Citizen advisory committee weighing in on consolidated collection
By Stephanie Choate
Chittenden Solid Waste District is looking at a new way to collect trash and recycling.
CSWD has been examining a consolidated collection for the past few years. Under that system—used in much of the country—Chittenden County would be divided into trash and recycling collection districts, each serviced by one hauler selected through an open bidding process.
CSWD recently formed a citizen advisory committee to gain community input on the proposal. The group first met in Williston July 31, and is set to meet again Aug. 14, Aug. 28 and Sept. 11.
The CSWD board is gathering public input this summer and fall before decided whether to continue the consolidation process this winter—one of many “decision points,” CSWD Waste Reduction Manager Nancy Plunkett said. The board is set to make a final decision whether to implement consolidated collection in January 2016, and three years notice would be given to haulers.
Plunkett said consolidated collection could result in lower costs for haulers and residents. With quicker, more organized routes requiring less fuel and time, haulers’ costs would diminish drastically—savings they can pass on to the customer.
The average cost in Chittenden County is $35 per month for trash and recycling pickup. According to a CSWD-commissioned study by DSM Environmental Services, households could see a 24 percent drop in costs, and businesses could save 20 percent.
Westford has had a consolidated collection system for years.
“Westford households’ costs are much cheaper than the average cost in the county for collection,” Plunkett said.
Westford Town Clerk Nanette Rogers said the weekly trash pickup and twice-monthly recycling pickup is funded through taxes and costs the average household $20 per month.
“It’s awesome,” Rogers said of the system. “We get a great deal because it’s a town-wide thing. They’re there for a day and they pick everything up…. Most of our roads are dirt roads and especially during mud season it limits the travel of heavy trucks. It helps not to have five or six companies coming in here and tearing up our roads.”
Aside from reduced cost, consolidated collection would help the environment and aesthetics of county towns, CSWD says. Far fewer garbage and recycling trucks would ply the streets and recycling participation would likely increase, since customers could be charged more accurately by how much trash they throw away.
However, customers would no longer be able to choose who provides their pickup service, raising concerns about a lack of competition driving prices up and quality down. Small haulers also worry that they would not be able to compete with larger companies in an open bidding process.
Currently, 10 private haulers provide trash and recycling collection in Chittenden County.
Scott Barnier, who has owned and operated Barnier Waste for 12 years, believes consolidation would put him out of business.
“I’m a small hauler and if they do this there’s no way I can bid on a town,” he said.
Barnier has more than 400 customers in Chittenden County, approximately 50 of them in Williston.
“My biggest concern is my customers having a choice,” he said. “Vermonters here have always made their own choices.”
He also raised concern over an open bidding process where out-of-state companies could compete—taking jobs away from Vermonters—and the level of service that would be provided to customers if one hauler wins a lengthy contract. For example, he provides discounts and front-door pickups to senior citizens—a service he’s not sure they’d get with a contracted hauler.
“We’ve had this system for over 60 years and it seems to take care of our needs,” he said, adding the local haulers are up to the task of increased recycling and compost hauling. “I think a local haulers can handle all this stuff.”
Plunkett said Barnier’s concerns have already been raised by CSWD staff and board members, and they have researched ways to address them.
To be constitutional, the bidding process must be open, but Plunkett said CSWD has developed ways to allow smaller haulers to compete if public benefit is established. For example, certain districts could be open only to small haulers, or smaller haulers could bid cooperatively.
CSWD has also researched ways to foster competition among haulers.
“You need to maintain competition or indeed prices could rise,” Plunkett said. “That’s a great concern to the board and we would want to design a system that could maintain that competition…. There are methods other communities have used in controlling price increases.”
The Aug. 14 committee meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. in the community room in the Williston Police Department. It is open to the public.
For more information on consolidated collection, visit cswd.net/consolidated-collection. To send a comment to CSWD, email [email protected]