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Lombardo: Pay-as-You-Throw is not a 'De Facto Tax'

Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo presented Tuesday some more details - including specific cost savings - of a proposed Pay-as-you-throw trash fee program.

Several residents from Hamilton and Wenham heard more details Tuesday night about a plan to (PAYT).

At the heart of the plan is an estimate that the current cost to the average household is about $180 per year but with a PAYT program each household could reduce their cost to $110 per year.

It was presented and discussed at a joint meeting of the Boards of Selectmen from Hamilton and Wenham at the .

Currently, Hamilton and Wenham share the same waste hauler - Hiltz - and same disposal contract with the Wheelabrator North Andover incinerator. 

Both towns have a “waste reduction program” allowing each household a 35-gallon barrel of trash to throw away per week, included in their taxes. Each additional bag costs $1.75. Additionally there is curbside collection of recyclables and last year the first-in-the-state collection of organic composting began, which has no charge and no limit.

Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo said eventually the goal is to have more efficient collection and budget for both towns. He cited the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Draft 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan that sets a goal to reduce waste by 30 percent statewide. Another finding nationwide reported that 84 percent of all household waste is recyclable. According to the presentation, Hamilton and Wenham are removing less than half of all recyclable materials to their trash.

Lombardo presented the report Tuesday based on six months of research along with members of the SMART (Save Money As You Reduce Trash) Committee. Members of the Committee include Lombardo, Hamilton Selectman Marc Johnson, Wenham Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren, Gretel Clark, Hamilton Finance Director Deborah Mena, Hamilton DPW Director John Tomasz, Sue Petrolia, a sustainability consultant for the two towns and Carolyn Dann.

A full white paper on the topic, compiled by Lombardo, is attached to this story as a PDF.

The proposal drew much muttering from the audience as they digested the information.

“No way,” said resident George LaMontagne.

School Committee member Bill Derry got up and said that although he has yet to read the report in detail and review the numbers, it appeared to be a defacto tax in his opinion.

“At first blush, I do not like the idea of an increase in my taxes and would suggest this be put to another meeting for more public discussion,” Dery said.

“This is not a ‘defacto tax,’ rather a net cost reduction as stated in the report,” clarified Lombardo.

The proposal recommends that Hamilton and Wenham combine to a single contract with Wheelabrator, creating cost efficiencies while moving to single stream recycling, meaning all recyclable material, including plastic and paper, can be collected together. The proposal also recommends rolling the curbside organics collection into the Wheelabrator collection contract and creating financial incentives for waste reduction.

Another possibility for future savings and revenues for Hamilton and Wenham could be the development of an anaerobic digester. The former Hamilton landfill is a possible site for such an organic waste recycling program and could serve other communities while adding tipping fee revenues and even generate biogas and electricity.

“With the annual cost driven down by smarter, more efficient recycling methods and moving to automate the collection process, we will be able to save an additional $75-100,000 per year,” said Lombardo.  “That means we can potentially implement a tax reduction and drive down line item costs,” he added.

The report estimates the individual households should see, on average, a dropin trash disposal costs of about $85 to $91 per year. 

Selectman Jeff Stinson admitted he was skeptical about the program on first blush, but said he thinks it has some merit for additional discussion and input.

Discussion from members of the Boards of Selectmen from both towns members centered on whether the program should be voted on by Hamilton or should wait in order to gain more buy-in from residents.

Jennifer Scuteri, chairman of the Hamilton Board of Selectmen, said there should be more discussion about it in a public forum. PAYT will continue to be discussed at the next Hamilton Board of Selectmen's meeting scheduled for Sept. 6.

