Pay As You Throw Bags

Bags fill the main container at the Sandwich Transfer Station.

After another long night of discussion, the Sandwich Board of Selectmen agreed Thursday, November 19, to raise transfer station bag fees, to require commercial vehicles to purchase commercial stickers and to charge more for mattress disposals.

The changes, plus the removal of school and town trash costs from the struggling transfer station enterprise fund, will allow the transfer station to get out of debt this year.

The discussion bogged down on the matter of requiring vehicles with commercial plates to purchase commercial stickers.

Selectmen Robert J. George and Shane T. Hoctor, who both have commercial plates on their trucks, argued that they—and many other residents—use their trucks to deliver their own household trash to the dump on weekends.

But Selectman David J. Sampson said the town has to have a way to regulate commercial vehicles other than expecting the Sandwich Department of Public Works employees to police who is bringing what to the dump.

The ensuing discussion became so long and circuitous Mr. Sampson called the question, which forced a 3-2 vote.

“That was one hell of a discussion,” said board chairman Michael J. Miller. “If it doesn’t work out, we can have another discussion next year.”

The cost for bags will increase 2.5 percent, which translates to a few pennies per bag for each of the three sizes (8-, 15- and 33-gallon). Those increases will offset the increase in tipping fees the transfer station must pay for solid wastes, Sandwich Public Works Director Paul S. Tilton said.

The transfer station, like the public golf club and town marina, is funded though enterprise funds. That means the revenues those entities raise each year are used to pay for their operations.

When the enterprise fund was set up for the transfer several years ago, recycled materials made money for the town. But now recycling most materials costs the town increasing amounts of money, which has created a big deficit for the operation.

Mr. Tilton at an earlier hearing this year suggested increasing the bag fees by 20 percent. The selectmen last night increased the fees by only a fraction of that amount.

This year, because of labor increases and another in equipment needs, as well as landfill and hazardous waste disposal fee increases for the town, the transfer station is operating at a $57,000 deficit, Mr. Tilton has said.

The public works director suggested an increase in fees for disposing of sofa beds and possibly eliminating or reducing the extra Wednesday-night hours.

Mr. Sampson last night suggested instead that the town remove the school, town and hazardous household waste costs from the enterprise fund. Those services would be paid instead out of the town’s general budget.

He also suggested, as per Mr. Tilton’s request, that fees to dispose of mattresses increase by $30 and by $55 for nonrecyclable mattresses.

Also, the costs of a second per-household transfer station sticker would rise from $10 to $20.

Wednesday-night hours would be continued through the summer months but ceased in the winter.

Mr. Sampson in October had suggested that the selectmen come up with a long-range plan for the transfer station, which led to lengthy discussions about privatizing or closing the transfer station, taking it off the enterprise fund system and steadily raising bag fees to offset steadily increasing tipping fees.

Town Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham reiterated that when the town created the enterprise fund for the transfer station, it did so because recycling was profitable and the station was self-sustaining.

Now only the recycled metal brings in a slight profit, he said, and there is no solution in sight.

On a positive note, Mr. Dunham said the pay-as-you-throw system of charging per bag of solid waste has cut disposal volume by 45 percent from 53,050 tons per year to 29,000 tons per year and increased recycling by 95 percent.

The new prices will go into effect on January 1, 2021.

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