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Newest Trash Plan is a 'Very Workable Solution'

The newest plan to handle trash in the two towns was called a compromise by Hamilton Selectmen on Monday night.

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.

john October 04, 2011 at 11:33 AM
I also want to know where I am going to see these savings. Where is the saved money going and where is the extra money coming in going? You want to control the tax rate but I have no doubt I will see an increase next year.
john October 04, 2011 at 11:35 AM
Layoff a teacher? Are you nuts? Didn't you know the more money you waste on schools the better the school system is. Which in turn raises your property value which raises your taxes which gives the town more money to waste on schools.
Mary October 04, 2011 at 11:41 AM
I hope this is not what the selectmen believe is a real solution to our extremely high tax bills. In Wenham we average over $9000 for a tax bill. Per the noted $90K savings for the two towns combined, Wenham would save only about $30K (if we get our third) - so only about $25 per household or less than $0.50/week (yes - do the math). So - not only will we have the privilege of having the 13th highest tax bill in the state - we now would also not get our trash picked up every week - so we can be one of the highest aggravated populations too! No wonder why there are so many houses for sale in town (yes - 50% above normal) - but why should we worry - what a great place to live!
Mary October 04, 2011 at 11:59 AM
As a follow-up to the Wenham Selectmen - I know there are many of us who would prefer to be required to buy a sticker for a "barrel every week" or "two barrels every other week" (as most of us already own the barrels!). DO NOT follow Hamilton down a misguided path, and if our town meeting vote on leaf collection didn't send you the message - we want to keep some convenience services as consolation for being the 13th highest taxed town in the state.
Jim October 04, 2011 at 12:04 PM
I can tell you from experience that this will never go to town vote because no one agrees with this plan. We won't see any savings. Our taxes will still go up next year by the same increased percentage that we see every year. The town is already working on their next "stick it to the little guy" plan which will probably be pay-for-leaf removal or snow removal tax or something else equally ridiculous like breathing the air tax. As a suggestion, we should all continue to voice our opinions and insist that the buck stops here and they throw out this screw ball idea that this is going to increase recycling. Do they really think that anyone is buying that? This is just another way to squeeze us for more money. We pay them a fortune in taxes every year. Let someone sit in the driver’s seat who knows what they are doing to tighten the town's budget belt and make it work with the money they are already getting from us. Enough is enough!
Ron Powell October 04, 2011 at 12:07 PM
Saving a mere $3 (best case) per resident per year by cutting services in half?!? Is there any resident who wouldn't mind spending that extra $3 to have trash collection weekly rather than biweekly?
john October 04, 2011 at 12:12 PM
Yes I would. It is more the principle than the money. This whole thing is a joke and informed intelligent people understand that.
RC October 04, 2011 at 12:28 PM
I have been following this debate with growing concern for months. I do not like the idea of trash removal services being cut back neither by 100% nor by 50%. We need WEEKLY trash removal. Period. I do not like the idea of hanging on to putrefying trash for 2 weeks, and I can assure you that my recycling rate will NOT increase, as I already recycle as much as I can (100% of bottles, paper, paperboard, aluminum). As a taxpayer with no children, I get very little direct benefit from my taxes besides trash removal. Hamilton and Wenham share a reputation around MA for being desirable towns to live in. These towns should be able to do better than force their citizens to keep their trash -as it liquefies, ferments, and hatches insect larvae- over the course of14 days. The facts that a) the majority of the voters in these towns are so clearly AGAINST this measure and b) we do not get a vote is unfair. If our selectmen do not listen to our wishes and pass this measure, it will not just be unfair, it will be undemocratic. Since we taxpayers won't get a say on the plan, I will exercise my democratic rights around election time by not voting to reelect any selectman who votes for this proposal. I hope other taxpayers will consider the same.
Tim October 04, 2011 at 01:13 PM
Ugg. Whether a town vote is legally required or not should be irrelevant to this discussion. It should be up to a town vote. They are trying to force "behavioral changes" upon the town. The fact that they are trying to avoid a vote is very telling. Especially after they spent all night telling us how wonderful their plan is. Let the people decide
Kendra Burke October 04, 2011 at 03:34 PM
So can anything be done to stop this new trash plan? Or is it completely up to the selectmen?