Jim Burg August 24, 2011 at 08:31 PM
I am so very impressed with Mr. Lombardo's demonstrated warmth and love of his fellow citizens that he introduced fees which are aimed at reducing their expenses. What a great guy. Hamilton is so lucky. Right!!!
_________________________ August 24, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Is this another "Cup of Coffee" per day or "Drop in the bucket" tax increase? Why don't the Selectmen just pass a bill that requires everyone's paycheck to get deposited at Town Hall, and then they can just send us an allowance to live on every week?
john August 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM
I think these selectmen need to be unselected. Please prove to me this is not a tax. If this plan were to be implemented I will now actually have to pay for trash pick up. I currently get 35 gallons picked up for no extra cost. How is this not a tax? Please stop promoting this as something it is not.
Mary August 25, 2011 at 01:36 PM
The composting program is not free. According to the Town of Wenham website the cost is $75 per year with an additional 1x charge of $29 per bin.
Tim August 25, 2011 at 03:39 PM
Mary, I believe under the proposal the composting program would become "free." Basically, they are taking the "savings" (making us pay for the trash), and applying it to the cost of the composting program. Still not sure how this isnt a tax.
Michael August 25, 2011 at 05:26 PM
I too think this is another tax for town residents. Perhaps though as Tim mentions the composting program would be free AND their would be an equal adjustment/offset to our property taxes?
john August 25, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Would you be all for it if instead of calling it a pay as you go fee they just hiked your property tax to fund the program? Doubt it.
john August 26, 2011 at 12:28 AM
So you want the program to be implemented in way in which it won't effect you. In that case I would like the school system to be pay as you go as well. Since I don't use it now I won't have to pay, and then when my kids are in school I will pay, and then when I retire I will stop paying again.
john August 26, 2011 at 12:44 AM
Please show me where I said they weren't. But I was kind of expecting that response.
Greg Horner August 29, 2011 at 02:06 PM
This plan is forward-thinking! This will protect us from the impact of further increases in trash hauling fees, which would raise our taxes. And this model should resonate with many people - like sports fees at the schools, that are paid for by the users, not the public at large. If you make a lot of trash, you should pay more! And those of us who do the right thing by recycling (and ideally composting) pay very little.
_________________________ August 29, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Well. let's look what happened to the 100% sports fees at Hamilton Wenham.... 1) $10,000 in user fees from the football program was "misplaced" for several years, leading to huge increases in football user fees. 2) Money from gate receipts from football was used as a slush fund by the previous superintendent for any purpose she deemed fit. 3) Increases in user fees deterred athletes from participating, leading to the loss of programs in wrestling, softball and hockey. The bottom line is that of these government fee programs become attractive revenue streams that bureaucrats divert into whatever programs they see fit. In addition, fees do not require any taxpayer approval to be raised, so that even if they start out reasonable, over time they will become unreasonable because government is always starved for revenue. Raising a fee 50% because it hasn't been raised in five years always seems to be the thing to do. Look at your water bills from 5 years ago. There's a tax increase you never got a chance to vote on. So the failure of the 100% sports user fee program at the Regional High School is really a very strong argument against a 100% user fee for trash. Let's keep what we have, it working well. Let's not make the same mistake again.
john August 29, 2011 at 04:30 PM
So why not make every service pay as you go? Why should I pay more because I make more trash? Becasue it doesn't fit your agenda? If you have 4 kids in school you should pay more than someone who has 1 since you are using more resources.
Jennifer Flynn August 29, 2011 at 05:43 PM
I feel quite strongly that people should have their photo and correct name (no alias). It does change the way you comment. I think it is important.
Jennifer Flynn August 29, 2011 at 05:44 PM
@john - I wonder how much the pay as you use will charge me when the firemen come to save my family and house from a fire.
john August 29, 2011 at 06:19 PM
I am not sure. I would be happy to pay them a large fee if they saved my house and family from a fire. What is your point?
Jennifer Flynn August 29, 2011 at 06:20 PM
What is someone couldn't afford the large fee? Anyhow my conversation is over with your alias. When you speak as yourself I will be happy to debate. THANKS!
john August 29, 2011 at 06:29 PM
OK, bye bye. Fact is you are picking and choosing what programs you want funded by all and what programs you think should be pay as you becasue it fits your agenda and your wallet. Earlier you said environment and education was for the greater good. So why should one program be run any different than the other? Second, if you want to make this a pay as you go why not take the town .gov completely out of it. Private companies could compete for business and you would have an account with them like any other utility. Now I am sure would save the town some money.
Michelle Bailey August 29, 2011 at 11:46 PM
When we lived in Kansas City 20 years ago, trash pick-up was contracted by each homeowner. The cost was more than $180 a year. Contracting as a town saves money for everyone. I think the limit of one 30-gallons of trash per week is an appropriate way to get people to recycle and compost. A pay-as-you-throw system seems to be over-kill.
Tim August 30, 2011 at 12:02 AM
For someone who already deleted their own comments in this thread this seems a bit silly to call someone out for not id'ing themselves. Plus, there isnt really a way of truly Identifying anyone of these forums. Do you really think Aaron Burr is responding to this?
Robert Foringer August 30, 2011 at 12:27 AM
Aaron Burr for SELECTMAN!!!!!
Tim August 30, 2011 at 02:18 AM
He is notorious for his dislike of Hamilton, I dont think he'd get my vote
Jack September 05, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Who are the residents asking for this change? I haven't met one. I use one bag almost every week, and spend around $20 a year on blue bags. I am not unique. This is a tax, pure and simple, and yet another way to extract shrinking income from hard working residents in a recession.
Jack September 05, 2011 at 09:25 PM
As what is "appropriate" exactly - that is a particularly fascistic outlook. So I am being "inappropriate" on the weeks that I use a second blue bag? "Appropriate" for what size family? The concept is unnerving and authoritarian in the extreme.

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