The newest plan designed to reduce trash collection costs and increase recycling was hailed Monday night by several Hamilton Selectmen as a excellent compromise.
But some residents say they want the issue to go to a town vote and a former Selectman says the success of the plan is falsely predicated on the expectations that the recycling rate will double.
Jennifer Scuteri, chairman of the Hamilton Board of Selectmen, said the town’s tax rate needs to be controlled and doing things the same way will not help control taxes. The latest plan will enhance services, lower costs and “moderate the (tax) increase significantly.”
Several months ago town leaders in both Hamilton and Wenham began where residents are charged per bag for trash pickup. Right now, under the existing waste reduction program, each household is allowed one “free” barrel per week included in their property taxes with addition bags at $1.75 each.
When resistance grew to the pay-as-you-throw plan, Selectman Marc Johnson organized a work session where participants made it “loud and clear” they wanted to keep the “free” barrel, said Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo.
The latest plan came as a result of that meting combined with a meeting with private trash hauler Hiltz Disposal, which has the collection contract for both towns.
Now the plan c in addition to weekly single-stream recycling and organics collection – both in town government-supplied barrels. Bags could be purchased to throw out additional trash.
It is expected to lower annual trash collection costs by $90,000 annually combined in both towns, plus increase recycling – and decrease trash volume – thereby decreasing the towns’ cost to dispose of trash.
“I think this is becoming a very workable solution,” said Hamilton Selectman Jeff Stinson during the board’s half hour discussion on Monday night.
Later, Johnson called it a” good compromise” that is not based on “pie-in-the-sky” estimates.
Johnson said the latest plan also provides savings for residents in a full range of homes. The previous pay-per-bag plan offered a greater savings to residents in homes with a larger tax bill, since the portion of their taxes that went towards trash was likely larger than the cost to buy bags to throw out their trash.
In the end on Monday night, the newest plan drew various levels of support from all five selectmen.
“I feel very comfortable that if someone is addressing their trash properly they will not have extra costs,” said Chairman Jennifer Scuteri.
Bruce Wadleigh, a resident watching the discussion from the audience, asked whether the plan would go before voters. He said there are many voters who want to have a say on it.
“Clearly this falls, under the bylaws, in the board’s purview,” Lombardo said.
Bill Bowler, a former selectman who lost to sitting selectman Jeff Hubbard in last May’s election, has the most pointed criticism of the plan.
The plan, he said, began for the wrong reasons.
“This started with the idea that ‘we’ve got to do something about the bad behavior,’ not about the Banjamins,” Bowler said.
He also said the forecasted savings would only come about if the existing recycling rate – about 30 percent in both towns – doubles.
“It’s just not going to double,” Bowler said.
Lombardo said that the plan will save the two towns combined $90,000 in collection costs plus any savings from reduced disposal costs. Stinson said Bowler raised some “very credible points.”
“We are trying to say that recycling is what should happen to save money,” Lombardo said.
In addition to the reduced costs to collect trash, Lombardo said that the new program should save the town at least $20,000 annually in “tipping fees” – the cost to dispose of trash at the incinerator.
“We think there will be considerable behavior change,” he said.