Rich October 04, 2011 at 04:44 PM
Holy cow, I was just thinking....if I forget (and sometimes i do) to put my trash out on the right week, means my trash will be hanging around for 4 weeks...yikes!.....my neighbors might not like it......but the raccoon's will..
Michelle Bailey October 04, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I have talked to about 4 pepole who like this idea and about 40 who hate it. The only way to stop it now, it to lobby your Board of Selectmen...show up in Wenham at 7pm tonight or at the Joint Board of Selectmen meeting next Tues. (location TBD). Don't forget to email the chairmen (and ask everyone you know to do the same): jscuteri@hamiltonma.gov and mmartins@wenahmma.gov The other route is much harder...gather 100 signatures on a petition in Wenham propose a by-law change at the Fall Town Meeting Nov. 8 requiring weekly trash pick-up. This would need to be done ASAP as the warrant closes tonight and will be signed Oct. 18.
Mia October 04, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Let the taxpayers decide if they want to change their current trash program. Having trash picked up every other week is outrageous in this community. Please write to your reps today and let them know how you feel about this proposal being forced on the residents!
Jay Burnham October 04, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Just curious...how many of you that are opposed to bi-weekly trash pickup are participating in the organic recycling program? Regina, for instance, states that she is recycling as much as she can and that she is concerned about hanging on to "putrifying trash" for two weeks. The reason I ask is that it is the organic waste that tends to putrify, not the other solid waste that has been picked up weekly in the past. The organics are also the most heavy wastes which means they cost they cost the most if not recycled.
Tim October 04, 2011 at 09:13 PM
I am opposed to the bi-weekly pickup and dont participate in the compost program. I can undertand the benefit of the composting and the impact on trash loads such. however, I dont think that composting should be forced upon people. If the selectmen were to present a plan involving one free weekly bag, with single stream recycling and composting. I would be all for it, and would participate in the composting. I would assume I would not be alone in this fact, which would result in reduced tipping fees. I am just not sure whats the rush with loosing the weekly trash removal. i can assure you that diapers aren't compostable, and would get pretty putrid after two weeks. In short, I would participate in the organic recycling program, i just dont think it should be forced upon the towns. Try it for a year town wide, then see how everyone feels about reducing trash to biweekly.
Michelle Bailey October 04, 2011 at 09:35 PM
I participate in curbside composting. Much of the suggested savings comes from decreasing the weight of our trash through others joining the program. Only 609 household between the 2-towns enthusiastically chose to compost. Why do you expect all the others will enthusiastically participate? Our recycling rate is lower now than it was before our 1-barrel a week plan. Why do you think reducing the number of bags will cause more recycling now when it has not in the past? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This plan is insane.
Jay Burnham October 04, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Tim...Thank you for making my point....You say you understand the benefits of composting and the impact on the costs to other residents, but you choose not to participate in the program. As Michelle states, that's either insane...or selfish. Here's a new question for you: Why should the rest of us pay the costs that you cause by your refusal to participate in a plan that you just admited impacts those costs? And Michelle...I never said or suggested that I expected others to "enthusiastically participate". Most foldks don't "enthusiastically participate" in the cost of programs that are for the good of all...like paying insurance or taxes. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, what do you call doing something different and expecting different results? This plan is different from what we have now.
john October 04, 2011 at 10:25 PM
What does the composting have to do with this anyway? Even if you dont compost you are talking about 1-2 gallons out of 34. This plan is an absolute joke for many of the reasons that have been stated already. I would rather they just say they are raising our taxes next year to cover tipping fees rather than trying to pass this plan off as legitimate.
Tim October 04, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I dont appreciate the rude comments Jay (besides I didnt really make your point either. Not sure why someone who participates in the composting plan couldnt be against this system). . I dont participate due to the current asssociated costs with the current composting system. If you would like to pay the current dues for me I would gladly participate. Thats neither insane or selfish. . And by the shared cost logic, I dont have kids in the school system either, so should I expect a refund for that? FYI, I said i dont participate in the composting program, not that I dont compost. it was nice of you to assume that I am abusing the trash program at great cost to humanity though.
