Hartford Might Lose Curbside Recycling
Hartford — With the turn of the new year, residents and businesses served by curbside recycling might need to find other ways to dispose of bottles, cans, newspapers and cardboard boxes.
The Selectboard is weighing whether or not to fund the curbside recycling program through the end of the fiscal year in June. The funding shortfall stems from confusion over when a new statewide recycling law would go into effect, and a difference of opinions among board members has left the program’s continuation up in the air.
Last week, the Selectboard discussed taking $75,000 from the unassigned fund balance — which is partly comprised of unspent money from previous years’ budgets — to continue curbside service for the fist six months of 2014.
“I have no problem appropriating it,” Selectman F.X. Flinn said in an interview on Tuesday. “We have funds that are sloshing around in the town of Hartford that we ought to be putting to good use.”
If the Selectboard doesn’t approve the funding, Flinn said residents and businesses will have to shoulder the cost of disposing of recyclables.
“People will be spending probably anywhere from three to five times as much to take care of their recycling in terms of paying for it to be picked up or in terms of the time and effort and direct expenses of taking it to the recycling center,” Flinn said. “(It could) impose additional costs on the town because they won’t be recycling and therefore the town will not make as much on the recycled materials as we are or that we could make.”
Currently, about 40 percent of Hartford residents are enrolled in the curbside recycling program, Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said.
Rieseberg said it was the town’s understanding that the section of Act 148 — a 2012 law meant to encourage recycling — that requires private waste haulers, such as Hartford’s curbside provider, to pick up recyclables would go into effect next year.
That requirement would eliminate the need for Hartford to fund a curbside recycling program, he said, but the legislation doesn’t actually take effect until 2015.
“We don’t really know where it came from at this point,” Rieseberg said, of the confusion over when the legislation was to kick in.
Rieseberg said the unassigned fund balance has about $1.3 million. He said there was nearly $200,000 left over from the 2012-13 budget, and that surplus would more than cover funding for the curbside recycling program.
Selectman Ken Parker said he is opposed to funding the curbside program because residents and businesses are going to have to start footing the bill on their own at some point.
“Once (Act 148) is fully implemented, there is no free lunch anymore,” Parker said.
When drafting the 2013-2014 budget, the Selectboard prematurely anticipated the Act 148 changes and drafted the budget accordingly — which entailed cutting back funding to the curbside recycling program for the second half of the fiscal year.
“For a board to take and cast aside what it did in a rather crisis mode and now go and pluck money out of that fund to pay for recycling for another six months; I don’t agree with that,” Parker said, alluding to last year’s budget when the board was facing tough decisions over spending and weighing possible cuts.
The legislation will require home and business owners next year to purchase a permit for taking their recyclables to the Hartford Recycling and Transfer Station.
Or residents could pay the hauler, Northeast Waste Services, who currently provides the service and picks up household waste, to pick up their recyclables as well.
“It’s inevitable that people in the town that use recycling are going to have to pay for it somehow,” Parker said. “The program has been a freebe in a sense for a longtime.”
Selectboard Chairman Chuck Wooster said he is of two minds on the issue. He said he is in favor of funding any effort that would increase participation in recycling, but sees the program as a redundancy.
“We have a recycling center in town where people can take their recyclables,” Wooster said. “But if we do cut it, it will lead to less recycling in town and that’s not something that I am after.”
The Hartford Selectboard will further discuss the expenditure at either its Oct. 29 or Nov. 12 meeting.
“I am increasingly concerned about the budget for next year,” Wooster said. “We are going to have to cut something.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3248.