Would you pay $160 for a Transfer Station sticker? $175? How about $250? Those were all proposals considered by the Board of Selectmen at a meeting earlier this week.
The problem selectmen say is that the current cost of a sticker ($140) doesn’t come close to covering the cost of disposing Southborough’s trash. Selectman John Rooney said the town takes in about $290K annually from the sale of Transfer Station stickers, but pays out $540K to run the station, resulting in a $250K deficit.
“We can’t cover the cost from stickers,” Rooney said. “Any smart business person would say we need to do something about that.”
Selectmen agreed the long-term solution may be to privatize the Transfer Station, and they asked DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan to investigate the options. She’s expected to report back on her findings in the fall.
Whatever Galligan comes back with, it’s not going to be a quick fix, leaving selectmen with a decision on how to manage costs in the meantime. Rooney said the cost of a Transfer Station sticker would have to increase to $258 in order for the town to break even, but he said he didn’t support raising the fee that high.
“That’s just too much money for the average resident to increase the sticker fee,” he said.
Selectman Dan Kolenda agreed increasing the cost to $258 this year would be too drastic a change, but he said the town should plan on reaching that level within the next three years.
“I don’t think we have an option (but to raise the fee),” he said. “I think we need to get in short order to a level where it’s self-funded.”
Kolenda suggested increasing the cost of a sticker to $175 this year. Rooney agreed, but Selectman Bill Boland felt that was still too high of an increase, saying the Transfer Station does not need to be self-funding.
“I think tax subsidy of waste disposal is not a bad thing,” he said. “I’m not against an increase, but I don’t think we need to cover all our Transfer Station expenses.”
Boland suggested increasing the fee to $160.
Last year the Board of Selectmen raised the cost of a Transfer Station sticker from $110 to $140.
Resident Leo Bartolini, who attended this week’s meeting, warned selectmen against raising the sticker price too high, saying doing so might cause residents to illegally dump trash on back roads and other out-of-the-way spots to avoid the fee.
After nearly an hour of discussion and with no resolution in sight, the board decided to defer its decision to next week.
There is, quite frankly, not a compelling case for the town being in the trash business at all. This is a service that is very effectively offered by the private sector. There are any number of private haulers that will come to your house and deal with your trash and recycling. Where there is a perfectly reasonable private sector alternative why should the government get involved at all. Yes, private haulers now charge in the $400 range per year but where is it written that you have the right to subsidized disposal of your waste? That only encourages making more waste.
So, at a minimum I would suggest that we charge the full cost of running the transfer station and demand that the facility break even or go out of business. I looked at the study that was done for the full cost comparison and I think it was reasonable except that it did not include the costs of retirement benefits which would probably put the facility very close to the private haulers number.
In addition if we chose to exit the trash business I suspect that unit collection costs for private haulers would decline as would their prices.
Also, the town should consider a recycling only sticker. I think that would be a real plus as it is difficult to recycle some items with private haulers.
Al, I suspect that unit collection costs would not go down. The haulers would know that we no longer have the lower cost do-it-yourself option.
There are already 2 or 3 companies serving Southborough with private haulers services. Competition no regulation is the best way to assure cost effective solutions.
Where is it written that other services should not be self-funding ? maybe start charging fees for other services as well.
Perhaps. Rec does a fine job as an example.
For me the question is are there substantial third party benefits or costs that the market does not effectively capture. Economists call them externalities. Where these exist there is a strong case for collective action. In my mind for, Schools, Police, Fire, Roads, Parks and even Open Space the case has been made, there is a reasonable case for collective (govt) supply of these services. On the other hand were the vast majority of the benefits of a service accrue to a single person or entity then the market should provide these services. I think trash disposal and after school programs fall in this category.
That is how I parse the problem.
If you go to an all-inclusive resort and decide to go off the resort for dinner, do you ask for a refund for the dinner you did not have at the resort?
The subsidized cost of the transfer station sticker is available to all residents. Why should your decision to arrange for an alternative impact the solution that was in place before you made your decision?
Following your line of thinking, should those who chose to send their kids to private school ask for a reduced level of taxes? What about those with no kids?
