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.