Town officials scrapped big changes to the Town’s trash disposal program this year. Instead, some users will see a $50 increase in Transfer Station sticker prices for this fall.**** And selectmen will task the Public Works Planning Board with another swing at a possible overhaul to funding for the following year.
Earlier this month, an FY19 Budget presentation to selectmen recommended having users fully fund the Transfer Station through increased permit fees. At the time, who would pay more – and by how much – was unknown. Selectmen were wary of an unspecified change. They asked for more details.
Last week, Treasurer Brian Ballantine brought selectmen his updated budget.* With it came a revised recommendation. The Town would continue to cover part of Transfer Station expenses. But that amount would be reduced. To cover the gap, the discount for early registration will be eliminated.
The annual rate will hold steady at $250 for non-seniors**. The option to pay less over the summer will disappear. Last year, about 1,400 households took advantage of a $50 discount.
Selectmen were in disagreement over what direction the Town should be moving in for TS funding. In the end, they agreed with Selectwoman Lisa Braccio’s request to take this year to thoroughly investigate options. In the meantime, they supported Ballantine’s proposal for this year.***
Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf warned that to avoid the same problem next spring, work will need to begin right after Town Meeting. She followed:
sooner or later we’re looking at $3.5M to rehab the Transfer Station. That’s not going to be covered by stickers.
Town Administrator Mark Purple recommended using the Public Works Planning Board for work evaluating payment options. But he predicted that the board will say they’ve looked into it before.
Purple urged selectmen to come up with the parameters, viewpoints, and options they want the PWPB to explore.
In 2015, the PWPB recommended that Selectmen eliminate sticker fees. The majority urged that as a community resource it should be fully tax-funded and open to residents. They also encouraged making it easier to recycle. Selectmen ignored the first option. As for the second, they later adopted stickers for Recycling Only. But that was based on a Citizen’s Petition Article passed at Town Meeting.
Earlier in last week’s talk, Selectman Brian Shifrin again supported moving towards a fully user-funded Transfer Station.
Selectman Brian Shea argued against unfunding one of the Town’s resources. He said they needed to decide if they want a Transfer Station. If the Town wants it, he believed it should be a resource for all residents, whether they take advantage or not. That means staffing and operations should be tax funded. But, he argued that the variable cost of trash disposal should be Pay as You Throw.
Braccio said she didn’t fully agree. She believed it should be a resource for all. But she isn’t a fan of Pay as You Throw. In asking for time to explore options, she pointed out that many residents have strong opinions on the Transfer Station.
At the time of PWPB’s presentation, only two of our current selectmen were serving: Phaneuf and now-Chair Dan Kolenda. Shea was elected between the January report and the June vote on that year’s rates and regulations.
*The Budget purportedly had only minor changes from the last presentation, coming in at 3.9% higher than last year. According to Ballantine, the only potential change is the Regional School Committee’s budget. That could go down, but it won’t go up. He quoted the final budget (without additional Articles) as $53.852M.
**Seniors will still receive free permit stickers.
***Chair Dan Kolenda was in the minority. He was concerned that without an early bird period, the Clerk’s office would see a “massive influx” of applications at the renewal deadline. He suggested upping fees a little and offering some kind of discount for early registration. The majority of the board disagreed.
*****Updated (2/28/17 12:49 pm): A commenter pointed out that the $30 change stated by Ballantine and Purple was incorrect. Purple spoke about a $220 discount rate that wouldn’t be offered. But last year, the discount rate was $200. That means the fee will increase by $50 for everyone who had been taking advantage of the discount registration periods. That’s a 25% increase.