I’m not fundamentally opposed to closing the transfer station and relying on private collection. My very strong suspicion is that if it is not done quickly it will cost the town much more in the short run. I also suspect that there is less than no chance that a decision will be made to close it quickly.
You mention the Rec department as what I perceived to be “worthy” of being supported by the town. That strikes me as odd as I can’t imagine that a private alternative would not be available for some/most of the programs they provide.
I also found it odd at TM when a member of the BOS noted with pride that the Rec department was “profitable”. Why should the town be in the business of providing these services when they are only consumed by the few who chose to participate?
That it is profitable is nice given our difficult financial condition – but troubling as it suggests that we as a town have coopted a viable business opportunity.
I also suspect that the AG may have issues around the town operating a “for profit” operation. As I understand it, municipal bodies are limited to recovering costs of the services provided and no more.
On a separate but related note:
We as a community place approximately $100,000 more value on the priority of getting rid of our trash ($540,000 as you note) than we do on our library (from memory approx. $430,000).
Isn’t the cost directly related to the AMOUNT that is tossed into the “pit”? The tonnage?Those who recycle a huge portion of their trash are paying just as much as those who do not recycle? Imagine! If everyone recycled, which is generally believed to be “the right thing” wouldn’t that lower the cost? Don’t some towns have a “pay as you throw” policy?
The goal should be to increase the amount of recycling going on at the transfer station. Recycling, I believe, is free to the town. Nearly every time I throw away my trash into the “pit,” I see many items that could be recycled. It is usually filled with all sorts of cardboard boxes and some plastics, that could have been easily recycled. If there some degree of monitoring going on and a bit more education on recycling, the trash tonnage could be decreased.
It has been a very long time since I served on the original Town Recycling Committee and I hope that other members will correct any errors on my part. But as I recall, the original intent of the Recycling Center was to provide an option for town residents and small businesses that wished to be conscientious and recycle paper and aluminum. We hoped we could find buyers for our paper, but it required certain quantities. We didn’t think it would be a very profitable venture until the consumer market demand rose for products from recycled materials.
We thought that the resultant reduction in the weight of hopper trash could be cost beneficial, but only once our Millbury contract came up for renewal.
Also, in the early years, local trash companies did not accept separated recycled items.
We have come a long way. I think this small town does a great job of recycling. Our percentages may not look as good as other towns, but I think that is due to problems with the non-recycled amounts.
Raising the fees or sending more homeowners to private pick-up could worsen our percentages since many small contractors would continue to dump heavy materials in the hopper while recycling nothing. The town would still have a minimum payment to our incinerator company and less income for our recycled products.
I don’t know the solution, but I know the original intent was not to make the transfer station a profit, but to encourage recycling, and reduce our trash. And it was an alternative to garbage pick-up at the curb that bigger cities provide. Small town, less taxes, less service, more concern for the environment.
Finally, on a more personal note, I would hate to see this Saturday morning ritual go away. Seeing neighbors, supporting kids’ car washes, and knowing what to do with those darn new flourescents. Small town America.
I certainly agree that the Transfer Station is the crossroads of the town and that has value. I for one would like to buy a recycling only sticker.
However, it seems fundamentally unfair to ask people who use private haulers to subsidize trash disposal for those that choose to use the transfer station. This is a service and those who use the service should pay for the cost of the service.
Pay-as-you-throw programs may be a hassle, but I do not want to have to pay a private hauler; that amounts to my family subsidizing others who do not recycle or compost. At less than one barrel a week for a a family of 5, I would be surprised if families like mine weren’t “subsidizing” a lot of other people.
Perhaps we should investigate methods of charging by amount of material thrown into the hopper. Then, the private hauler’s fee would act more like an unlimited minutes cell phone plan.
It’s been well over a century since government has taken over the responsibility for community waste management in the United States. But the reasons why that happened haven’t gone away. Obviously they have been forgotten by a lot of us -and that’s actually something to be proud of as a society. Like water and roads we never think about how important they are to all of us collectively and individually until something breaks down. We’ve forgotten that there was a problem because we solved it and continue to do a pretty good job at it.
The most important reason for governmental management of waste is public health. In 1893 the Boston Sanitary Committee noted:
“The means resorted to by a large number of citizens to get rid of their garbage and avoid paying for its collection would be very amusing were it not such a menace to public health. Some burn it, while others wrap it up in paper and carry it on their way to work and drop it when unobserved, or throw it into vacant lots or into the river.”
