Bristol votes to close landfill at end of 2016

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard on Monday voted to close the town landfill when its current certification expires at the end of 2016.
The decision came after what Town Administrator Therese Kirby called a productive meeting between town and state Agency of Natural Resources officials to find ways to fund the landfill’s closure.
“They understand the plight of Bristol residents and are trying to help us avoid bonding, look for money, and find an alternative (landfill) cover,” Kirby said.
Bristol is one of two active unlined landfills operating in Vermont. The ANR in August cited the town for, among other things, failing to save enough money to close its landfill.
Vermont’s other unlined landfill, in Salisbury, is financially solvent.
To date, Bristol has saved about $576,000 of about $1.5 million needed to close its dump — leaving a $900,000 hole it must fill. Bristol has consistently failed to meet its goals to contribute to its own landfill closure fund. The state told Bristol it should be saving $61,000 annually, but last year landfill revenues totaled just $16,000.
The town hopes to lower the $1.5 million closure sum by closing the dump in 2016 rather than 2029 (the reasoning being there would be a smaller mound of trash to cover) and by finding a covering material that is cheaper than clay, which is typically used. Kirby said the town met with one synthetic covering manufacturer last week, and will meet with another this week.
Through a combination of smaller closure costs, funds from the state and existing funds from Bristol (plus contributions over the next two years), the selectboard hopes to close the dump without levying a bond on taxpayers. As the town will in the near future face bond votes to renovate Mount Abraham Union High School and also build a new firehouse, the selectboard said a landfill closure bond is a last resort.
There is no guarantee that the state will pull through with funding, especially as Gov. Peter Shumlin has asked state agencies to cut their spending by 4 percent in the face of falling revenue.
The state used to have a landfill closure fund, but gave the last $350,000 in it to help Shaftsbury close its dump in the last decade. Bristol officials hope the state reopens that fund, and Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, said he will take that request to the Legislature in January.
The selectboard on Monday night was initially divided on whether to close the landfill in 2016, but eventually made a unanimous decision to do so.
Selectman Joel Bouvier asked his colleagues if they would consider postponing closure for several years.
“I’d like to fill it before we close it,” Bouvier said. “I’d like to see us challenge (the ANR) to see if we can get another five years.”
Bouvier suggested cutting dumping rates to lure trash collectors away from other dumps, but the other selectboard members were unmoved.
“We’re hoping to have enough money without raising taxes,” Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan said. “We’re going to have to raise taxes the next 10 years if we don’t take this deal.”
Selectman Brian Fox said he couldn’t think of a scenario in which keeping the landfill open would be financially viable.
“I don’t see any way it’s going to make money,” Fox said. “We can’t even get it to come close to making it break even.”
Selectwoman Sharon Compagna echoed a similar sentiment.
“You get to the point where you have to cut your losses and call it quits,” she said.
Kirby told the Independent Tuesday that the town will now wait and see if the Legislature, either this coming session or in 2016, appropriates money to help the town close the landfill. She also encouraged residents to keep coming to the dump, which will make closing it easier.
“The more trash we bring to Bristol, the more money we generate before 2016,” Kirby said. “We’re allowed to take 1,000 tons per year, and we’re only taking 330.”
Kirby added that the town has reached out to other solid waste districts to decide the future of trash disposal in Bristol.

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