Selectmen to discuss proposal to change Transfer Station funding

by beth on November 15, 2019

Post image for Selectmen to discuss proposal to change Transfer Station funding

On Tuesday night, the Town Treasurer will present a plan to significantly change how residents pay for use of the Transfer Station. The goal is to move towards mostly funding the trash and recycling station through taxes.

For years, the station has been funded by a close to even split between taxes and user fees. Over the past few years, selectmen have discussed changing the funding model. But there has been debate between members who favored having it fully tax funded with free access to all residents and others who opined it should be fully funded by those who use it.

The proposal next week would be a gradual change to almost fully tax funded operations. A $50 fee would remain to:

maintain the current registration system for obtaining a permit to ensure that residents of town are the only users of the system and to maintain enforcement.

If selectmen approve the proposal, permit fees would be gradually reduced from the current $250 permit fee over 3 years. In turn, most seniors would see an increase over two years from no fee access to paying $25. The plan would keep the current fee waiver for residents who meet hardship requirements.

The Public Works Superintendent’s memo states that the Public Works Planning Board unanimously endorsed the plan in August. Karen Galligan’s memo explains:

By doing this, the average annual cost for use of the station will be reduced from $265.29, a $250.00 permit and $15.29 being born in the tax rate, to $147.51, a $50 permit fee and $97.51 born in the tax rate. This represents a total reduction in the average family’s cost of using the transfer station of $1 17.78. Each permit would be good for a maximum of three cars, meaning the second and third permits in a household would be free.

The PWPB believes that building the costs of the transfer and recycling station into the tax base would generate financial relief for permit holders, give the town greater budget predictability and allow the Town to focus on the transfer station’s capital infrastructure over he next five years, which is badly in need of upgrades.

Another benefit that was discussed was eliminating the need for a separate recycling only permit

The discussion is posted on the agenda for this Tuesday night, November 19th in the Town House Hearing Room. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 pm. 

Last spring, the Board of Selectmen indicated they wanted to tackle this issue Annual Town Meeting in March 2020. Although there is potential for selectmen to vote next week, this could also be just the start of a longer conversation this budget season. 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carl Guyer November 15, 2019 at 8:50 PM

We truly live with a math challenged government. Sure the average cost goes down if you start making those who do not use the facility pay for it. It is is a race to the bottom
these days.

Does this make sense to anyone ?

“By doing this, the average annual cost for use of the station will be reduced from $265.29, a $250.00 permit and $15.29 being born in the tax rate, to $147.51, a $50 permit fee and $97.51 born in the tax rate. This represents a total reduction in the average family’s cost of using the transfer station of $1 17.78. Each permit would be good for a maximum of three cars, meaning the second and third permits in a household would be free.”

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2 Al Hamilton November 16, 2019 at 8:35 AM

This is a bad idea on several levels:

1. Right now, the people who use the transfer station pay for it (or most of it) and those that do not use it (private hauler customers) don’t pay for it except for a very small tax subsidy. This is not a service with widespread external benefits such as fire, schools or police, why should those that choose a different way of disposing of their waste be forced to subsidize this enterprise?

2. I am a bit baffled by the numbers. We are going to make this “free” and the unit costs are going to decline by 45% ?!?!? What about the total cost. What will the total cost of operating the station be under each scenario? If you make it “free” presumably some number of people will switch from private haulers to the public service. This in turn will lead to an increase in tonnage. Given we pay by the ton the total cost, now fully borne by the taxpayers will increase as will the demands on the taxpayers wallets.

This proposal seems more likely designed to create a political base for the planned “infrastructure improvements” including a new “Pit” which will be expensive. Specifically, it is designed to avoid asking the question “Should Southborough be in the trash business at all given the presence of a competitive private hauler solution?”

As for the argument of avoiding the split sticker fees, that is a red herring. Doing something to avoid a minor administrative hassle is not a reason to act. The fee itself should probably be examined given that the value of the recycled materials has declined recently.

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3 just say NO! November 16, 2019 at 4:35 PM

I do not know why we have the ongoing hostility to the seniors in this town. Really! Again, the BOS is trying th shaft the seniors because a few people squeak about their free passes to the transfer station. Well, get a clue! Those seniors have most likely been buying transfer station passes for years.

NO FEE! Period.

we know what happens. The ‘promise’ will be that it ‘will be only $25 per year’. Sure, to start with. Then in a couple of years it will go up – then up again, and again and so on.

NO FEE FOR SENIORS!

If the BOS wants to go the taxes route, then keep the current approach and lower the fees charged those who are currently paying them.

Better yet, start CHARGING the commercial users, who dump truckloads, MORE than the homeowners. We discard a basketball sized bag of trash weekly. Everything else goes into recycling.