Improper disposal of trash leads to disease environmental damage – problems that affect both the person dumping their household waste in a pit on their property because they can’t afford a private hauler and the neighbor that pays BFI to handle their waste. It is very much in our collective interest as a community to keep efficient and affordable waste disposal available to all citizens. Though it was long before any of us were born, it is very well documented what happens when we don’t, and it isn’t pretty (yeah, yeah, yeah I’ll make the first pun – it stinks).
A timeline of trash: http://www.astc.org/exhibitions/rotten/timeline.htm
I have no argument that proper trash disposal is important to public health. I would never advocate going back to burning our trash in 55 gal drums (I did this as a kid). However, promoting public health does not require a publicly funded enterprise.
First, I think it is important to note that our trash is in fact disposed of by a private enterprise, Wheelabrator, in a trash to energy facility. The only thing we are discussing is how our trash makes its way from our homes to the Wheelabrator facility (Businesses already have their own trash pick up). Many here are advocating that only the government can do this job and I am saying that that is not true and in fact that the government should not do this job because there is no reason to believe that private enterprise cannot do this job just as well or better.
I have no problem with regulations banning trash burial and burning, I assume they already exist.
If there are families that find that trash disposal is a financial burden then in those few cases we could provide vouchers that would pay some or all of the bill.
This is the second major article where I find Rooney to back waaayyy off base. First he rips on the zoning board for doing a great job at keeping Southborough Southborough. And now he shows that he has limited understanding of how public funded services should be run. The whole point of a public funded service is that when whole comes together and chooses to do things a single way it is cheaper for everybody. The fact that the sticker revenue doesn’t add up to the total is the whole point. The sticker fee really should be nominal, but apparently we as a town have agreed to comprise and split the cost subsidizing half and having the customers pay for half, seems generally fair considering that people seem to be slit on the issue.
Its sad that as soon as something in government actually hits a nice steady state of compromise, that the left/right poles can’t be satisfied.
I generally respect most of Mr. Hamilton’s comments, but seriously can’t believe that he believes that there is not a compelling reason for towns to be in charge of how the residents handle waste disposal. Any service in which all residents need to participate defines the type of service that government should run and to suggest the relatively few in the town actually use the transfer station is dumbfounding.
So lets please either leave the structure of running the transfer station alone and everyone be happy the we have a nice compromise going. Or, lets look at going completely public and explore the cost of having the whole town use a single pickup service.
I’m guessing the really issue here is that people want trash pickup and not that they believe that the community would be better off letting the free market determine the costs.
“Any service in which all residents need to participate defines the type of service that government should run”
We all need food but the Govt does not run the supermarkets, we all need clothes but the govt does not run clothing stores. There are lots of examples of goods and services we all need that are provided very effectively and efficiently by the free market.
In much of the rest of the country, trash pick up is done by the private sector. I grew up in upstate NY and we paid for our own trash pick up. The county did run a landfill that the haulers used there, there might be a case for collective action, because of the NIMBY issues.
Also, I never suggested that a minority of residents use the transfer station, only that they were being subsidized by the minority of residents that chose to use private haulers.
Govt, in my mind, should be the provider of last resort only if the market fails and I do not thing a market based solution will fail in this case.
I agree with you 99.976% of the time. In my opinion the people who pay for private trash removal are those that don’t want to be bothered dealing with the transfer station.
If I pay for a transfer sticker and the residents who use private haulers do not, than how are they subsidizing me? Your statement assumes that my trash is part of the reason that the operation is not profitable, which I question. I do not think that my small contribution to the hopper is being subsidized. I probably contribute more to the town’s recycle income than the residents using haulers (if we are making income off it—maybe no longer).
And where I grew up there was only Town Garbage Pick-Up, no private haulers. Do you have facts to support your statement that most of the country uses private pick-up? I am not convinced.
I just don’t think your private vs. public argument is the true issue. Do we want to support a recycling effort in Southborough, is one issue. Can we do it in an affordable manner? Are there any other benefits to the town of having the transfer station? Is a pay per bag option profitable?
Fact: FY11 cost to operate the Transfer Station: $540,638.
