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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 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 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.

The Vote

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 .

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 , 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.

Marc October 28, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Well, consider me "mobilized." See you at the next town meeting.
Eileen DeAngelis October 28, 2011 at 07:31 PM
It's obvious,by the letters in the Patch,that if they put the issue to a vote,they'd have lost.So they,who know so much more than we...took away our vote! They've stirred up a hornet's nest....keep this fight going!
Marc October 28, 2011 at 07:44 PM
Is it possible to find out who the yay and nay votes were? They haven't posted the most recent meeting minutes on the town website (that I can find, at least.) In addition to trying to stop this via the funding or bylaw modification, I'd like to keep a scorecard for re-election: David S. Carey Clerk 2012 Jeffrey M. Hubbard Member 2014 Jeffrey T. Stinson Member 2013 Jennifer T. Scuteri Chairman 2012 Marc I. Johnson Member 2013
john October 28, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Marc - the voting is in the article above.
Eileen DeAngelis October 28, 2011 at 07:51 PM
The 2 Jeffs voted nay...other 3 went with Michael
Marc October 28, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Oh.. of course. Thanks much.
Jay Burnham October 28, 2011 at 08:24 PM
Marc...just a point of clarification...regardless of which "side" you are on, please note that the things you mentioned... kitty litter, animal by-products such as poultry and beef bones, skin and scraps... ARE items that are compostable and are being picked up as part of the organic waste recycling in both towns.
Jay Burnham October 28, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Eileen, this sounds a little like the recent outcry from vocal opponents in Ipswich of the restructuring of the Recreation Department there. Nearly every comment was against the change. Despite the apparent unanimous opposition, when the issue went before Town Meeting it was was overwhelmingly approved ( the vote was something like 149 to 48). I'm not saying that would have been the result in this case. I'm saying that just because opponents of an issue find common ground on a blog does not mean that the issue would be defeated at a Town Meeting. Believe it or not, I too would have preferred that course of action. At least then there would have been little cause for those with the fewest votes to complain about the process...just the result.
Jack October 28, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Jay, on this point we agree. I too would have much preferred this to go to a town vote - so many things that impact our lives much less go to town vote. I also agree that in some cases an inflamed minority can be vocal enough to misrepresent the majority view. On this issue, however, I don't believe that's the case. The impact of bi-weekly trash pick ups is huge and the ramifications of a missed trash day more so. The savings per household from the move to bi-weekly from weekly are tiny - just $19 to $25 per household per year, and the out-of-pocket costs to replace that one black bag per week are going to be over $50 per year. No fuzzy math required. To me, at least, this seems like an amazingly simple issue - it's a no brainer to keep weekly trash collection, to keep an extra $50 in my pocket, and forget about a saving to the town that amounts to nothing more than a rounding error in the entire budget. As an aside, I will actively campaign and vote against the three selectmen who voted for this idiotic bill... talk about a lack of commonsense and a total lack of understanding about what matters and is important to the townsfolk.
Michelle Bailey October 28, 2011 at 09:01 PM
The Hamilton Board of Selectment (BOS) will be meeting on Saturday, Oct 29 at 8:30am at the COA in Wenham (10 School Street across from the Buker School). On the agenda are the BOS goals and a recap of the town meeting. If you would like to know their goals or perhaps comment on them, that's the place to be.
Ron Powell October 29, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Somebody launched a DoS attack that prevented me from being able to log in and post here for a few days, but either to your joy, indifference, or chagrin, I am back. A few people have asked me what is the correct procedure for reversing this decision. A good start would be to publicly thank Selectmen Jeff Stinson and Jeff Hubbard, who voted against the measure and in the best interests of residents. You should also consider supporting them should they run for re-election. The next step that I would take would be to petition the Board of Selectmen to reconsider its vote. It is important to keep the focus on policy craft and not on recycling itself. Hamilton *needs* organic recycling. Hamilton *needs* PAYT. Hamilton does *not* need a plan that cuts weekly trash collection and calls it an increase in services or hides $20 per ton in organic waste tipping fees. It does *not* need powerful and voluble resident lobbyists to take what everyone agrees is a bad plan, and re-write it only slightly so that it personally benefits them but not the rest of the Town. One can be for recycling initiatives and against this plan. Assuming that the Board does not reconsider its vote, or affirms it, the next step would be to launch a citizens' petition to add a warrant article to the Annual Town Meeting warrant. That article would be very simple: to see if Town Meeting would repeal 2011/5 4-2, which itself replaced the language of article 14 of the Town bylaws.
