Two members of the Wenham Board of Selectmen said Tuesday that they think a proposal to make changes in trash collection should go to Town Meeting voters in November.
Both Selectmen John Clemenzi and Patrick Wilson said that, while they support changes to the way trash and recyclable materials are collected, they favor a Town Meeting vote versus leaving the decision in the hands of the three-member Board of Selectmen.
Now on the table for Selectmen from both Hamilton and Wenham is that would include weekly single-stream recycling and organics collection and every other week collection of one “free” barrel included in taxes with the option of buying more bags.
Currently, both towns have a “trash reduction program” that allows one “free” barrel a week and residents pay for extra bags. Every other week recycling is free and more than 500 families paid $75 to take part in a curbside organics collection program – the only program of its sort in the state.
The proposed collection plan would include weekly organics collection for all households at no cost in a town-supplied bin.
The warrant for the in Wenham was closed by Selectmen on Tuesday night. But Selectmen are still able to add new warrant articles, including possibly a vote on the new trash plan.
“This is really something that merits being addressed at Town Meeting,” Wilson said. “I’d like to see it on the warrant for Town Meeting.”
Clemenzi, who says he is an avid recycler, said he supports the plan and welcomes the single-stream recycling and the plans to give residents a “more user-friendly bin.”
But he said town voters should have a say on it.
“I really would like to hear more from the public,” he said, adding he that meant he wants it to go to Town meeting.
Clemenzi said that the proposed changes to trash collection “is probably one of the most boisterous subjects I have seen in my five plus years on the Board of Selectmen.”
Chairman Molly Martins noted that Hamilton is taking “a slightly different approach,” where the Board of Selectmen will make the decision. Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo said Monday that town bylaws put the decision in the hands of the Hamilton Board of Selectmen.
Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren said much of the savings comes from the every other week collection of trash versus weekly collection. Hiltz Disposal, the private hauler for both towns, estimates a $90,000 annual reduction in collection costs from the new plan. Additional savings are expected from the reduction of disposal costs when more trash is recycled.
By making changes now, it could avoid “the painful process of having someone at the state level tell you what to do,” Chelgren said.
All three Wenham selectmen said education of residents is a key to showing them the upsides to the changes. Martins said that being ahead of the curve in changes to the way trash is collected has a benefit for a small town such as Wenham, which could – for example – possibly get the bins covered by grants.
“We have a responsibility as a board to look at efficiencies,” Martins said.
Chelgren said both trash collection and disposal costs would continue to increase between 6 and 8 percent annually.
“If we have an opportunity to change the trajectory we have to look hard at that,” Martins said.
Town officials in both towns have said that the changes are coming, in part, because of a push from state officials to increase recycling rates statewide and predict that mandates may be coming down in future years.