Fact: FY11 sticker fee revenue: $293,150.
Fact: FY11 resulting variance: ($247,488).
While coffeehouse philosophers may differ over whether a tree falling in a deserted forest makes a sound, this problem poses no such metaphysical conundrum. The trash issue is simply a microcosm of a bigger issue facing this town, namely, our expenses exceed our revenue. In the past we have relied on healthy one-time revenue as the proverbial Dutch boy finger in the dike holding back the flood to maintain services at a certain level. That one-time money is no longer available to balance the town/school budgets, presaging the flood to come. The nearly one million dollars of one-time money allocated at TM for FY12 is not there for FY13. The reality is, those days are gone.
We can either try and be proactive during the fiscal year and seek ways that marginally reduce the gap or, as we prepare for TM in 2012 and discuss the FY13 budget, sharpen the scalpel and significantly reduce town services across the board or seek an override. Our existing residential and commercial tax base does not generate enough revenue to sustain the level of services the town has become accustomed to. Anyone who believes otherwise is invited to review this town’s revenue and expenses.
We need to make decisions that were not made in the past, either because there was no need to make them, or because people just did not want to make them. They are hard decisions which are not popular. While it is much easier not to make the decisions, doing so is a disservice to the town.
One idea that merits immediate discussion is having the town get out of the trash business completely. We do not, nor can we, operate it as a business, even with the objective of simply breaking even. We need to discuss the viability of privatizing the trash service and see if a company would be willing to lease our Transfer Station and associated equipment. We need to see if, as part of the lease agreement, the lessee would allow a seamless transition so that the residents can continue to “enjoy” the benefits associated with the existing procedure. The objective would be to minimize the extent of change and cost to residents, while at the same time allowing the lessee an opportunity to use the Transfer Station for their commercial needs. Lets face it, no business owner in their right mind is going to lease and operate the Transfer Station as we do at a loss, so we need to recognize a corresponding additional lessee use of the Station. This idea is at least 5 years late in exploring.
If the consensus is for the town to maintain the trash system, Deb Moore is correct in that we need to explore implementing a system that has a direct relationship between the individual cost and use of the trash disposal. A large number of towns have implemented a “pay as you throw” mechanism wherein special bags are used for garbage disposal. The aim of these programs is to have the price charged to residential households for garbage collection reflect its cost more accurately, and to make that price a part of an individual’s decision about whether to throw something away or recycle it. The more you throw away, the more it costs you and your family. Unit pricing, if you will, as with many of the other tools to encourage recycling, is an indirect mechanism to encourage behavioral change. This is more than just an assumption, as researchers at Duke University found that in communities with pay-as-you-throw systems, average waste reduction in the first year following adoption ranged between 14% and 27%, and recycling over that period increased between 32% and 59%.
Or we can punt the issue, not make a decision, and maintain the status quo, which, in all due respect, is how things have been done. Yet, it would be an ostrich-like folly to stick our head in the sand and pretend none of this is happening. Such an approach necessarily acknowledges the continuation of the deficit and the corresponding necessity of a tax increase for FY13. For anyone wondering, I have never been a fan of the ostrich, nor am now.
If expenses exceed revenue why not try to cut expenses? That’s what the private sector does. The absolute last resort in the private sector is to raise prices(revenue). Just as all levels of government– we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.
Nicely done, I entirely agree. With luck, a new model will accommodate those among us who will find a doubled trash disposal cost a financial burden; not sure how we go about administering that…
Al is right in that our analysis needs to include retirement liabilities for town staff; that number is an important consideration.
I continue to believe that you jumped the gun on the ZBA, however, and urge you to reconsider your view; we voted our zoning laws, after all, and the board’s job is to grant exceptions to the laws we approved. I would expect such exceptions to be rare, and not easily obtained. Mr. Stivers and his [volunteer] board certainly have my support, even if I don’t agree with each and every decision they make.
I really appreciate your participation on this board; it’s a welcome glimpse into the hard job you took on for our town.
Mark, Thanks for your note. Much appreciated.
