Ferrisburgh land eyed for new recycling center

VERGENNES — With the Dec. 31 deadline looming for the Vergennes recycling center to close, progress was made last week on two fronts to give residents of northwestern Addison County continued options for handling of their trash and recycling.
First, Vergennes officials recently sent out requests for proposals to private solid waste haulers who could operate the city’s Canal Street center for the immediate future and keep it open until a long-term answer is found.
And on Thursday the Addison County Solid Waste Management (ACSWMD) Board of Supervisors agreed to make an offer to purchase 34.91 acres of land owned by Ferrisburgh at the junctions of Routes 7 and 22A, a parcel that could provide such a long-term solution.
ACSWMD has been eyeing that parcel in recent weeks as a potential site for a permanent trash and recycling drop-off center to serve the region — residents from Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton and Waltham as well as Vergennes have used the city center.
The land, just outside Vergennes next to the Agency of Transportation park-and-ride lot, has been on the market for about seven years with an asking price of $375,000; three potential sales have fallen through.
Details of the offer were discussed in an ACSWMD board executive session. Ferrisburgh ACSWMD representative Steve Huffaker sat out that meeting, but acknowledged, as have other town and waste district officials, that the offer would contain permitting contingencies. ACSWMD Manager Teri Kuczynski has said the ACSWMD board has the ability to make a cash offer for the land.
In a Friday email to Ferrisburgh Selectboard Chairman Rick Ebel, Huffaker said board members should see the offer this week after “a few final tweaks.”
Meanwhile it appears area residents who don’t already pay for curbside trash removal could still choose to bring their trash and recycling to the Vergennes recycling center, as they have for more than a decade on a twice-weekly basis. Residents have paid a hauler just $3 a bag, while recycling, per state law, has been free for those who also bring trash. Other residents have opted to pay for curbside service.
Vergennes City Council members voted this spring to close the center as of Dec. 31, a decision made after Casella Inc. announced a price increase for hauling recycling that boosted the center’s projected annual cost by about 50 percent to roughly $107,600. Casella also told city officials they could not guarantee prices would not rise further.
Taxpayers in Vergennes and the four towns subsidize the center, with Vergennes paying half the cost, Ferrisburgh 20 percent, and Addison, Panton and Waltham 10 percent each. The price increase came after towns set their annual budgets, but selectboards agreed to fund the center through the end of the year.
Now it looks like residents will be able to still pay a per-bag fee and drop off their recycling — at least until ACSWMD establishes a permanent option.
City Manager Matt Chabot said the Ferrisburgh parcel could be that option, but that getting something up and running on that site will take time even if all goes smoothly. In the meantime he didn’t want to call one private vendor working at the city center a short-term solution.
“I’m reluctant to use the word short-term. Maybe interim is better,” Chabot said. “I will say it seems like they’re getting good traction in getting a drop-off site in northern Addison County.”
He also cautioned residents that continuing to expect a $3 per-bag fee might not be realistic.
“The designated hauler will need to charge an appropriate rate to also be able to accept and transfer recycling,” Chabot said.
Chabot and selectmen from neighboring towns have been discussing the situation and will do so again early this week. Support for the private-vendor plan appears strong.
“The town of Ferrisburgh is on board with heading in this direction, and hopefully we can get it nailed down soon, because the clock is ticking,” Ebel said.
Ferrisburgh did explore drop-off options within its borders, Ebel said, but traffic issues ruled out sites such as the town garage and town office building.
Panton Selectboard Chairman Howard Hall said board members also back the idea of a private firm operating the city recycling center.  
“That has to be workable, because citizens can’t take their garbage to the solid waste district in Middlebury,” Hall said. 
Hall said Panton board members appreciate Ferrisburgh for stepping forward, but like Vergennes and Ferrisburgh officials, they have concerns about project design and screening.
They were at least in part reassured by Panton’s solid waste district representative, Paul Sokal, who told them on Nov. 6 the permitting process would ensure the drop-off center’s impact would be minimal. But the appearance of the center remains an issue, Hall said.
“This is coming into Vergennes. It’s also a gateway into Panton. It’s one of the only two or three ways to get into Panton and Waltham,” Hall said. “I would want to make sure it’s screened so people don’t come down 22A and say welcome to Vergennes, and there’s the garbage dump.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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