Selectmen asked to eliminate Recycling only permits and look at gradual shift to fully tax funded model

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Post image for Transfer Station: Selectmen asked to eliminate Recycling only permits and look at gradual shift to fully tax funded model

Above: When the Town began offering discounted “Recycle Only” permits five years ago, haulers took away recyclables for free. That’s no longer the case. (photo by Beth Melo)

Changes in the industry have made recycling materials more expensive than trashing them. Given that reality, the Public Works Planning Board recommends eliminating the option for residents to purchase Recycling Only permits for the Transfer Station. That’s one of the issues the Board of Selectmen are scheduled to address this Tuesday night.

Selectmen will review the recommended 2019-2020 Rules & Regs for the Transfer Station. A memo from DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan, explains the big change recommended by the PWPB. It also asks selectmen to discuss a plan to gradually shift to fully funding the station through the tax base.

The recycling only permit was first introduced in 2015 after Town Meeting voters supported a resolution asking selectmen to offer the option. The Citizen’s Petition was led by resident Jack Barron. 

Barron argued that since recycling materials was free, access to that service should be available for residents at a steep discount over full access to the Transfer Station. Originally, he called for a $25 fee. But he allowed that selectmen might determine a higher figure reasonable given the expense of staffing the station. Selectmen ultimately settled on $50 that first year. By last year, that was $75. Still, that amount was just 30% of the regular permit fee.

According to Galligan’s memo, the situation has drastically changed. Recycling materials now costs the Town 17% more than disposing of refuse. 

The memo details the following recommended changes from the PWPB:

1) Due to the increased cost for recycling — the Recycle Only permit has been eliminated

a. the current recycling issues in China have changed the Town’s cost for recyclables;

b. prior to the recycling issues, the Town’s recyclables were removed and processed for free;

c. currently it is costing the Town $80/tn for recyclables — refuse is $68.18/tn;

d. recycling is a law — recyclable items are prohibited from the waste stream.

2) Transfer Station permits can now be purchased online, by mail at the Clerk’s Office or at the DPW

a. being able to purchase a permit at the DPW adds convenience for residents — it increases the number of hours that permits can be purchased and allows residents to stop at the DPW Office on their way to the Transfer Station;

b. this also helps the Clerk’s Office since the Town Clerk had a concern that budget cuts would affect his ability to sell permits while the Assistant Town Clerk was at training in July — so he suggested starting selling permits on August 1 — it is not a problem for the DPW to sell permits during July and it is more convenient for residents to have 2.5 months to get their permits.

3) The Town will not be paying the 2.95% credit and debit card charges for online purchases

Selectmen are being asked to consider those changes as part of their annual review of Transfer Station Rules & Regs. Since the Town Meeting vote was non-binding, the board has full authority to change the fees.

The memo also touched on selectmen’s past discussions about potentially eliminating sticker fees all together. Under that model, the Transfer Station would be fully funded by the Town’s tax funded operating budget. Currently, the station is partially funded by taxes and partially by permit sticker fees. 

Selectmen have previously debated keeping that model or moving to having it fully funded either by permit fees or taxes. Considering those changes was one of the challenges the board intended to take on this year.

The memo shares that the PWPB recommends a gradual shift to tax funding. But, they advise waiting another year to look into a plan. Galligan disagrees, opining Selectmen should consider the approach for this coming year:

because, in my experience, it is never a good time to move items into the tax base. Whether the Selectmen will even entertain this approach needs to be determined, and if the Selectmen are interested in looking at a 4 or 5-year plan, the Treasurer and I can put those schedules together. Ultimately, each residence is paying less per year to run this service through the tax base.

Discussion and potential vote on the changes is on the agenda for the May 7th, 6:30 pm Board of Selectmen meeting. You can view the agenda and the full memo in the packet here.



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