Kent reconsiders Transfer Station fees

KENT — Building on the success of the first year of the grant-funded Housatonic Resource Recovery Authority (HRRA) pilot program at the Transfer Station, the selectmen heard an update on efforts to create a “fairer playing field” at their regular meeting on Wednesday, March 27.

Representing the HRRA, Director Jennifer Heaton-Jones presented alternative fee structures that are being considered by area towns that are participating in the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Sustainable Materials Management Grant program.

While no decision was anticipated at the meeting, Heaton-Jones presented data on current volume and alternative plans for a change in the fee structure. As the program to manage and reduce municipal waste has progressed, Heaton-Jones said that fee inequities have appeared when some households discard very little and others discard more, depending on size of the household. It has become clear that fees should be based on volume, she reported.

Summarizing three possible options for volume-based fees, Heaton-Jones explained that each would carry a reduction in the annual fee paid to the transfer station, and each would cost less than a curbside hauling service.

Under the first option, the annual fee would be lowered, and residents would purchase each bag at a suggested price of $1.25 for a 13-gallon orange bag. Seniors would realize a saving under this option. Some residents have asked for 32-gallon bags, Heaton-Jones noted.

Under the second option, bags would be included within the annual fee, with residents getting a certain number of orange bags according to their volume projections.

Under the third option, residents would provide their own bags, having their trash weighed and recorded on a punch card at the transfer station.

“These new pricing options will return control to the residents,” Heaton-Jones said.

First Selectman Marty Lindenmayer suggested that the town apply for a 30-day extension of the pilot program while it discusses the options. The current deadline is April 15.

Lindenmayer noted that 18 tons of food scraps have been captured at the Transfer Station as part of the pilot program, a significant positive result.

Selectwoman Lynn Worthington agreed to the idea of requesting an extension.

Heaton-Jones reported that 14 participating municipalities served by 12 transfer stations are part of the program. Only two allow residents to discard as much refuse as they wish. Some towns weigh the trash and charge accordingly, she said. Others charge by the bag, regardless of weight.

“All towns have some sort of ‘pay as you throw’ program,” Heaton-Jones said.

Lindenmayer said he tended to favor the first two options, fearing that residents would forget to bring along their punch cards.

Selectman Glenn Sanchez asked Heaton-Jones whether she might suggest which option would be best for Kent.

“I think that with a small-town transfer station with a small staff, then perhaps paying for the annual permit and getting a number of bags might be best,” Heaton-Jones said. “Seniors might get 52 bags each year, one for each week, with the option of purchasing more if needed,” she added.

“The bag-weighing towns are the most successful in terms of revenue vs. expenses,” Heaton-Jones noted, but that option takes more staff and equipment, she cautioned.

State-wide, 3.5 million tons of trash was discarded last year, with one-third of the waste stream being organic material, a valuable resource that can be converted to compost and reused.

“Just take organics out of the stream,” Heaton-Jones said.

“Kent did not make the pilot program mandatory, but we still reduced the waste volume,” said Tiffany Carlson, HRRA representative.

The selectmen agreed to continue discussion of the fee optionsat upcoming meetings.

For details about area transfer stations and each town’s fee structure, go to: www.HRRA.org.

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