I understand your concern about the ZBA matter, but I’m not sure the BOS jumped the gun. Last Tuesday night we heard five specific concerns about hearings before the ZBA and decided that fairness dictated that the ZBA and Mr. Stivers be afforded an opportunity to discuss those concerns. I felt that an invitiation to the entire ZBA was appropriate, especially if they believe inaccuracies were advanced. As we all know, it is important to hear the entire story; consequently, rather than voting on appointments last Tuesday, we continued the hearing and encouraged full discourse at our next meeting. I’m not sure, therefore, what view you suggest I reconsider. Give me a call at your convenience and we can talk about it.
I have some specific questions for the ZBA (and I assume the other members of the BOS do as well), and the hope is to close out this issue shortly. I would encourage all those with interest to attend and by doing so gain information directly.
Thanks again. Hope all is well. John
The transfer station is a SERVICE that is provided by the town similar to plowing and road repair. It is not meant to be a revenue source. The only purpose of the sticker is to prevent people from other towns using our facilities thereby increasing our removal costs. There are towns that provide rubbish removal as part of there real estate taxes. If you want to reduce “costs” then look at the elephant in the room— the school budget.
Mr. Boiardi, As witnessed at the most recent TM, the BOS has no control over cuts in the school budget. That is exclusively within the domain of the school committee and the superintendant, and, if history is any indication, the budget they propose will be overwhelmingly approved at TM.
Therefore, with minimal one-time funds to utilize for FY13, the only way to avoid a substantial tax increase/override, is to look at ALL town services and find ways to cut costs throughout the course of the year.
You are of course correct that the BOS does not control the school budget. I believe that with the next budget cycle we will not have the windfall dollars from the Telco lawsuit to bail the town out which I assume will therefore require an override. That being the case I think the BOS should identify whatever portion of the school budget should be included in an override. That portion shuold be separately idendified in an override so that the voters will finally have a say in the direction of the school budget. It should not be included with any other override deemed necessary. Proponants of the school budget will try to merge it with other overrides that may be needed to insure passage. I feel that if voters had a say at the ballot box the school budgets wich included the overly generous teachers contrct might have failed. As you well presented the trend in public saftey and town service budgets have been declining while the school budget as a percentage of the total town budget remains high.. The BOS can give the ballot box voters a say on the level of funding for schools by having a clean school department budget override.
P.S I don’t agree with you on dump stickers and I feel that the ZBA is doing a fine job
We’ve moved a bit away from the Transfer Sticker issue, and for that I apologize. As to your override comment, I think there’s an equal fear that given the choice, the majority of voters might well support the schools, and not be as generous to the municipal side of things. Lumping the budget lines together avoids the “schools vs. town” false and divisive battle…and separating budget lines might well produce unintended consequences. Where do we draw the line? Do you think we ought to vote every budget individually at the ballot box? There’s probably a better thread to have this discussion on, so I won’t pull us away from Transfer Station issues here any longer.
And for the record, I’m in favor of a user-funded Transfer Station…don’t much care whether it’s public or private…I also think we need to move towards a usage cost model, much as we did so successfully with the water bills. That move alone will dramatically increase our recycling percentage. I’m also fine with a “recycle only” option as mentioned earlier.
Again, I do hope any such model has a mechanism to assist those in town who are having a tough time keeping up with expenses.
Mark, on your middle paragraph about transfer station budgeting, I agree with everything you’ve said, with one possible exception. We should have a guarantee that the lowest cost option, currently provided by the town, would remain very similar to today’s cost. It’s an assumption that I think is unwarranted that a private company would run the transfer station more cheaply than the town does.
I am not quite sure what you are advocating? Are you suggesting that a private concern would be required to charge what is currently being charged for a transfer sticker? If so that would require them to provide a massive subsidy to the users. Interesting business model.
The transfer station is not a monopoly and so the case for govt regulation of pricing is poor at best. Competition in the form of firms willing to come to your home and deal with your trash and recycling will dictate pricing just like it does in most other aspects of our lives. If you want to see the consumer get screwed get the government involved in setting prices. Industry will inevitably control this process.
Also, in a formal benefit and cost calculation, the costs to the users in terms of the time and expense associated with taking their trash to the transfer station should be considered. For me, a dump run takes about 45 min and involves driving about 10 miles. Multiply that by 1000 or 2000 trips per week and the unaccounted costs really mount up not to speak of the tons of greenhouse gases used in this activity.
