The Salisbury-Sharon transfer station.

Patrick L. Sullivan

Regional leaders seek waste solutions

Since the closure of Hartford’s waste-to-energy plant in July 2022, towns across the state have been forced to find independent solutions for trash disposal.

Municipal solid waste (MSW) contracts with the state are due to expire in June 2027, after which time, towns will be on their own when it comes to trash and recycling.

During the February meeting of the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (COG), held remotely on Zoom, first selectmen throughout the region discussed options for addressing the issue as a group.

“On a go-forward basis, we’re doing everything we can to solve this problem to make sure that we have capacity in place for our municipal solid waste to go,” said COG Chair Dan Jerram of New Hartford.

Jerram provided an update from the recently formed Municipal Solid Waste Subcommittee. As of the Feb. 7 meeting, about half of COG towns had no solutions in place for the dreaded 2027 expiration of disposal contracts.

COG has sought legal counsel on the viability of a regional ordinance to handle the issue.

Jerram reported the subcommittee suggested authorization for “the director to issue a non-binding letter of intent to the MIRA [Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority] Dissolution Authority expressing interest from the COG in the Torrington Transfer Station” and a separate ordinance “pursuant to the creation of a regional resource recovery authority, sometimes called a regional waste authority.”

The idea that COG could purchase the Torrington Transfer Station was proposed in the December 2023 meeting as a potential solution to the issue. Sending the MIRA Dissolution Authority a formal letter of intent would request information on the environmental status of the site to determine if it is a viable option for the COG to take over.

If remediation of the Torrington Transfer Station is necessary, it is the hope of the COG that funds from the MIRA Dissolution Authority could be used for environmental cleanup.

As for a regional waste authority, Jerram noted that one already exists with the Salisbury/Sharon Transfer Station. The ordinance model utilized in this joint operation could potentially be used as a rubric for the larger regional waste authority proposed by the subcommittee.

“Why reinvent the wheel?” asked Jerram.

Curtis Rand, first selectman of Salisbury, offered copies of the existing ordinance shared between Sharon and Salisbury for COG to review.

“Help yourself to any of it,” said Rand. “We can use any of it or none of it.”

Jerram noted the ordinance must be approved by every town that intends to use it.

“There could be long term strategy in everybody’s best interest,” said Jerram. “We are a team. We’re all in this together.”

Jerram requested COG Executive Director Rob Phillips set aside funds to retain a lawyer for review of the Salisbury/Sharon model. A draft ordinance for the broader goal would then be reviewed by each town leader.

Both recommendations from the subcommittee were approved by COG members unanimously.

“Time is our enemy here and we want to work as hard as we can to make positive progress at every meeting,” said Jerram.

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