WEATHERSFIELD, Vt. — Figuratively speaking, the adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” may ring true. But when selecting items to donate to a nonprofit’s yard-sale, realize that your treasure might become their trash.
“One of my favorite yard-sale signs reads, ‘Let my junk become your junk,’” joked Weathersfield Selector N. John Arrison.
At Monday’s Selectboard meeting, Weathersfield Town Manager Ed Morris told selectors that they should consider establishing an official town policy for how to assist local nonprofits with the disposal of unsold yard-sale items, whose cost to dump at the Weathersfield Transfer Station can be hundreds of dollars.
Because the transfer station is an enterprise fund, the station is supposed to be a self-funding operation, like a commercial business, rather than funded with tax dollars, Morris said. Even publicly funded offices are supposed to pay to use the station, which Morris said has not been the case and is another item to discuss eventually.
When Morris became town manager in 2016, the station was running annual deficits between $14,000 to $15,000. To make the station revenue neutral, Morris said the station closed down the swap-shop, which he estimated was costing the station about $10,000 per year for attendees to clean out and dispose of unwanted junk.
More importantly the station stopped allowing non-profits like the Ascutney Volunteer Fire Department and the Weathersfield Proctor Library to dump their unsold yard-sale and book donations after fundraisers, due to the unsustainable cost.
“The last time we allowed the [Ascutney fire department] to dump for free, there were eight pick-up trucks carrying left-over items,” Morris said. “I don’t remember how much that cost, but I’m pretty sure it filled a dumpster or more.”
To assist these organizations the town worked out an arrangement in which Casella Waste Management would donate a dumpster to the organization’s fundraiser and the organization would cover the cost to empty the dumpster at the Weathersfield station.
Morris said that the town could approve funds from its bottle deposit fund to help a requesting non-profit recoup some of that dumping cost. The bottle fund is generated from revenue the station receives for each deposit-redeemable bottle it collects.
“But if we open this fund up to some non-profits, we have to open it to all non-profits, including those in West Weathersfield and Windsor,” Morris said, explaining that the board cannot be selective in which organizations it grants funds.
“Realistically it should be part of the fundraiser’s cost,” Morris said. “Though if we want to help we have that bottle fund available.”
The board’s concern was whether the bottle fund would be sufficient to meet the needs of all serving non-profits. This year alone the Ascutney fire department has held two yard sales, with tipping costs of $469 and $300. The library recently dumped leftover books from its book sale — which cannot be recycled due to their binding — at a tipping cost between $700 to $800. At this meeting the board voted to grant up to $500 to the Weathersfield Historical Society to recoup costs to dispose of donated items to their fundraiser this year.
Morris said the bottle fund currently has $2,355 (before the board’s approval of funds to the historical society), but that amount constantly changes. On one hand the town has received requests for funds from three other non-profits, while revenues are continuously replenished as station users return bottles.
The selectboard did not decide at this time how it wants to craft a policy.
“Our groups will all have to become policemen about what they are accepting or not accepting,” said board Vice-Chair David Fuller. “That’s the bottom line.