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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.

Mary December 05, 2011 at 12:09 PM
Again the Hamilton Selectmen try to frame this as "saving" $100K or more. Their own report shows that $55K of that $102K "savings" is actually from "increased bag fees" (yes - go back and read their summary of savings) - and these are paid by taxpayers - so it is not a savings. So we're looking at about $47K for 2400 households - or less than $20 per household - for less core service. Either the selectmen think that the taxpayers can be fooled by shifting taxes to fees - or they really believe that fees are a "savings" - but in either case it is scary that they are pushing this plan so vigorously. Please read the facts and become aware that the savings are overstated - and then decide if the $20 per year you may save is worth the aggravation.
Eileen DeAngelis December 05, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Our tax dollars are for WEEKLY trash collection.If we have to purchase a bag,IT'S AN INCREASE IN TAXES! Call it a fee or whatever...the taxpayers still will be paying more and getting less service! This punishes those who have children in diapers or those wearing Depends.So now..punishment along with increasing what we pay.Gotta love it!
Ron Powell December 05, 2011 at 01:28 PM
That is a good catch, Mary. The existing plan counts the $54,000 that would be raised in revenue from the increased bag fees as "savings." I don't think that that even considers the bag fees that would be raised from supplementing the program. Of course, bag fees would still be money that residents have to pay, so it's a bit disingenuous to portray these as savings. It does, however, free up the Town to raise revenues above and beyond the levy limit, and therefore avoid an override. Also, the Town Manager again assumes that the tipping fees for organic collection are $40 per ton, and we now know that they are closer to $60 per ton. So the numbers are hiding about $4,000 in costs. If you remove the "savings" from bag fees, the only real savings from the SMART plan come from switching to automated single-stream recycling and the savings from increased recycling. If you add the $4,000 in organic tipping fees not included in the Town Manager's calculations, the actual savings from biweekly trash collection are $44,200, while the savings from weekly trash collection are $26,600. That is $7.33 per household. I'm assuming that the "supplement" pays for itself. So the "real" savings for residents is just that -- about $7.50 per household per year. But the plan also has some merits: you can argue that it's more equitable, since those who pay the most are the ones producing the most trash. Selectmen can honestly say that the plan will keep other services from getting cut.
Jack December 05, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I love to save my town money by buying bags and having that money go to the savings! Paying a new tax to save my town money is a privilege !(?) What shell game will they come up with next. This is SO EASY... leave the plan untouched with the exception of retaining the weekly trash collection. Done. No-one will complain, the bulk of the saving will be there and we all promise to be better at recycling. Why is this so hard?
Robert Gates (Editor) December 06, 2011 at 04:48 AM
The U.S. Census from 2010 actually says there are 2,880 households in Hamilton. The Census site allows you to create PDFs and download them. I have attached the household data PDF to this article. If the census data is correct, that would reduce the per-household savings by a little bit.
Robert Gates (Editor) December 06, 2011 at 04:54 AM
Ron, yes, both Selectman Marc Johnson and Chairman Jennifer Scuteri have said the per-bag fee on the suplemental program would be set to cover the collection and disposal cost of the "off week" trash. The cost to run a truck around on the "off" week is $24,000.
Jack December 06, 2011 at 09:59 PM
The savings are clearly totally insignificant with 2,880 households - basically the same one coffee and a donut per household, PER YEAR. For this we lose a trash collection once ever two weeks, put up with smelly trash for two weeks and have to buy blue bags to supplement the 26 "free" barrels per year that we are losing. Why are we even discussing this? It's so idiotic and dumb it defies commonsense.
Ron Powell December 07, 2011 at 02:50 AM
With 2,880 households, the real savings would be $6.10 per household per year, which would be your Venti Espresso & milk poured over ice and your holiday gingerbread. And according to Robert, it would cost about $8.33 per household per year to run a truck during the offweek. Which means that not only would you have to give back your espresso poured over milk and your holiday gingerbread, but you would also have to buy the barista an extra old-fashioned chocolate glazed donut ... just because. And who the heck needs all of those calories, especially around this time of year? With the supplement, residents will actually be spending more for trash collection than they do now. Does that make any sense?
