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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.

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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