The so-called Thrift Shop has become a new dumping ground for refuse of all sorts – yuk! Soiled furniture, broken electronics, etc. Not so very nice. Ever since the great scandal of a few years back, the Thrift Shop has never been the same. Junk Shop.

BOS – bad idea.

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4 Carl Guyer November 17, 2019 at 9:59 AM

Ok, lets break this down

There are four groups being affected by this change.

Those who currently pay $250 for a sticker, Seniors who are given stickers, residents who do not use the Transfer Station and lastly commercial and industrial real estate tax payers.

In the first group, those paying for transfer station sticker and own a home close to the average assessed value (about $617,000), they will save the $117.00 as described in the article. Those with homes of higher value will save less and those with homes below the average will save more.

In the second group, Seniors getting free stickers, they of course will seeing an increase in there tax bill. Those owning home above the average will see larger increases and those with homes below the average assessment will see smaller increases. There will then be the addition of $25 transfer station sticker fee.

The third group, those residents not using the Transfer Station, they will see an increase in there real estate tax bill, again according to the value of their home.

The last group, commercial and industrial property owners, will see an increase in their real tax bill. They, of course, are not allowed to use the transfer station.

This disassociation of cost from use is counter-productive and environmentally unfriendly. How many of those not using the Transfer Station now will find a cost advantage do so now and increase the operating costs is not known. As a town operated utility, if cost was associated with use, those using the transfer station would have an incentive to limit wasteful behavior or at least not dump things like construction debris or an attic purge on to the town.

Here is a suggestion. The Public Works Planning Board might want to do more planning. Trying to spread out the costs associated needed capital improvements like this without indicating what the impact of these costs will be is dirty pool. They should know, shouldn’t they ? If you are going to charge everybody the cost of trash disposal, maybe having curb-side pickup might be a better option, and let everyone benefit.

Finally, the world is changing. The PWPB needs to figure out how we are going to handle costs now associated with recycled material. It looks like the days of discarding recycled material at no cost are gone. There is the possibility of having the cost of recycled material disposal costing more than sending material to the incinerator. This nothing new, in the past sending material to the incinerator cost more than simply dumping it in a landfill.

As the former Chairman of the Recycling Committee, I always championed the implementation of a Pay-As-You-Throw implementation at the Transfer Station. It is cost/use model that is very effective. Well, too effective, for some.

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5 just say NO! November 18, 2019 at 7:51 AM

Other towns provide curbside pickup for all of their residents. The cost is build in to the real estate taxes levied on everyone. If someone needs to haul something to the transfer station, they need to provide identification showing they’re a resident.

If the town or DPW wants to save money, install a card-controlled gate for access to the transfer station facility. This will alleviate illegal users and free the time someone currently spends (read $ – we’re paying someone to do this!) reviewing video of cars arriving at the transfer station and matching their license plates to a database of stickered vehicles.

Someone has too much free time on their hands to come up with the multi-tiered approach described in the original story.

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6 Tom November 18, 2019 at 10:29 AM

Agree completely with Just Say No. Someone does have too much free time on their hands to come up with the approach in the original story. Just Say No is on to a good solution: install a card-controlled gate. Also, stop massive dumping by contractors, which no one seems to do. Their dumping is huge and a big part of the problem. Many think that those measures for now are just good common sense.

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7 Frank Crowell November 18, 2019 at 11:31 AM

Top three mysteries that will never be resolved in Southborough:

Why large contractor loads are allowed in the dumpster (how many years has this been brought up on this blog)?

Why our town officials cannot follow open meeting laws even when many are lawyers?

Why our per student cost is higher than surrounding communities?

Probably should add why we allow such low PILOT payments from large non-profits?

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8 Tom November 26, 2019 at 11:30 PM

Frank, it seems that none of the very good mysteries you raise above will ever get an answer. As for the Open Meeting Law violations, the topic finally made the BOS agenda as an actual category mention (versus under “other business” where these topics have been addressed).

Disappointment was to be expected. There was a tone of bitter resentment in “owning” the violations and zero appreciation expressed to those who worked for normalcy, i.e. the now good transparency, the now in-place improvements, and the now actual compliance with state law. No appreciation at all expressed.

Why anyone would have to turn to the state to get the town to listen and comply with the law can be added to your list as Mystery #4.

While stating that BOS “owned” the violations, Mr. Shea’s resentment at the AGO’s violation letter was palpable, which made the “ownership” a disappointing letdown. It remains puzzling as to your point #2: “why our town officials cannot follow open meeting laws even when many are lawyers” and you left out: they get a copy of Open Meeting Law, including town counsel. Mr. Shea appeared defensive even in light of years of numerous violations.

