on the agenda for the May 7th, 6:30 pm Board of Selectmen meeting. You can view the agenda and the full memo in the packet here.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carl Guyer May 7, 2019 at 9:05 AM

So, the cost of recycling is now more expensive than simply burning the same materials. Gone are the days when recycled materials are a cheap alternative to using virgin materials. An interesting dilemna pitting the continued consumption of fixed natural resources against economic expediency.

The PWPB is trying to spread these new costs over a larger base, an interesting tactic, some of which do not use the Transfer Station.

An innovative approach which would associate cost with use. Implementation of PAYT for both household trash (“hopper material”) and recycled material would do this. We find a single stream vendor who accepts all recycled materials in a mixed format. Pricing of the bags would reflect the cost associated with the disposal of both types of material. This approach would not shift costs onto those not using the Transfer Station.

Trying to go back to 1955 is not really a good idea…..

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2 Alan May 7, 2019 at 10:34 AM

I would like to see the town mandate which private hauler is going to be used for those people not using the transfer station. Right now I have multiple private haulers going up and down my street on multiple days. It would be nice to get that down to one private hauler one day a week.

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3 Dean Dairy May 8, 2019 at 5:51 PM

Why is the first instinct to put more power in the hands of politicians? It’s an invitation to graft!

Simply publish the rates charged by the private haulers on a regular basis. When people have easy access to the information I guarantee you that individual consumers and the market will make optimal choices and winnow that group of haulers down to the most efficient and cost effective competitors.

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4 HonestAbespeaks@gmail.com May 9, 2019 at 3:17 PM

Sorry, Alan can’t be done. Different trash haulers have different pick up days, and differing pick up rules.

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5 talkin' trash May 7, 2019 at 10:04 AM

I would like to recommend the following changes to the Southborough Transfer Station rules, etc.

1. Bring back the free senior citizen transfer station stickers. Is the town really so
desperate for revenue it has to resort to such a tactic? What percentage of seniors
make up the population of people using the STS (Southborough Transfer Station)?
Remember, sooner or later YOU will be that 65 year old person – and living on limited
resources. Not all Southborough residents are [b,m]illionaires! People typically stay
in Southborough once they’ve moved here. If you’ve lived here for 5, 10, 20 or more
years and have bought STS stickers all of that time, doesn’t it seem enlightened to
allow a senior the free use of the STS? How much trash do these empty-nesters
generate? How many of them even go through the effort of hauling their own trash to
the STS?

2. ELIMINATE the recycle-only option! PLEASE!!! Since its inception, the ‘thrift shop’
has become a dumping ground for TRASH by those recycle-only sticker holders. If
anyone is in doubt of this statement, please visit the trash – oops – I mean ‘thrift’
shop at your earliest convenience. One or both of those buildings is/are typically filled
with TRASH. These are not typically items that someone else could use – they’re
most often broken, filthy and/or completely worn out. In other words, they’re trash that
is getting left in the ‘thrift’ shops because the items cannot be placed in the crusher.

3. Institute substantial fees for businesses using the STS facility. Homeowners, throwing
household trash and recyclables are subsidizing businesses discarding truckloads of
trash. REDUCE the charges to homeowners and INCREASE the fees to businesses.
But won’t the businesses stop using the STS? Fine – go somewhere else!

4. As for simply adding a STS fee to the tax bill for every town resident, I say GO FOR IT
It’s something like the schools. Not everyone has children using the Southborough
public schools, yet we all contribute ~70% of our tax bills to keep them running. That
money pays for salaries, buses and building upkeep. We’re already paying STS
salaries and STS upkeep. If people choose to drive their kids to school – even though
they’re paying for the bus service, what’s the difference between that and paying for
STS services they’re not using by hiring a private trash hauler?

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6 beth May 7, 2019 at 3:21 PM

I am confused by your #2. I can’t find anything in the suggested new rules that shows eliminating the free permits for seniors.

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7 talkin' trash May 12, 2019 at 3:52 PM

It’s actually #1 above.

The free stickers for seniors was phased out a few months ago. It was changed to limit the exemption only to those people born before 12/31/1954. Those people born after that date, even when they turn 65, will no longer qualify for free STS stickers.

This strikes many as a pretty sleazy mode by the BOS. Is this town *so* desperate for revenue that it would deny free transfer station stickers to the handful of age 65+ residents? I guess everyone is aware that seniors generate mountains more trash than families with children (NOT!!!). It is most certainly not the Southborough seniors who are filling the hopper/crusher with trash, furniture, construction debris, etc.

Try charging the business users of the STS a different rate than the homeowners! That’s #3 above.

That is why I posted #1 (not #2) above – to bring back the senior exemption for transfer station stickers.

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8 beth May 13, 2019 at 8:22 AM

Unless someone has explained that to you, I believe you are jumping to a conclusion. The math still works out the same as it has every year. It is always for people 65 by 12/31. Every year, the year is changed. The fact that they are now clarifying it up front as born by a date instead of in small print as birthday by a date doesn’t signify a change in policy.

I’m guessing it’s to make the cutoff more apparent. I would presume that in the past some residents who purchased stickers while they were still 64 didn’t realize that they were entitled to free ones because they were turning 65 later in the year.

In fact, last summer, the communications from the Clerk’s Office had shown the 2 free stickers for “Seniors born on or before 12/31/1953”. The same date was listed on the mail in form: https://southboroughtransfer.cityhallsystems.com/Mail%20in%20form.pdf

This year, the discount will still apply for anyone turning 65 by the end of the year. You are right that the website now currently lists 1954 instead. I don’t know how/why but that seems to be giving some 64 year olds an early discount rather than stripping away from any 65 year olds.

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9 Dean Dairy May 8, 2019 at 5:43 PM

Environmentally, the most efficient thing to recycle are beverage containers, specifically aluminum cans. For that reason and litter abatement, the state government imposes a 5-10 cent deposit on those containers to incentivize their recycle.

Exploitatively, the Town government now charges its townspeople $75/year for the privilege of being able to donate the proceeds of those deposits as a gift to a charity.

The Town should allow people to donate deposit beverage containers — objects of redeemable value — to charity at no charge.

Moving the full transfer station to a tax-funded model is the worst idea. The proper role of tax-funded disposal is to encourage the proper disposal of household hazardous materials and to allow donation of deposit beverage containers to charity.

Otherwise, charge a dump fee or people can hire their own private hauler.

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10 Matthew May 8, 2019 at 7:31 PM

Here’s my solution…
No recycling only permits.
Seniors get a break, maybe not free but no way near full price. The idea is that they use less so are likely to throw out less.
The average residential citizen pays the same as they do now.
Vehicles with commercial plates pay more. At least twice. If you have commercial plates then the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has determined your vehicle is used for a business.

Anyone unsure why there should be three tiers should watch the vehicles for an hour or so that visit the hopper. The answers are there. Perhaps the cameras could be made webcams so these activities are more transparent.

Check out this link if there is any confusion regarding what the Commonwealth has determined to be a commercial vs a private vehicle registration.
http://www.agordon.com/commercial-insurance-blog/bid/125444/do-i-need-commercial-plates-for-my-massachusetts-vehicle

The last time I suggested this a selectmen said they have commercial plates on their truck but do not haul a lot of waste so they shouldn’t pay more. I can now comfortably say that it is not what you do but what you are likely to do with the vehicle type you possess given that you have chosen to register the vehicle as commercial. You know what you are doing with your truck and you registered it as commercial. Your choice.

Let’s not think or talk about this anymore, just charge more for those using more and less for those using less.

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