Would you support substantially raising the cost of a Transfer Station sticker? Or reducing the hours of operation? How about an extra fee for disposal of bulky items like refrigerators? Or doing away with the provision that allows seniors to use the Transfer Station for free? What about a use-based model that would charge you by the bag or by the visit?
All of those options and more were on the table last night as the Board of Selectmen discussed how to lower costs and fund operations at the Transfer Station. The discussion lasted more than an hour, but in the end there was little consensus on how to move forward.
Selectman John Rooney said the discussion about Transfer Station options is part of a larger conversation about the fiscal crisis facing the town. “The problem is the town is running out of money,” he said. “We need to change the way we’re doing business…maintaining the status quo is ignoring the problem.”
Rooney warned voters at Town Meeting last month the town is headed for a Proposition 2-1/2 override vote within the next few years unless significant changes are made to town operations.
At last night’s meeting the issue was the $535K it costs every year (based on 2012 numbers) for the town to dispose of its trash. DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan said 66% of that cost was covered in 2012 by the sale of Transfer Station stickers at $175 each. The rest was funded by your tax dollars.
Therein lies part of the debate. Selectmen Dan Kolenda and John Rooney argue the Transfer Station should be self-funding and not rely on tax dollars to operate, although they strongly disagree on how that should be accomplished. Selectman Bill Boland, on the other hand, believes it is appropriate to use tax money to help subsidize trash disposal.
While Boland would prefer to see things remain largely the same, with perhaps a modest increase in the sticker price this year, both Kolenda and Rooney want changes. Kolenda said he would like to raise the cost of a Transfer Station sticker so that the revenue generated would fully fund operations. Galligan said doing so would bring the annual cost of a sticker to $259.
Rooney, who opposes increasing the sticker price, has long advocated a use-based model like pay as you throw. He told his fellow selectmen he would not support any plan that did not encourage recycling and reduce the amount of trash thrown into the hopper each year.
Both Kolenda and Rooney said they would support shortening the hours the Transfer Station is open as a way to reduce expenses. The Transfer Station is currently open four days a week for ten hours each day. Galligan said cutting back to three 8-hour days would save the town about $44K annually. It would also allow the DPW to more efficiently distribute its staff across its various divisions.
The board asked Galligan to present options for reduced hours at its meeting in June, but one proposal discussed last night called for the Transfer Station to be open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from either 8:00 am to 4:00 pm or 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Boland told the board he would be hard-pressed to vote for reduced hours, saying the town has tried that in the past and it didn’t work for residents, but Galligan said she believes most residents would be fine with the change.
“The quiet majority aren’t necessarily going to be bothered by [reduced hours], and it could free up money for other services,” she said.
At its next meeting on June 4, the board will consider the proposal to reduce hours. They’ll also look at imposing an additional fee for disposal of bulky items and charging seniors a percentage (10 – 25%) of the sticker fee.
You can find more detail on all of these options in the analysis of Transfer Station operations that was presented to selectmen at last night’s meeting.
What do you think? Given the town’s fiscal situation, would you support any of the changes discussed by selectmen? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Selectmen also invite residents to send their thoughts via email to email@example.com.