Bethel Royalton Transfer Station in transition that could see a co-owner town back out of pact

  • Jim Hybl, of Rochester, Vt., unloads a truckfull of trash into a container at the Bethel Royalton Transfer Station in Royalton, Vt., on Friday, March 11, 2022. The building, in the background, where bulk trash and large items are normally collected is closed because of structural damage. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Bethel Royalton Transfer Station Board Member Tim Murphy, left, talks with the station's new manager, John Leighton, after dropping off his trash and recycling on Friday, March 11, 2022. Leighton was hired just as the facility had to close the badly damaged building where large items and bulk trash are dropped off. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Ty Murawski, right, takes payment from John Hogan at the Bethel Royalton Transfer Station in Royalton, Vt., on Friday, March 11, 2022. The transfer station is requiring even customers bringing trash by weight to drop it off in bags while the building normally dedicated to bulk waste and large items, in the background, is closed due to damage. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/12/2022 6:21:55 AM
Modified: 3/12/2022 2:56:48 PM

ROYALTON — A metal building where residents of Bethel, Royalton and five other White River Valley towns dump their trash is in such desperate need of repair that it has been closed to the public.

At the same time, the Bethel Selectboard has triggered a provision that would allow it to quit its nearly three-decade-old agreement with Royalton to operate their jointly owned transfer station.

While Bethel officials say it’s unlikely the town will move to end the interlocal agreement with Royalton, it’s one of the options on the table. Talks over the future of the facility are due to resume next week, Bethel Selectboard Chairman Chris Jarvis said.

“I wouldn’t say that there’s any one piece that stands out more than any other,” Jarvis said of the Selectboard’s discussions about the Bethel Royalton Transfer Station. The facility, which sits on a 22-acre parcel the towns jointly own in Royalton, has grown in complexity and difficulty since its establishment in 1993.

Over the past few years, the facility has struggled to operate in the black. It raised rates and added a $3 charge for recycling and a $2-per-gallon charge for compost at the start of last year.

Repairing the open-air steel building that covers the transfer station’s “tipping floor,” where everyone from homeowners to commercial haulers can dump trash that’s then loaded into long trailers and trucked away, is going to add to those costs.

A detailed engineering plan is expected to cost $15,000, and repairs are estimated at $120,000, according to minutes of a March 1 meeting of the transfer station’s six-member board,which comprises three members from Bethel and three from Royalton.

The board voted unanimously to repair the structure, which suffers from rusted, bent and twisted columns. Replacing the building would have cost $300,000 to $400,000, and the board also considered asking Casella Waste Systems to put up a new building, which would have necessitated entering into a 25-year contract with the private company, according to the minutes.

Repairs aren’t likely to take place until late summer or early fall, said John Leighton, who started work as the new manager of the transfer station March 3. In the meantime, the facility has stationed a large container in front of the building, and patrons can bring only bagged trash and other items that can be easily unloaded into the container.

That means the transfer station will have to forgo income from accepting construction debris until repairs are complete, as state regulations require loose trash to be dumped only in a facility with a roof. That will cost the facility about $10,000 a month in lost revenue, said David Eddy, a Bethel Selectboard representative to the transfer station board.

In a letter to patrons, Leighton wrote that he’s “exploring all of our options to get us back as close to normal operation as possible.”

To open a conversation about the agreement between Bethel and Royalton that governs the transfer station, Bethel officials were required to give notice by Jan. 1. The towns now have until the end of June to negotiate. If no substantial changes are proposed, the agreement automatically renews for another year.

In asking for a review of the compact, Bethel officials opened up all possibilities, “up to and including getting out of it,” Jarvis said. But the town’s aim is to ensure the agreement is working as it should.

“The hope is that we can come to an agreement,” Jarvis said. Each town has formed a subcommittee to work on the transfer station agreement.

Exactly what Bethel officials would like to revise remains unclear. So far, the Selectboard has discussed the agreement only in executive session, which permits private deliberations about contracts.

Jarvis noted that the conditions for operating a transfer station have changed markedly since this one opened and replaced a landfill at the same location. What started as a $100,000-a-year operation now has a budget of $1.2 million, and is subject to a rising tide of state regulations.

“We’re a town just trying to make this a viable option for our citizens to use,” Jarvis said of the negotiations. “We wouldn’t be doing our jobs,” he added, “if we weren’t looking at all options.”

Even if Bethel were to leave the pact with Royalton, it would likely remain a member of the seven-town White River Alliance and residents would still take trash and recycling to the transfer station, Eddy said. How does the funding work?

The other alliance members are Barnard, Granville, Hancock, Rochester and Stockbridge, though residents of other neighboring towns often take trash to the transfer station, as there’s no vehicle sticker or other identification required.

“The ultimate goal,” Jarvis said, “is to try and keep it a town entity. We see it as more of a service for our community members.”

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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