Hamilton Leaders Approve Biweekly Trash Pickup, Weekly Townwide Recycling and Organics
The much-debated change to the way trash and recycling are collected in Hamilton reached crescendo on Wednesday, where Selectmen voted 3-2 to switch to biweekly trash collection and weekly single stream recycling and organics collection.
Hamilton Selectmen voted 3-2 on Wednesday night to move to biweekly trash pickup, adding weekly organics and recycling too in a plan officials say could save more than $100,000 annually.
Town Manager Michael Lombardo said it would take several months to implement the new collection system and would not be in place until at least February.
The plan, which state officials say is one of the first of its kind in the state, grew out of a plan earlier this year to adopt a pay-as-you-throw trash fee program where each bag of trash would be collected for a fee.
The New Plan
Under the plan approved on Wednesday night, residents would all be provided with a trash barrel, recycling bin and curbside organics bin. Unlimited amounts of recyclable materials and organics would be collected weekly and trash would be picked up every other week. The first barrel would be "free" and included in taxes and any trash beyond one barrel would have to go in a bag that residents buy from the town at a to-be-determined price.
Part of the savings comes from the ability to reduce labor costs with automated collection that the new barrels allow. The anticipated increase in recycling rates – which takes materials out of the trash, which costs money to dispose – by more frequent and single stream recycling collection accounts for the rest of the savings.
Lombardo said that the savings from signing a combined contract with Hiltz Disposal, the trash hauler, would be realized even if Wenham does not agree to an identical program as the one Hamilton approved.
Jennifer Scuteri, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, plus Selectmen Dave Carey and Marc Johnson voted in favor of the approved plan.
Carey, Johnson and Scuteri all said they were similarly driven by the cost savings that were expected to come from the new plan.
“I don’t think you can pass that up,” Carey said.
Scuteri said that town leaders have few chances to cut expenses and that one of the Board of Selectmen’s top objectives and goals is to reduce costs. The trash plan does that, she said.
“I do recognize for some people this will be an adjustment,” she said, adding that she encourages all of the community to participate in realizing the savings.
Johnson, who has been the point person in conducting the financial analysis of the various proposals in recent weeks, said the approved plan provides for “an easy $80,000 and potentially more” in annual savings.
“You don’t find places where you can save money that easily,” he said.
In opposition were Selectmen Jeff Hubbard and Jeff Stinson. They both said they favor weekly trash pickup in addition to weekly single stream recycling collection and organics collection.
“There are a lot of concerns about biweekly trash (collection) and it is understandable,” Stinson said.
The board members spent almost exactly an hour explaining their positions and asking Lombardo questions.
Decision Was For Selectmen to Make
Scuteri also said that the power to make the decision was in the hands of the Board of Selectmen. In 2007 and again earlier this year, voters have given selectmen the power to make the decision, she said. Plus, Town Meeting has a handful of powers, including appropriating money and creating and amending town bylaws.
“There is still a lot of power that rests with Town Meeting,” Scuteri said.
The vote happened at about 6:35 p.m., as part of a Board of Selectmen meeting that began at 5 p.m. at Hamilton Town Hall.
Some residents in the audience said they favored weekly collection for trash. Blueberry Lane resident Bruce Wadleigh said the town should “try it out” and add it to an increase in recycling education to try to increase recycling.
“Let’s walk before we run,” Wadleigh said.
Peter Britton, who runs Brick Ends Farm, said he promised to take organic materials from the Hamilton and Wenham programs at $40 per ton, below the rate at a facility in Marlborough, for example, that charges $60, he said. That rate, he said, was based on the idea that the towns pursue the “maximum amount of fiscal responsibility” from a new trash program.