Selectmen to Consider Changes to Hamilton's Biweekly Trash Collection Plan

The Hamilton Board of Selectmen plan to consider "supplement" its new biweekly trash collection plan with a pay-per-bag collection system on the "off" week.

Trash pick-up – for a fee – on the “off” week is one of the changes to Hamilton’s newest trash collection plan that will be on the table for Hamilton Selectmen on Monday night.

in October, the Board of Selectmen, in a 3-2 vote, in a plan that’s known as SMART – saving money and reducing trash.

The plan adds single stream weekly recycling collection plus weekly organics collections but cuts trash collection back to one barrel biweekly. It would replace the existing collection system, where each household gets to throw out one trash barrel per week included in their taxes and pay a per-bag fee for additional trash, in addition to biweekly recycling and several hundred homes who paid $75 for organics collection.

The changes .

Since the plan was approved, there , raising concerns ranging from whether it will create unsanitary conditions during the summer to questions about what residents will do with dirty diapers accumulating for two weeks.

One of those with concerns about half as many trash pickup days is Matt Nevins, who wrote to selectmen proposing that if selectmen plan to stand by its original plan that residents be allowed to pay per bag for weekly pickup.

Nevins called the move to biweekly trash collection a “huge issue.”

“From my perspective, the biggest thing is the cut in service,” Nevins told selectmen last week during a two hour long work session to discuss the new trash collection plan.

Ideally, Nevins said he prefers weekly trash, recycling and organics collection – the same as Wenham will put in place next year.

Resident Bob Gray told selectmen the approved changes also increase services, since recycling goes to weekly collection and would be single stream, meaning all recyclable items can be thrown together in one bin. Weekly organics collection for all residents, included at no additional charge, is also an increased service, Gray said.

The new trash plan also has vocal supporters. One of them – Rick Mitchell of Rock Maple Avenue – told Selectmen last week that the board has made the right move.

Mitchell encouraged selectmen to move ahead to implement the approved plan and , where they would have to explain to voters why they oppose the town saving as much as $150,000 per year with the new trash collection plan, Mitchell said.

“You did the right thing,” Mitchell said. “You took a relatively bold stand.”

Mitchell said he wants selectmen to save the town as much money as possible and does not think selectmen should “capitulate to the vocal minority.”

On Monday night when at , board chairman Jennifer Scuteri said she will, at first, ask the board whether it wants to “supplement” the program as approved.

“If they do want to consider it we would have a conversation,” Scuteri said in an interview on Friday. “The way I will present it is that what we adopted is not going away but it could be supplemented.”

The pay-per-bag collection on the “off” week was the leading change that was discussed when selectmen met last week. A financial analysis of the plan was included in a comparison chart of the various plans, including the approved plan, which is attached as a PDF to this story.

Despite the changes that are on the table, the approved plan has more support than she originally though, Scuteri said.

Scuteri said she has received many e-mails from residents saying they are glad selectmen have found a way to save $100,000, or more, annually without cutting any staff.

Many others, Scuteri said, share Mitchell’s view.

“He echoes the view of a lot of people,” she said.

The change – if approved – would mean that the per-bag fee would be enough to cover the cost to collect and dispose of all the trash on the “off” week. Scuteri said the per-bag fee but would not be much different than the exiting fee ($1.75) or fees in nearby communities such as Manchester-by-the-Sea ($2) and Boxford ($2.50).

“The numbers would be run to figure out what’s necessary,” she said.

chris a December 08, 2011 at 12:06 AM
so is it cheaper just wondering i have an elderly parent in depens 3 a day would it be cheaper because the cost of those alone is weighing on her or for her to sell her house to a family with 2 or three children in the public school system ,i don;t see the saving there do you ?there are alot of elderly and you have to admit the two towns are for over 55 housing and nothing else to keep costs down true or noy?
Jack December 08, 2011 at 12:57 AM
Robert - the fact that the recycling truck comes once a week, rather than every other week, really isn't an increase in service at all because there has never been a limit on the amount they take. If they come every two weeks it makes no difference to me as they take all my recycling away either way (it could be daily or once a month for all I care) - and the recycling is not the stuff that smells if left for two weeks in the summer. What DOES make a difference to my service is when I LOSE a barrel of trash every two weeks. This is inconvenient, expensive and smelly.
Michelle Bailey December 08, 2011 at 03:21 AM
The Hamilton plan does cost more, you are paying the same for less. If you were paying $3.50 for a gallon of gas and the price changed to $3.50 per litre, plus a free car wash, it's still costing you more. Except your car is clean with the new plan. The pick-up service has decreased, the amount you can dispose has decreased, but you're getting free compost to keep the environment clean. Either way, it's costing more...plus there is the added cost of effort to sort. You may no longer be sorting your paper and containers to recycle with single stream (which we actually have now according to Hiltz at the LWV meeting at the library), but you are now sorting your trash...organic trash from non-compostable trash. While in actual dollars it is not costing more, you are getting less for the same price and it's costing you more time and effort.
Ron Powell December 08, 2011 at 05:00 AM
I think that with the supplement, this is a workable plan. Many residents who opposed the plan approved by the BoS in October did so because they objected to the reduction in trash collection service from weekly to biweekly. Adding the supplement returns trash collection to a weekly service, albeit one for which residents have to pay additional fees. Overall, the plan doesn't result in residents spending much less (notwithstanding Selectman Johnson's remarks about old bins), but it does transfer the burden of who is spending more to the households that produce the most trash. And it does prevent $100,000 in cuts to other services. It's an irrefutable truth of human nature, at least 21st century suburban American human nature, that people tend to be fussy about their trash. They want it removed quickly and conveniently without a lot of aggravation. I don't know why, but I just know that 'tis so. This plan changes a number of different things at once, and therefore I would expect the plan to face resistance even with the supplement. You see some of this resistance from commenters. Personally, I would have just kept the weekly trash collection initially to let residents acclimate to recycling. If I were the Board, I would focus on three things to win hearts and minds: 1) most residents will pay the same or less than they do now, 2) the plan is more equitable than the current one, and 3) it will help avoid cuts to other services. Honest, succinct, and reasonable.
Robert Gates December 08, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Jack, point well taken. If recyclable collection is limitless and "free" with both plans that certainly is level service. And that is probably why the increased frequency of collection is not expected to increase recycling rates that much. Single stream recycling is estimated to increase the recycling rate by 5 percent (because it will make it easier) so the weekly recycling impact seems like it would be less than that. The only way weekly recycling collection could make a difference is that under biweekly recyclable collection, if your bin fills up on day 10 of the 14 days cycle, you may be more likely to put recyclable materials in the trash, especially if you do not usually exceed the one barrel per week limit. Under the new plan, with only a "half" barrel per week, residents may take a closer look at what is recyclable and fill up the recycling bin faster. So it may be considered an increase to get some of the material (albeit the less smelly material) out of the house weekly.


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