No, Al, I meant the full cost, not the tax-subsidized price of a sticker.
The current government entry in the market for rubbish disposal is the least expensive option. So much for the magic of private corporations. Despite the magical thinking of laissez-faire true believers, governments have often delivered services more efficiently than private businesses. Roads. Electricity. (Don’t believe me? How did deregulation work out for ratepayers here in Massachusetts? How about California? Did ratepayers ever get back the vast billions that Enron and friends stole from them?) Water.
Tell me, are you advocating that your fellow citizens pay more than the current sum of fees and stickers spent on trash disposal? Because if you privatize the transfer station without specific consumer prices in the contract and every household in Southborough that’s now using it will be paying more. These are people who have already considered private haulers and chosen to haul their own.
Yes, I am an unrepentant free market capitalist.
First, it is not quite a fair comparison to treat the transfer station and curb side pick up as the same product. Any fair comparison of prices should include other costs in the transaction. In the case of the transfer station, as I mentioned elsewhere, the cost to the consumer of bringing ones trash to the transfer station should be considered in order to make a valid comparison.
For me that is a 10 mile round trip and about 45 min. At $0.50 (IRS rate) that is $5.00/trip for the car and at $8.00/hr for my time (my leisure rate). that is another $6.00 or a total of $11.00 per trip. Multiply by 50 trips a year and you are at $550 imputed cost + the cost of the transfer station sticker. That is why I use curb side pick up. Use what ever reasonable rates you want. If you count the transportation costs carried by every user the transfer station is less appealing.
It really is more efficient from an economic and energy perspective to send a few competing trucks down a street to pick up trash, provided there are sufficient customers, than it is to have each individual take their trash to a distant point.
In fairness, there is a social benefit to the transfer station, the recycling area is the crossroads of the town where you will meet someone you know and where town affairs are discussed regularly. I would regret loosing this and this should weigh on the balance sheet in favor of the transfer station.
If I were running the transfer station I would price the service as an inferior product (this is a technical description, not a value judgement). This means that I would price it at a discount to curb side pick up (the superior product). That discount would probably reflect consumer transportation costs based on someone living close to the station and dropping off trash as part of their errands. I think I would price it at a $200-$300/yr discount to curb side pick up. I am not sure if this is a profitable business or not.
Al, you would price it that way. Very few people in Southborough have a 10-mile round trip to the transfer station. For that reason and others, many other people are pricing it differently. You want to take a low-price choice away from them in honor of an economic theory that gave us the financial meltdown and claimed that was efficient.
That’s not capitalism. It’s corporatism.
I too wonder of the increased cost to users if we switch to a private company. At some point, the cost, even a new $250 fee, will push more residents toward the use of curb-side pick-up. Then the station becomes less profitable?? I am not sure since I don’t know our contract obligations for tonnage and such. The Town used to be required to provide a minimum tonnage believe it or not. Are the current costs of the transfer station dependent on a certain amount of trash and recyclables?
I am having trouble keeping up with the flow of these comments and replies. But in response to Al’s personal cost to go to the station, maybe you should look at the cost to someone no longer employed. Then it is only the cost of the car/gas. And the task is usually part of a round of chores and trips through town. You are way off. I guess your time is more valuable.
But this is one of the few ways that folks can keep down their expenses. The sticker fee is the only true expense Al.
First, you are confused on the matter of price. Individual users do not set the price of a service any more than they individually set the price of gasoline or cheeseburgers. They assess the prices on offer from a variety of vendors providing more or less the same service and choose to consume or not. Based on those responses vendors adjust their prices. The net effect is no different than the bargaining that goes on in the bazaar.
Secondly, we have been over this before, you keep trying to smear all private enterprise with the sins of Wall Street. I realize that Wall Street is the largest donator to the Democratic Party and that both parties see Wall Street as the voice of industry. Both are clueless. What happens on Wall Street is closer to third world crony capitalism than real industry. Excessive risks were taken because of the implicit assumption that the govt would bail out anyone who failed as they have in the past. Couple this market distorting “crony capitalist safety net” with the utter and complete failure of the regulators who for all intents and purposes should just put a sign in front of the Fed and SEC that says “Govt. Saks” and you have a prescription for repeated disaster funded by you an me. Nothing by the way has changed, and Wall St will continue to fund Senators and Reps to keep it this way.
