CSWD hikes trash hauler fees (4/2/09)

Companies say customers will pay more

April 2, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

With revenue falling as residents throw out less and recycle more, the Chittenden Solid Waste District will impose a 25 percent fee hike on trash haulers.

The so-called solid waste management fee will rise from $17.61 to $22.06 per ton. The district estimates that the fee hike, effective July 1, will increase annual disposal costs by $3.52 for the average household.

District officials said they had little choice but to increase the fee because of a steep drop in trash and a corresponding decrease in revenue. They note it is the first time fees for haulers have been hiked since the district was formed in 1993.

“No matter what, we needed to increase the rate for the first time in 16 years because we were taking in less trash,” said Tom Moreau, CSWD’s general manager.

But haulers are unhappy with the rate hike, saying with the economy in a freefall and people losing jobs, higher prices couldn’t come at a worse time.

“I think it is totally absurd that they are increasing it so much,” said Jeff Myers, owner of Myers Container Service Corp. “We’ll have to absorb some of it because we can’t increase what we charge customers by that much.”

The district’s Board of Commissioners approved the rate hike at a meeting last week. The board also altered the fee structure to encourage more recycling, said Paul Stabler, the board’s chairman. The $20 per ton fee currently charged to haulers bringing recyclables to the district’s Material Recovery Facility will be halved. Part of the management fee hike will be used to subsidize recycling costs.

Moreau said the fee shift is the environmentally responsible thing to do, but over time it will hurt the district’s bottom line.

“We’re trying to reduce the amount of trash, so we’ll have even less revenue in the future,” he said.

The change drew a rare compliment from a representative of Vermont Organized Communities Against Landfills, which is fighting the waste district’s proposed landfill in Williston.

Craig Abrahams wrote in an e-mail that he was “pleased” by the decision to subsidize the recycling facility by raising fees charged to trash haulers.

“We must remember that 64 percent of the current landfilled waste stream can and should be diverted to recycling or composting,” he said.

But Abrahams also noted the district has millions more in reserves. He said some of that money should be used to fund further waste diversion efforts.

Stabler said the district has in fact set aside money in its capital budget for increasing the size of the Material Recovery Facility and other measures that will increase the recycling rate. He said state and federal laws require the district to set aside money for monitoring the long-closed landfill in Williston.

Still unclear is how much of the rate increase will be passed on to customers.

Scott Barnier, owner of Barnier Waste Trash Removal in Essex Junction, said his company would “definitely have to raise rates” but he said it was too soon to know by how much. Myers also said a yet-to-be-determined price hike was likely.

Myers questioned the waste district’s claim that the rate increase would only result in a minor increase for customers. And he noted the district failed to mention the effect on businesses, which generate a much greater quantity of trash and so have far higher disposal costs.

Stabler said CSWD’s fees comprise only a fraction of the disposal costs paid by haulers. He said haulers negotiate agreements with companies that operate transfer stations where trash is brought before being trucked to landfills elsewhere.

The fee increase is not the only one in recent times.

The district more than a year ago raised fees charged to residents who bring their own trash to drop-off centers located throughout Chittenden County.

In January, following a collapse of the commodities market, the district stopped paying haulers for recycled materials and started charging a $20 a ton fee.

 

A public hearing on the solid waste management fee hike will be held on Wednesday, April 15 at 4 p.m. It will be held at the Chittenden Solid Waste District’s offices, 1021 Redmond Road in Williston. Those who want to attend the hearing are asked to call Jennifer Getty at 872-8100 x201 or e-mail her at jgetty@cswd.net.