The most disappointing part is the lack of recognition of all the hard work that went into bringing these many matters to light for a resolution that resulted in the immense improvements now put in place. It is important to note that the BOS did not originate any improvements. The BOS only took action after discipline by the AGO. As for discussion, only Sam Stivers asked Chairman Shea the most relevant question. He asked Mr. Shea about cause, examining how and why did the violations happen.

Generally speaking, it was actually sad to listen to the spin and lack of accountability. Spin does not work. Voters see right through it. Change will continue at the ballot box. The taxpayers are the winners with this hard-won transparency and better functioning local government.

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9 arborist November 18, 2019 at 2:58 PM

Has anyone looked into privatizing the transfer station ? Let a private contractor with a degree in waste management run it, let them pay the bills for repairs and disposal of All the trash / metals etc. etc., Put it out to bid and see what happens, I have a feeling the town would save a ton of money. What baffles me is that I don’t hear of other towns around us constantly complaining about their transfer station and how to run them, Or the town should look into taking it away from DPW control , Creating a sanitation dept., with a chief having an education/ degree in waste management. and business. admin. Those are the only 2 things I have right now.

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10 Trixie November 18, 2019 at 3:05 PM

Does anyone else think this change may overwhelm the Transfer Station, especially on Saturdays? If a sticker is only $50, will as many residents still use private haulers?

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11 just say NO! November 19, 2019 at 7:58 AM

Of course many people currently using private haulers will revert to taking their own trash if the fee is reduced to $50 (and, based on the proposal, subsidized by the seniors in town!).

As Tom noted above, why the ongoing “massive dumping by contractors”? WE, the townspeople of Southborough, are paying for their dumping! A card-controlled access gate would resolve this, providing the same contractors are not issued cards – are we listening DPW?

And finally we come to the DPW management of the transfer station. It may well be time, as arborist noted above, to consider a distinct department, apart from the DPW – or privatization of the transfer station in order to save money and improve the operation of the transfer station. Typically, there’s nobody around in the recycle area and/or Junk Shop areas. The recycle bins always seem to contain non-recyclable objects and the Junk Shop is loaded with, literally, refuse. Why are people allowed to leave items there that belong in the crusher? Broken and heavily soiled furniture, broken electronics, computer monitors (still!!!), compact fluorescent bulbs, filthy toys, etc. Those items comprise ~90% of the objects found in the transfer station Junk Shop.

Yuk!

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12 JMO November 25, 2019 at 10:27 PM

I have to disagree with just say no! The description of nobody being around in the recycle area is untrue. You can always knock on the door of the shed if you need assistance. The recycling bins containing non-recyclable objects may be true at times, but that is hardly the fault of the workers. Try educating the citizens of Southborough. Recycling isn’t rocket science. People should be able to get it right. It’s not their job to examine every piece of recyclable material. As far as the junk in the Swap Shop, once again that’s on the citizens who drop stuff off, however the 90% figure is just untrue. And, there is the adage one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

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13 Ravi Mynampaty November 19, 2019 at 7:07 AM

The memo on p.14 of the agenda indicates that they are willing to “…look at other options.”
https://www.southboroughtown.com/sites/southboroughma/files/agendas/selectmens_11-19-19_agenda_packet-web.pdf

Al’s question must also be included as an option: “Should Southborough be in the trash business at all given the presence of a competitive private hauler solution?”

I agree that tonnage is likely to increase if the sticker price is reduced.

So, I hope the BOS will ask that the following be included in the spreadsheet (p.15 of above PDF) for analysis:

– Additional Scenario: Southborough gets out of the trash business
– Total cost under each scenario (under various assumptions of increased tonnage)

-Ravi Mynampaty

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14 n November 19, 2019 at 1:35 PM

Has Advisory reviewed the public works memo and presentation that will be made to the BOS?

Does Advisory it agree with the presentation and conclusions noted?

The issue does not appear to have been included on the agenda for recent Advisory meetings.

With so many reasonable questions being raised in these comments, I hope Advisory has a chance to review and make a recommendation if it has not already done so.

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15 Ben November 19, 2019 at 7:51 PM

I think now is a good time to reopen the steel bin so people can utilize it as it had been in the past.
Since the town pays to get rid of the recyclables why not give it away to people willing to repurpose it.
There has been many a power tool, outdoor equipment, bicycles etc that I and many others have repurposed.
This topic has come up on many occasion at the swap shop, many people have been shut out by the ire of one person. We the abiding citizens have been made to pay penalty. One scoff law that not once been warned but on 6 occasions as they have gloated about it . I say reopen it , Who’s with me!

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16 Alan November 20, 2019 at 12:09 PM

I agree with Ben. It’s time to reopen the steel section.

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17 southsider November 21, 2019 at 11:53 AM

If adopted, will the additional users finally force some expanded hours??

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