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New contract keeps Vergennes recycling viable

VERGENNES — The Vergennes recycling center will be staying open to serve all residents in the region, and starting on Jan. 2 it will offer expanded services, according to Vergennes City Manager Matt Chabot.
Chabot said the city has awarded R&L Rubbish of Middlebury an “itinerant vendor’s license” to do business for one year at the city’s Canal Street recycling center.
Instead of paying a taxpayer-subsidized fee of $3 per bag of trash, disposal of which comes with the right to almost unlimited recycling, residents of Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Waltham and Addison beginning Jan. 2 will pay a sliding scale of $4 to $6 per bag based on weight.
Meanwhile, “equal amounts of recycling” will be included in that charge, according to a price sheet Chabot provided, while “recycling only” will draw charges of $2 for up to 20 pounds, $3 for 21 to 30 pounds, and $4 for 31 to 40 pounds.
Metal appliances and fluorescent tube lights will be accepted at no charge.
Chabot said he believed R&L head Richard Rheaume and his employees would be understanding as customers adapt to new rules and procedures.
“They understand there is going to be a transition process while everybody is being educated,” Chabot. “I feel confident he is going to work with all the residents of the five towns to make sure this process goes as smoothly as possible.”
The center’s hours of operation will remain the same, Wednesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon.
The other changes will be because R&L, which provides a drop-off center to the towns of Bristol and New Haven, has the capacity to offer expanded services.
“R&L will take in materials that we didn’t take in before,” Chabot said.
Area residents may now bring to the station:
•  Compost, at $1 for up to five pounds, $2 for six to 10 pounds, and $3 for 11 to 15 pounds.
•  Leaves and yard waste on a seasonal basis, at $2 for a 30-gallon bag, $10 for a small truckload, and $15 for a large truckload.
•  Brush, at $10 for a small truckload and $15 for a large truckload.
Residents may also drop off metal at no cost, including appliances — except for freon-based appliances such as refrigerators and freezers, for which they will be charged the going rate from the Addison County Solid Waste Management District, plus $1.
Mattresses, couches and other furniture will also be accepted. Chabot said the cost for disposing such items will be determined on a “per-item, case-by-case basis.”
Chabot said overall these prices are “consistent with the best prices for haulers.”
Before the Vergennes City Council decided this past spring that the city would no longer fund the center past the end of 2018, the cost was shared among five communities and their taxpayers: Vergennes paid 50 percent, Ferrisburgh paid 20 percent, and Addison, Panton and Waltham chipped in 10 percent apiece.
The costs are now being shifted directly to consumers, Chabot said, adding that many residents have chosen and may still opt for curbside service over trips to Canal Street.
“This will not be a line item in the budgets any more. This will shift the cost to the residents at the drop-off center,” he said.
Because the center is no longer funded by taxpayers in the five towns, Chabot said residents from any town are also now welcome.
“There is no reason anybody couldn’t participate in this drop-off. The hauler doesn’t care,” he said.
The council made its decision to get out of the trash and recycling business after Casella Inc. announced this past spring an increase in what it would charge this year to accept recycling. That price hike triggered a 50 percent hike in the annual expense of operating the city’s Canal Street center, to more than $100,000.
Surrounding towns joined Vergennes in opting to pay to keep it open through the end of this month, a decision that basically chewed up the funds that they had budgeted to pay through their fiscal years.
Casella also did not rule out further increases. Solid waste district and city officials have said the market for recycled materials bottomed out after China, formerly a go-to recycling destination, decided not to accept many items, especially recycled paper.
Meanwhile, the Addison County Solid Waste Management District is seeking another site to replace the city station, and made an offer on land owned by the town of Ferrisburgh, a parcel at the junction of Routes 7 and 22A. The Ferrisburgh selectboard rejected that offer in early December, and the district board will next meet on Jan. 18 to discuss whether to pursue it further or just look elsewhere.
In the meantime, Chabot said the city is prepared to continue to do business with R&L on Canal Street “until such time as the Addison County Solid Waste Management District secures a recycling center and trash drop-off in northern Addison County.” R&L’s current license is good for a year, and can easily be renewed, he added.
Chabot also said the council is grateful for the good service provided for years by C&J Haulers at the center.
“We wish to thank C&J for its many years of important service to the community, and we look forward to working with R&L,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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