So, in a way we both agree about the sins of Wall St. but our prescriptions are quite different.
Come on Mark. Voting on each budget. You know what i’m talking about. Voting on a budget that represents 70% of the total budget when it drives an override. Yes!
A robust, fact-based, smart solution is clearly needed to this trash disposal issue. I would echo others comments about implementing a “Pay-as-you-throw” approach, or at least canvassing several other such programs in MA to see which ones are cost-efficient compared with flat fee dump permit approach we have now. It’s much too simplistic to say we should just increase the sticker fee without spending a bit more brain power on the problem to see how we can craft a system that can be tailored to how people generate and dispose of their own refuse. For example, how about a three tiered price approach (unlimited trash disposal for $200/yr; pay as you throw permit for $150/yr which includes recycleables disposal; and surcharges for the most expensive types of refuse – those items that are unusually expensive to get rid of). The precise numbers are not the issue, but rather preparing a thoughtful plan that the common man resident can both afford and control himself or herself.
Private haulers can be an option but I don’t have a lot of faith in single option solutions – monopolies of any kind promote abuse, and contracts can be difficult to enforce. Final note – simply hiking the fee without thinking through options based upon how other communities have successfully met the challenge is both lazy and dumb.
Public Good: Thank you so much. Best ideas yet. And I totally agree that enough thought has not been put into this. I hope your ideas made it to the meeting tonight. Thank you again.
I copied and pasted portions of the post I submitted last time this issue was discussed here (May, 2010). I had done a little research on nearby towns and their fees. (Keep in mind these fees are now a year old and may be scheduled to increase yet again)…………….
(from a year ago)…..“The web pages varied greatly from vague to pretty well detailed. I’ve included permit prices and times open, when I could find them.
Town A: *heavy restrictions on brush…….no more than 3 cubic yards/week and tree limbs and brush cannot be longer than 4 ft.
*open Tues – Sat from 7:30am-3:45pm
Town B: *open Tues,Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat 8am-5pm,
*charge commercial construction fees (brush, roof shingles, compost and
Town C: * Charges small fee per year per household, and also charges per bag….
kitchen bag, 33 gallon trash bag, AS WELL AS charging a fee per item (i.e. fee
for microwave, bike frame, old chair, mattress, etc)
Town D: *Open 5 days/week 8am – 4pm
*fees based on weight. 12cents/lb. and bags need to be ready to
be weighed. No longer take brush. Charge per item….i.e. mattress,
microwave, carpet, etc.
Town E: * Minimum charge $20 per load as well as charging per item…..i.e. all
appliances are $20 each.
Town F: * Charges recently rose from $125 to $155 and have a recycling only
permit for $25.00
Town G: *Open everyday 7am-3pm, permit is $130/household
Town H: *Open Tues-Sat 8-4pm, permit is$180/household
Town I: *charges only $30/year for permit plus the cost of bags (5, 30 gallon
bags cost $12.50) For average family with 2 bags/week ends up
being <$300 per household.
1) Most towns I looked at, even if charging a smaller fee for permits, charged a fee for EACH item for what we are all allowed to throw in the scrap metal pile. Didn't see any towns that had this open throw space for scrap metal with no fee attached, like we do here in Southborough.
2) Towns that did have lower permit fees, usually charged per bag or according to weight.
3) many towns did not have a swap shop but have to pay $20 bucks to drop off an item like a bike or an upholstered chair, for example. “
4) Keep in mind that when you have fees per bag, or
fees based on weight of bag/garbage and fees for individual appliances or items it probably means you need additional paid staff available).
( also, MWDN, 2010 reported Ashland has new transfer station rates going into effect July, 2010. A base annual fee that residents pay for rubbish pickup will increase from $138 to $156 per household.” Senior’s prices have jumped from $48 to $86 per household. This, in addition to an increase in the cost of town trash bags from $3.75 to $5.25 for a roll of five small bags, $9.00 for a roll of large bags.)
Hi “M” – thanks for your comments.