Ron Powell October 29, 2011 at 02:20 PM
To continue, proponents of the approved trash plan would have you believe that it has been a long-standing tradition to allow Selectmen to set the trash collection policy. In fact, for the first 42 years that the Town's bylaws (established in 1952) existed, Town Meeting had absolute power to set the policy, and power implicitly rested with Town Meeting all the way until last year, when Town Meeting approved an article to replace the long-standing language of Article 14. The key thing is to be polite and respectful, but firm. It's not personal, but this plan as it stands is flawed and residents can become involved to make it a better plan.
Tim October 29, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Thank you, I had wondered when they changed the bylaw regarding the trash policy. I recall the last change, the 1 free barrel plan, was voted at town meeting only a few years ago.
Jack October 29, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Thank you Ron - much appreciated, and sound, advice and opinion.
Irv Levy November 02, 2011 at 11:35 AM
Has anyone considered what this is going to do to the quality of the organic compostable stream that the town has? Currently, the only people who participate in town composting are the ones who opted-in. As a result, those folks (like my family) are careful about what goes in to the compostable container and what doesn't. One of the unintended consequences of this silly new plan is that the many people who feel that they have this "shoved down their throats" are going to put a lot of things into their compostable bins that don't belong there. Plan on it. Not so sure I'll want to shovel that compost into my garden anymore. But that's ok. I'll save $20 or $30 a year on my trash collection. Amazing.
Rich November 02, 2011 at 12:56 PM
I don't even know what composting is, so I'm out of this conversation. I leave my house a t 6:30 am and return 6:30pm, I don't have time to sort my trash...nor am i going to, what ever i can fit in the trash barrel, is the best I can do.
Marc Fortier November 02, 2011 at 01:14 PM
Jay Burnham, After examining the existing curbside organic program info, I stand corrected. You're absolutely right, most of the organic waste that I was concerned about is in fact covered by the composting program. This is at odds with my own experience backyard composting - the majority of composting guidelines indicate that animal bones, kitty litter, etc are a definite no-no. Apparently, backyard composting rules don't apply for a program of this scale - perhaps the materials are processed differently? Regardless, I'm relieved. My earlier grievances about the program are unfounded. My only concerns now are minor and budgetary in nature. I'm open to giving this program a try. Now that I more familiar with the details, I think that if this were to go to a town vote, we'd likely have the same result. Thus, I now commend the Selectman for their efficacy. BTW… my earlier posts were under my first name, I had to re-register due to log in difficulties.
Jack November 02, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Yes Irv, another very valid point - every poorly thought out decision has unintended consequences. However, you won't save "$20 or $30 a year" on your trash collection, you won't save a cent in fact. There has never been any suggestion of returning the paltry savings back to the tax payers. In fact, you will LOSE one "free" black bag every two weeks and if you need to replace it with a blue bag it will COST you an additional $50 a year. This is truly one of the most idiotic and ill conceived ideas I have come across from a supposedly intelligent group of people. The fact that it was forced onto the public without a town vote indicates to me that it is agenda driven and they knew it wouldn't pass the smell test.
john November 02, 2011 at 01:20 PM
As soon as someone offers to take my kids diapers I will be all for this program.
Jack November 02, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Marc - I applaud your ability to change your mind, and your commitment and ability to comply so stringently with the composting and recycling guidelines that will enable you to reduce your trash to one bag every two weeks. However, those with limited time, who travel extensively on business, the elderly, infirm, disabled or with large busy families will not have either the time or the ability to be quite as thorough or economical with waste and these people (realistically the vast majority of Hamilton households) will be financially penalized by this plan - and have to put up with two weeks worth of smelly trash in the summer.
Jay Burnham November 03, 2011 at 11:44 AM
Rich... Seriously? You "don't even know what COMPOSTING is"? Seriously? You don't have TIME to sort your trash...nor are you going to? Seriously? Your work schedule prevents you from dropping your trash into one container or another? I agree with you when you say: "I'm SO out of this conversation".
Margo Killoran November 03, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Mmmm... I have seven people living in my house and have a farm with large and small animals. We manage to put out one barrel week most weeks. We do have six, full size recycling barrels, the crows/chickens/compost pile get all our food scraps, and we bring returns back. Takes effort, but it can be done. Not taking a side; just giving some perspective. What I find more frustrating is there is no place to dispose of stuff that used to go to the dump, like large unrecyclable plastics, metals/wire, used/broken farm equipment, unrecyclable feed bags, etc. They don't take this kid of stuff at the dumpsters at town hall, so would be nice to see one go in so we have a place to dispose of this stuff.
