SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Residents and some selectmen voiced criticism and concerns last night about the new transfer station fees, saying the changes will be more difficult for many residents to adapt and unfairly shift the cost burden.
About 13 residents attended a public discussion about recently approved changes to the fee system at the Springfield transfer station, which are projected to shift approximately $67,500 in operation cost next year from the taxpayers to direct users of the station, reducing the annual tax rate by two cents per $1000 of assessed property value.
“We’re asking the people who use the facility to pay for the revenue losses [from recyclables], not necessarily all the taxpayers,” selectboard chair Kristi Morris said. “If you are using a private service you are still paying for the salaries and operations of the facility, but this shifts the cost of loss revenue to user fees.”
Starting July 1 all residents must purchase an annual $25 vehicle sticker at town hall in order to access the transfer station. Town Manager Tom Yennerell said the tax savings from an assessed property value of $125,000 or greater would cover the cost of buying the sticker.
Residents, however, were more critical of the town’s decision to change the system for charging garbage from the current rate-by-weight to a volume-based rate.
Yesterday the town began selling transfer station punch cards, which will replace the use of tickets. Under the current system each 54-cent ticket covered up to 4 pounds of garbage, equivalent to $3.38 for 25 pounds. The new system, however, charges by a gallon rate. Each $15 punch card contains four punches. Each punch covers approximately a 30-gallon trash bag or an equivalent of that.
The problem, according to residents and some selectmen, is that not all residents bring 30 gallons worth of trash to the center.
Selectman Michael Martin said that he often brings several small kitchen bags to the station whose combined total fall well short of 30 gallons. Yennerell admitted that the town has not considered an option for smaller trash portions.
Resident Hallie Whitcomb, who described herself as a dedicated recycler, said that because she composts all food and recycles all materials, the only content in her trash consists of non-recyclable plastics. Because she collects so little trash it would take her several months before filling a 30-gallon bag, and even then that bag’s weight might only be 12 lbs.
For Whitcomb the change is less about cost than principle.
“The people who are doing it right are going to be punished with the cost,” she said.
Whitcomb also criticized the spirit of shifting the cost to recycle off the whole town, reminding the selectboard that people practice recycling not because it pays for itself but because it reduces waste.