Hi Pat – Thank you a thousand fold for doing the wonderful research that is absolutely vital to crafting a transfer sticker fee system that is equitable to all and more importantly is perceived as being fair, being reasonable… a system that has options so the users can make a meaningful selection about the services that at right for them. The “one size fits all” approach is used everywhere in financing public services – its a dumb and infuriating approach.
So again, thanks Pat for the hard work in compiling the data. Even a year old, the findings are very likely accurate given the low inflation environment we now enjoy (not for long once the fed’s first and second rounds of “quantitative easing” QE1 and QE2 finally impact the markets).
In an ideal world I would prefer trash/recycling pickup. I would also like to see the transfer station remain open to residents, even if it is only open on Saturday. If we’re not putting trash/recycling pickup on the table, then I think we should revisit extending the number of days per week that the transfer station is open.
I absolutely detest pay as you throw, because I don’t like being forced to buy those bags. I also don’t like having to remember to buy them. I want to be able to purchase whatever bag works best for me.
I would be curious to know how much trash pickup service costs now and whether or not you pay by the size of container. When I’ve had that service in other places in the past, it seems very equitable. I recycle a lot so I only paid for the smallest (and cheapest) container each month.
I hope there is a conversation this evening about the 60plus trucks filled with dirt that plan on traveling down Southville Road soon. Unfortunately I am unable to attend the Selectmen’s meeting tonight. I can’t possibly be the only person on the route who is concerned about this. I would urge any Southville Road resident to make their feelings known. Please.
Tessa, At the BoS meeting last night there was mention made of traffic in the discussion that took place by the board. Despite having my hand raised, apparently comments or questions were not allowed by residents on the transfer station issue though.
Thanks Karen. Sadly I’m not surprised that questions/comments weren’t taken. I can’t believe we will have all of that traffic going down our street and no one will help us do something about it. Southville Road residents, we need to do something!
one revenue source is to maybe charge all the contractors that use their “personal” trucks to dump construction waste in the bin. more times than not a pick up truck is next to me dumping demolition debris for a flat yearly fee….the cost of a sticker.
Secret: Yes. That is my observation every time I go. Trucks with construction debris.
Excellent Point! For that matter, why are commercial vehicles allowed to use the transfer station anyway? I have often seen a pickup truck with the name of a local roofing company throwing material into the bin. I can’t say where the material came from, but it has piqued my curiosity. I have also seen pickup and larger trucks with matter that clearly came from a business.
Great discussion on these issues.
An easy fix for this problem would be to change the rules – no stickers will be issued to any vehicle with commercial plates.
I love that and it surely would cut our costs.I remember a long time ago, they did not allow contruction debris in the compactor. Now the contractors show up and who knows where it comes from. Contractors/commercial vehicles should be charged at least double if not more if they want to dump into the compactor or they shouldn’t be allowed at all, which is even better.
i am all for construction companies who happen to have either a worker who has a company vehicle who lives in town and thereby has a transfer sticker and is not using for just their household debris to be held accountable *but* we own a roofing and sheet metal company and have a logo on the side of my husband’s truck. Yes, he owns the company. Yes we do work on our home that was built in 1812 and NO we do not take debris home from job sites in the city– that would be silly as we actually charge Universities and other places we do work for, as in it is part of the bid.
So, please do not make a blanket statement which makes it seems like all people who drive pick up trucks with commercial plates dump huge amounts of stuff that does not belong where it is dumped. Our family happens to recycle! And by the way don’t judge a book by it’s cover– pulling up to a fancy restaurant in a pick up truck has it’s advantages–with commercial plates we always get a space on Newbury Street ;)
Is using a commercial spot when you’re not on commercial business the same as if my brother would use his wife’s handicapped placard when she’s not with him (which he does not do), or is a perk of having paid more for the license plate? I am genuinely curious.
I’m curious about this last statement by carrie as well. Any clarification?
I am happy to pay more for a sticker and not deal with “pay as you throw”. An optional system sounds good in theory but I think it would be too tough to monitor. Not only is buying bags a pain but all trash does not neatly fit in a bag. What if you have old curtain rods? Do you end up paying $10 each to dispose of them? The swap shop would either have to be closed or closely monitored. I think a lot of unwanted items would be dumped there or in recycling or maybe even by the side of the road.
Also the posters above are correct – it is very annoying to see “commercial type” vehicles dumping huge loads into the pit.