Jack November 03, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Margo, you make the point perfectly. If you are THAT good at recycling - six bins, composting, returning cans/bottles and you still need one barrel of trash a week, then the plan will cost you at least $50 a year as you lose that barrel a week and it will need to be replaced by at least one blue bag. That money may as well be a new tax - and it is effectively - so rather than a reduction in taxes, it's an increase to the actual residents. That's the point. Despite all the people here who excel at recycling and composting, the vast majority of Hamilton residents are not perfect but slowly getting better and are trying to recycle more, and one bag a week is the bare minimum for most households ( this is not conjecture I see the oceans of blue bags every week). This plan will cost them more, pure and simple, the "savings" are miniscule and the shell game and agenda driven decisions over tipping fees has just begun. I genuinely applaud those who are great at recycling - I make a concerted effort myself for all the right reasons, and also to reduce my blue bag usage - but one bag every two weeks is a step too far and for all the wrong reasons.
Michelle Bailey November 04, 2011 at 11:29 PM
Kitty litter is N O T on the list of items suggested for composting on the Town of Wenham website http://www.wenhamma.gov/public_docs/organicwasteflyer.pdf. The EPA also recommends not putting kitty liter or domestic animal waste in your home compost due to parasites, like e-coli. The new Portland, ME curbside composting program also does not allow pet waste. http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=56544&a=368864 Before this new plan goes into effect, there needs to be a large educational component. A Town Meeting vote would have been the perfect opportunity for education...opportunity lost.
Ron Powell November 05, 2011 at 12:42 PM
At the very least, Hamilton Green and the Town should provide an exhaustive list of what residents should and should not compost. Composting "smiles" and not composting "anger," while cute, will only frustrate residents as they are learning to adopt the new system. Most paper plates and food wrappers are not biodegradable and contain some plastic. The EPA is pretty adamant regarding the health risks associated with composting human and animal waste. Toronto is the only city that I am aware which accepts animal waste for composting, and its organic composting program serves as an object lesson of all of the things that can go wrong with such a program. For one, it grossly over-estimated the amount of waste that the program would divert from landfills. Over a two year period, most of the human and animal waste simply ended up in landfills anyway (thankfully, actually). And the "black gold" that the compost program produced was so high in saline content that it is not safe to use in lawns and gardens. Sensible cities and towns do NOT compost these products, and my guess is that if Hamilton and Wenham residents do, these will wind up getting hauled to North Andover anyway (at taxpayers' cost).
Michael Massimi November 08, 2011 at 01:20 AM
I completely agree with you Jack. Our family recycles and composts most items, and I am still generating a barrel a week of trash. Unless we change our weekly consumption my family will incur a cost for this program. The amount of money is not the issue, it is the principle of being unfairly taxed under the disguise of a cost savings program. Perhaps an introduction to composting would have been a more reasonable first step, in addition to the one barrel a week limit (ie. Wenham). There is a reason that this program would be a "first in the state", as it is not realistic for the average family. Sometimes quick actions to save costs lack the wisdom in preserving necessary services. Since this issue is being forced on the citizens of town, perhaps we move to a more effective platform to recognize our dissent. I have started an online petition that should be signed by everyone that disagrees with the new program. This petition will at least provide a platform for our position in lieu of a proper Town Meeting vote. http://www.change.org/petitions/board-of-selectmen-hamilton-ma-continue-one-barrel-35g-a-week-trash-collection-that-exists-today
Ron Powell November 08, 2011 at 02:59 AM
Precisely right, Michael. Many, if not most, families with children in Hamilton will wind up paying *more* even though their trash collection service has been cut in half. I wish you luck.
Jim Smith January 18, 2013 at 08:31 AM
No, Not Hamilton Leaders, Hamilton Lap Dogs !
Jack January 18, 2013 at 04:41 PM
OK - Two years after this nonsense and all the comments in this thread, where are we? Crosbys can barely keep the blue bags on the shelves. They had to go to two sizes of blue bags. What exactly is the revenue from these sales - how large a new tax has this effectively been in practice? As a resident l really think we deserve to know the economic benefit to the town from these sales, and we need to know exactly how many extra dollars were extracted from the long suffering Hamilton taxpayers for this "cost saving" measure...
Bill Bowler January 18, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Any possible savings from the program will be more than offset by the selectmen's recent vote to maintain a stand alone emergency center. By their own reckoning this will result in additional annual spending of approximately $180,000. This does not include the foregone savings which would have inured from joining the regional ECO.

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