Selectmen end dumpster service, single-sort starts next month
JAY - Selectmen were unanimous in voting to cease town pickup of commercial dumpsters on June 30, at Monday evening's meeting. The decision was made amid the run up to the implementation of single-sort recycling on Feb. 14.
The board had previously voted to move ahead with single-sort recycling, in which a wide variety of recyclable material is gathered and transported in a single haul, last year, following months of discussion. The change is one of a series of moves designed to lower the operating costs of the transfer station. Jay budgeted $1.14 million to fund transfer station operations for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. In comparison, local communities of a similar size pay between $200,000 and $300,000 annually.
Selectman Tim DeMillo, who serves on the transfer station committee, and Highway Foreman John Johnson, who has been working as an administrator for the department, believe that the various changes will cut roughly $300,000 out of the budget. These changes include single-sort recycling, chipping wood on site, and changing contracts and policies to reduce costs.
One of the proposals, however, has proved controversial. Roughly 40 commercial dumpsters in Jay are owned or rented by business owners, and have always been emptied and disposed of by the town. This system, which has been in place for roughly 20 years and appears to be unique to the area, would not work with the special single-sort truck the town has ordered, as the truck cannot tip dumpsters.
The transfer station committee had considered compressing the five days of trash collection into four, given the anticipated speed of single-sort removal, and using the fifth day to collect dumpster garbage. However, after consideration, they found it unlikely such a schedule would be possible and recommended it be discontinued entirely.
Additionally, Johnson cited other problems with the dumpsters, including passers-by stuffing them with personal trash and an inability to check them for recyclables. The board of selectmen has indicated an interest in enforcing recycling requirements, in an effort to bring costs down.
"I don't think we should be in the dumpster business," DeMillo said. "I don't think the town should have ever been in the dumpster business."
Business owners at the meeting expressed disappointment that the service was being discontinued. Several own, or have rented, dumpsters for years. Business owner Phil Maurais said he understood the importance of needing to cut back expenses, but questioned the lack of hard financial data on the cost of doing dumpster collection.
"I've said it before," Maurais said, "we have no problem paying a fee to keep the service."
Town officials said they considered alternatives, such as forcing all businesses, and perhaps other entities such as trailer parks, to buy a dumpster. That would help shift the numbers of dumpsters to curbside pickup customers to a more favorable ratio, which could have funded the collection. Johnson noted the cost of maintaining, fueling and insuring the old, dumpster-compatible truck, along with the extra transfer station position which would need to be retained, would make funding the service through fees difficult, with only 40 customers.
Town Manager Ruth Cushman sought legal counsel on the dumpsters, which are technically property of the town. She was told that giving the dumpsters to the users would be inadvisable, but nothing prevented the town from selling them at a low price. Dumpster collection costs through a private entity vary; DeMillo said one enterprise he contacted put the price at $120 a month, for weekly collection.
Selectmen also said they hoped single-sort recycling might reduce the amount of trash some businesses produce, given the wider array of valid materials, which might alleviate the need for some of the lighter-used dumpsters. Businesses may leave bags of trash out for curbside pickup, as with a residence.
The board voted to end the dumpster collection on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Between the implementation of single-sort recycling on Feb. 14 and that date, Johnson said the transfer station would work out some sort of temporary schedule for collection, when time was available.
The town has planned two informational meetings on single-sort recycling, both on Jan. 18. One meeting will be held at 2 p.m. and the other at 6 p.m., with a representative of ecomaine, the single-sort service provider, on hand to answer questions about what can and cannot be recycled. That meeting will be held at the town office.
In other transfer station-related news, selectmen agreed to bring the matter of the new Recycling and Waste Disposal Ordinance before residents at the next town meeting. If the Jan. 25 school consolidation vote is in the affirmative, that next meeting could be as early as April, as new school board members would have to be elected.
The new ordinance effectively updates and shrinks the existing one, which was drafted in 1991.