Health Board, Selectmen Wrangle Over Dump Fees
By: Diana T. Barth
On Tuesday, selectmen raised landfill sticker fees, and approved a new sticker system that would have limited to two the number of appliances or other large items that could be brought to the landfill for free. On Wednesday, Bourne Board of Health members reaffirmed the existing fee structure, saying that they have the authority over these fees, not selectmen.
It will be up to Town Counsel Robert S. Troy to sort out the result.
Galon L. Barlow, a board of health member and former selectman, said the board’s action was not meant as an insult to selectmen, but that it was time for the health board to take back the authority over landfills granted to it by state statute.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino was present at Wednesday’s board of health meeting, accompanying department head Daniel J. Barrett, who discussed the latest capping and odor mitigating actions being taken at the landfill.
Mr. Guerino expressed his surprise at the board’s position, saying that selectmen had made changes to the landfill regulations and discussed fee changes as far back as 2005, the first year he was hired. He said selectmen had continued to discuss them yearly, culminating in their vote to raise sticker fees from $15 to $30 this year, given the down economy.
Mr. Barlow, who was a selectman in 2005, said he probably should have spoken out then. The then-chairman of the board of health took him to task at the time, saying selectmen overstepped their authority.
The change selectmen made that year was very minor, and not worth the battle it would have caused, Mr. Barlow said. The selectmen were a deeply divided board at the time, something reflected in the 2006 recall of Mr. Barlow and selectman Carol A. Cheli.
This year, however, selectmen were making a number of changes, doubling landfill fees and instituting other charges, and board of health members voted unanimously to keep things the same until they could review those changes.
Board of health Chairman Kathleen Peterson said that she first heard that selectmen were even contemplating raising the fees on Wednesday morning. That is when she was told that they had voted to make sweeping changes the night before.
She would have attempted to prevent the effort had she known it was coming, she said.
Mr. Barlow said he had begun receiving complaint calls at about the same time.
In the absence of board of health member Donald W. Cunningham, board members voted unanimously leave the recycling policies intact, remove the “Bourne Board of Selectmen” from the flyer setting out that policy, and make only one of the changes proposed on Tuesday. They allowed an increase in the cost of compost bins from $20 to $25 and recycling bins, from $4 to $7 each.
On Tuesday, selectmen had voted, also unanimously, to raise the cost of a first sticker from $15 to $30 and a second one, from $10 to $15. A replacement sticker would cost $10.
The cost would not go up for seniors, defined as those over 60.
The landfill’s Philip Goddard had also devised a new sticker scheme to stem the large number of appliances, TV monitors, mattresses, and the like, being brought in to the landfill.
Landfill employees had calculated, selectmen heard, that many more of such items were being disposed of than Bourne residents would have been expected to generate.
Under the scheme approved by selectmen, residents would receive two bulky item stickers that they could affix to two such items, say a tire and a refrigerator, disposing of them for free. If they wanted to dispose of a third item, they would need to pay a fee ranging from $10 for an appliance to $60 for a 20-inch truck tire.
Mr. Goddard told board of health members Wednesday that that new stickers would be due soon, and asked how soon the board of health could look at the new regulations. He said the validity date of the old stickers could be extended while the health board considered the new proposal.
The board put the landfill sticker issue on its agenda for December 9.
In the meantime, Mr. Guerino has asked Mr. Troy for his opinion as to the validity of the changes selectmen made on Tuesday night.
Last week, selectmen received the report of Joyce Engineering Inc., a Virginia-based consultant that conducted a study of the landfill’s operations. Selectmen are set to discuss the report in executive session on December 1 and December 8; board of health members will also be weighing in on the report.
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