Middlebury to phase out townwide recycling contract
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents beginning next April will be able to choose their own haulers to collect curbside recyclables from their homes and businesses. That’s because the Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday voted unanimously to discontinue the townwide recycling contract once the current pact with Casella expires on March 31, 2015.
The board made its decision in wake of the findings of a recent townwide survey on the issue, and in anticipation of impending changes to the state’s recycling/solid waste regulations as prescribed by Act 148.
The town survey, completed by 323 respondents, revealed — among other things — that more than 80 percent of Middlebury residents are at least satisfied with the town’s current curbside recycling program, but 61 percent indicated a preference of selecting their own recycling hauler.
Act 148 regulates the kind of material that will be able to go into landfills over the next six years. It calls for the diversion of more waste, ranging from food scraps to yard waste, by the time the law takes full effect in 2020. Beginning July 1, 2015, all solid waste haulers (whose vehicles have a payload of more than 1 ton) must also offer pickup of recyclables, unless municipal collection is already available for their service area. Haulers won’t be able to charge a separate fee for recycling pickup, but will be able to increase their trash hauling fees to cover the cost of picking up the recyclables. A hauler will also be able to subcontract recycling pickup to another hauler.
“The survey indicated people wanted a choice, and would like both (trash and recyclables) picked up on the same day, for convenience,” said Selectman Brian Carpenter, a member of the town’s ad hoc Recycling Committee that unanimously recommended the phasing out of the townwide curbside contract.
Selectwoman Laura Asermily, a leader of the Recycling Committee, added that a variety of smaller haulers in the county have professed the ability and willingness to pickup recyclables at curbside.
Municipal officials also noted the current townwide contract has not been a lucrative one for Casella. There are no enforcement “teeth” in the law that would allow the town to go after delinquent accounts.
“It’s not really a fair contract for the contracted agent,” Carpenter said.
While the board voted 6-0 (with Selectman Nick Artim absent) in favor of discontinuing the current pact when it expires, some selectboard members voiced some apprehension about the potential impacts of their decision.
Dean George, chairman of the board, voiced concerns that the absence of a townwide contract might result in a drop in residents’ recycling habits. Middlebury has had a mandatory recycling program for years.
“We do have a successful program and I am concerned about moving from where we are now,” George said.
He noted consumers pay a flat fee for curbside recycling whether they recycle or not, thus providing a financial incentive for folks to support the program. Officials are dubious about the state’s ability to diligently enforce the mandatory recycling components of Act 148.
Some board members also wonder if local consumers will see their curbside pickup costs for recyclables go up once the townwide pact runs its course. Individual haulers will use their own discretion in factoring those costs into trash pickup.
“Prices are going to jump,” Selectwoman Donna Donahue said, theorizing that consumers might be “shell shocked.”
Carpenter argued that increased competition among haulers might reduce costs for consumers.
“It will be market-driven,” he said.
Board members vowed to review the new free-market curbside pickup system for recyclables after it has been in effect for six months.
In other action on Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard accepted a $25,800 bid from Bristol’s Acker Excavating to demolish and remove the Lazarus building at 20 Main St. A total of around $30,500 will be spent on the task, including asbestos removal prior to demolition.
No official date has been set for demolition of the vacant structure, which will widen Printer’s Alley to provide better access to the Marble Works complex and the Otter Creek riverfront. Middlebury College recently purchased the Lazarus building property and gave it to the town to be cleared.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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