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Reprieve for Recycling: Hartford to Continue Pickup for 6 Months

  • Casella Waste Management driver Joey Derepentigny picks up curbside recycling in Quechee, Vt. on November 5, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Casella Waste Management driver Joey Derepentigny picks up curbside recycling in Quechee, Vt. on November 5, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Casella Waste Management driver Joey Derepentigny picks up curbside recycling in Quechee, Vt. on November 5, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Casella Waste Management driver Joey Derepentigny picks up curbside recycling in Quechee, Vt. on November 5, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Casella Waste Management driver Joey Derepentigny picks up curbside recycling in Quechee, Vt. on November 5, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Casella Waste Management driver Joey Derepentigny picks up curbside recycling in Quechee, Vt. on November 5, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

Hartford — Residents utilizing the curbside recycling program can continue to place bottles and cans at the end of their driveways next year as the Selectboard voted Tuesday night to fund the service for an additional six months.

The Selectboard voted 6-1 after hearing comments from residents — all in favor of the program that has been in place for more than a decade.

“This town should fund recycling and find the additional revenues to pay for it,” said resident Edward Bradley, who recieved a supportive response from the crowd of nearly 50. “I think we are on the wrong track if we are only speaking about money here.”

Susan Foster agreed, challenging the Selectboard to explain why community members can’t continue to fund the program through taxes indefinitely.

“Let’s continue exactly the way we are doing now,” Foster said. “I think that recycling needs to be considered the same as the schools, the police and the fire departments because if we don’t get this under control, we will all be buried under the landfill.”

When the six month extension expires on June 30 — the end of the fiscal year — the town must again devise a plan on how to fund the program or find another way to collect recyclables.

“What happens next will be a part of the budget process in December and January,” Selectboard Chairman Chuck Wooster said in an interview before the meeting. He said townspeople will vote on the Hartford budget in March that could include $150,000 to fund the program from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.

During Hartford’s budget discussions last winter, Selectboard members only funded the curbside recycling program for the first half of the fiscal year in a mistaken understanding over when a provision under a new solid waste law would go into effect. The provision under Act 148 would have eliminated the need for Hartford to fund the curbside program, Wooster said.

The provision, which will go into effect on July 1, 2015, calls for a waste transporter, such as Hartford’s curbside provider, to pick up recyclables in addition to household waste. The law states the hauler can’t charge the residents separately for the recycling service, but Cathy Jamieson, solid waste program manager with the Agency of Natural Resources, said it’s likely the hauler could charge more to pickup household waste to compensate for the extra service.

Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said he didn’t know why the Selectboard thought the provision went into effect a year earlier than it was scheduled, prompting the need for the board to reconvene to address the recycling issue in Hartford.

Act 148, known as Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, went into effect July 1, 2012, and was designed to divert materials away from landfills and encourage recycling. The law takes a phased-in approach as to how certain materials must be handled and disposed.

For example, by year 2020, all food waste, such as banana peels, must not go into landfills, the law states.

Many residents present Tuesday night stressed the importance of recycling and how the curbside program fosters participation. A town study conducted by DSM Environmental, of Windsor, showed ending the curbside program would mean only 15 percent of the population would continue to recycle.

Currently, between 45 and 55 percent of households participate in the curbside program — about 1,800 households out of 4,500 — while 20 percent of households pay $20 annually and take their recyclables to the recycling and transfer station on Hartland Road.

One theme that emerged Tuesday night was that more education could be brought to the curbside recycling program. Lori Dickerson said she feels participation numbers are low because people don’t know about the program — not because they don’t want to recycle.

“If we are not getting the participation then perhaps another effort needs to be made to approach people who have moved into town and don’t realize we have this service,” she said.

Public Works Director Rich Menge presented statistics compiled through the DSM study on Tuesday night that showed that based on the participation rate, it costs $66 per year, per household to fund the program.

“For less than a dollar per week you will come to my house and take my stuff to the recycling center,” resident Stephen Leinoff said, as the audience gave a steady applause.

A sheet distributed to residents at Tuesday’s meeting said that it would cost $8 to $12 a month to contract with a hauler for recycling services. Another option for Hartford residents, whether or not funding is approved for the curbside program in the fiscal year 2014-15 budget, is for them to pay a fee and take their recyclables to the transfer station on their own.

That didn’t strike some residents as such a terrific deal.

“Eight dollars round trip, plus my time. I don’t think that’s a really good deal,” William Wittik said of having to utilize the transfer station.

State Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, said earlier Tuesday that he encourages everyone in the state not to forget the intent behind the solid waste law — that it requires private trash haulers picking up household waste to also pick up recyclables.

“It’s to encourage people to put less trash in their trash and more recyclables in their recyclables,” Klein said.

Selectman Ken Parker, who opposed funding the program, said he favors recycling but pointed out the town is facing another budget crisis. He said the Selectboard is looking at higher insurance premiums, among other large expenditures, and must set priorties on how it wants to spend limited funds.

“How much do you want to see your taxes go up?” Parker said before the Selectboard cast a vote. He noted the $75,000 cost to cover the program could mushroom to $225,000 in order to fund the service until the Act 148 provision goes into effect in the summer of 2015.

Parker proposed the town weigh a compromise, such as having three to four drop off points in the community to lower annual curbside costs, which would bridge the gap between driving to the transfer station.

“I think we are at a point where we need to face the music,” Parker said. “It’s been a good ride, but I think it’s time we change the way we do things.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

Related

Letter: Making Good Use of Those Empties

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

To the Editor: The Hartford Selectboard is trying to decide whether to pay for curbside recycling. I have a good idea about how to help with this. Here in White River Junction there lives a sweet lady in her 50s who I always see walking down the road with a buggy that she pulls behind her. It is often full …