Jay Burnham October 05, 2011 at 01:03 AM
John...Here's what composting, or organic waste recycling, has to do with it. The tipping fees that are a large part (perhaps the largest part) of our trash costs are based upon weight, not volume. So it's not a question of the number of gallons, it's the number of pounds...and the organic waste that should be being recycled, and is NOT, is therefore the most costly trash. Tim...I apologize if you were offended. That was not my intent. Your school analogy, however, is a pretty poor one. As far as "trying" organic recyclying for a year goes...we have already done that in Hamilton and it, along with regular recycling, has shown the need for more frequent recycling pickups and less frequent ordinary trash pickups. That's part of the reason this whole discussion is taking place.
john October 05, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Tipping fees are already covered by the bags purchased by those who go over the weekly amount. Trash pick up every two weeks is unacceptable. This plan has nothing to do with saving money and everything to do with an agenda. School costs are 2/3 of the budget. If they really want to save money they can cut it there.
john October 05, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Oh and my kids diapers weigh more than any food waste, they stink, and they can't be recycled.
Michelle Bailey October 05, 2011 at 01:40 AM
The second highest cost is police. The towns could save over $100,000 combined if they had only one police chief. What happened to looking at the savings recommended in the DOR Study of 2009 regarding shared services?
Mary October 05, 2011 at 02:22 AM
Before we start debating how we each live our lives - please note from the other articles we've seen on this topic, H-W "tipped" 2912 tons of "non recyclable stuff" (trash) in 2010 at $68 per ton, so we spent a total of $198K in tipping fees. If the number of households for H-W is about 3800, that would mean we spent $52 per household - or a whopping $1/week for each household. So we are now debating forced trash policies without a vote, removal of choices, extra hassles, whatever you want to call it - and that would save each of us a maximum of $1/week? Read the above carefully - even Mike Lombardo only notes a $20K tipping fee reduction - so that would be only $0.10 per household per week - 1 thin dime from tipping fees. The "savings" noted above comes from the change to every other week trash pick.up - so reduced services - nothing to do with better recycling. And that $90K translates into less than $0.50 per household per week. So simply put - this is more of a reduction of services versus a "better way" - don't let the spin could the reality - it is a takeaway - and saves less than the aggravation it causes. As Michelle notes - email your selectmen - let's not have them color a reduction in services as "a good lifestyle community action" - and we think Washington politicians are the only ones that try a little 3 card monty to push their agendas.
Mark Lattanzi October 05, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Composting costs $75/yr plus $29 to purchase the barrel. I would see zero benefit from composting because I don't have a garden or anywhere else to put the 'free' 5 gallons of compost from Patton Park. It's added cost for me. I empathize with Jay's argument that my trash is heavier, and he shouldn't have to pay for my extra weight. On the other hand, an argument can be made that I am paying the cost for composting to the benefit of others. Even still, we do a pretty good job keeping to one 13 gallon trash bag per week (family of 4). I am not worried about staying within my 30 gallon limit every two weeks... I'm worried about the stench. For that reason, I am against it.
john October 05, 2011 at 04:52 PM
In any service the town offers there are always going to be people who use more and the rest of the town subsidizes those people. It shouldn't matter that my trash pick up costs more than others since I am subsidizing other people for services they use and I don't use.
Bill Bowler October 05, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Neither insane nor selfish, Jay. As I explained elsewhere beyond the one "free" bag covered by the tax rate, anyone who uses a blue bag is paying the variable cost ie. the tipping fee, so if that person chooses not to compost, they are paying for it, not other taxpayers. Going from weekly collection to bi-weekly is clearly a reduction in service.
Robert Gates (Editor) October 05, 2011 at 09:34 PM
As a point of clarification, under the most recent proposal, composting would be included. That would mean that each household would be given a barrel for the compost and it would be collected weekly as a town service funded by taxes and at no additional fee to the resident. The 500 + households that currently participate in curbside composting do pay a fee.
Michelle Bailey October 06, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Hamilton Finance Committee to make recommendation regarding the SMART program at their meeting tonight...7pm at Hamilton Town Hall. Here's the email to contact them with your thoughts fincom@hamiltonma.gov.
bill knopp October 06, 2011 at 02:17 PM
let's see... better practices, a savings of $90,000. to the budget vs. laying off a teacher. This inconvenience makes sense.

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