Robert Gates (Editor) December 07, 2011 at 03:24 AM
The proposed collection plan could cost you nothing more than your tax bill if you can fit your trash into one barrel every other week plus recycle or compost everything else. As is the case right now, where it does not cost any more than your tax bill if you can fit your trash into one barrel per week and recycle the rest. For households that currently pay $75 annually for composting, they could pay less out of pocket if their per-bag costs end up less than $75 annually, since weekly composting for every household is included in the new trash pickup plan.
Ron Powell December 07, 2011 at 04:00 AM
Robert, follow Town Manager Mike Lombardo's calculations here. The current plan costs the Town $400,900. The biweekly plan adds $40,200 in amortized recycling bin costs, but cuts $93,300 in automation savings and savings due to increased recycling and organic composting -- a net savings of $53,100. Those calculations do not include an additional $20 per ton in organic tipping fees, so the actual net savings for the plan are $4,000 less, or $49,100. Now add the $54,600 in "increased bag revenue," which is another word for fees. Rather than residents spending less for trash collection, as a whole they are spending $5,500 more for trash collection. But the Town counts these increased fees as "savings," hence it looks like the plan appears to cost less. You stated that the supplement would cost an additional $24,000, which means that residents will actually now be spending $29,500 *more* for the exact same service they have now. But since the town plans to make the supplement revenue neutral through increased bag fees, it can make it look like it is still "saving" residents. While it's true that households that can limit their trash to one barrel every two week will pay no more than they do now, the plan actually costs residents as a whole more than the plan today. You can argue that this plan is more equitable because those who produce the most trash pay the most, but this plan as a whole does not save residents any money.
Robert Gates (Editor) December 07, 2011 at 04:32 AM
I follow your logic Ron. A few things: Selectman March Johnson, who has taken the lead in developing the numbers, has said that he favors only buying the automated trash bins (which are needed for automated collection) but not recycling bins. He has said people can use their old bins with a sticker on it for recyclables. The annual cost of trash-only bins would be $20,700 amortized over 5 years. The term "increased bag revenue" is used to describe the blue bag revenue from biweekly collection. But there is blue bag revenue coming is now. I am not sure how much comes in now and whether the $54,000 in increased bag revenue from the initially approved SMART plan is in addition to what comes in now. I'm also not sure whether you can bring organics tipping fees into the comparison. The annual fee now covers the collection (by a company other than Hiltz) and disposal of organics. The new plan will have collection done by Hiltz on the same truck as recycling and the organics fee revenue would disappear. So it would save money in collection costs and also eliminate fee revenue. To be continued.....
Robert Gates (Editor) December 07, 2011 at 04:33 AM
Continued...... And also, the service will not be "the exact same service they have now," as stated. A recycling truck will come by every week, versus every other week now. And everyone will have weekly organics collection covered as part of their taxes. Right now users pay $75 annually. And, of course, trash will be collected every other week, covered by your taxes, versus weekly. So the service will be different - some can argue it is a cut, others argue it is an enhancement. I'm not taking sides, but just trying to walk through the analysis to try to better understand what is planned and try to provide factual details, if possible.
Ron Powell December 07, 2011 at 05:27 AM
Your comments are appreciated, as always, Robert! I was thinking that with the supplement, the service would be the same because there would be weekly trash collection, but you are right that recycling would increase to weekly. So the net changes (adding the supplement) would be increasing recycling collection from biweekly to weekly and adding town-wide organic waste collection. The total amount that Hamilton residents would pay for all of this would be about $30,000 more than they now pay, but that additional cost would be shifted to those who produce more trash. And the plan would help prevent about $100,000 in cuts to other services.
Ron Powell December 07, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Also, you are right that I did not consider the amount that residents pay for organic collection as participation in the program is not compulsory. Those households will be paying $75 less dollars per year. Those households who do not participate in the program will either see no change or will pay more for trash collection. In a nutshell, the pros of this plan are that it shifts costs to those households that produce the most trash and it frees up about $100,000 that can be used to avoid cuts in other services. The cons are that some residents will pay more for trash collection, and that the plan expands the power and size of local government.
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 (Editor) 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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