Contracts set fees, regulate operations

Sept. 18, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Williston has renewed contracts with two solid waste companies that pay more than $300,000 in annual fees, the town’s third-largest source of revenue.

The Selectboard on Monday approved so-called host town agreements with the Burlington Transfer Station and All Cycle Waste. Each operates facilities that accept household and commercial waste brought by haulers, which is then trucked to landfills elsewhere in Vermont. The Burlington Transfer Station is located on Redmond Road; All Cycle operates facilities off Industrial Avenue.

The contracts continue to require each company to pay a per-ton fee pegged to inflation and impose restrictions on operations.

The fees are intended to account for wear and tear on roads caused by the large number of trucks coming and going from each facility, said Town Manager Rick McGuire. The Burlington Transfer Station agreement also regulates where trucks can travel and mandates wind-blown waste be cleaned up.

“We’re requiring them to do a better job of policing and picking up trash,” McGuire said.

Stray trash and heavy truck traffic have long been concerns among residents living near the facility.

Property and sales tax revenue fund the vast majority of Williston’s municipal budget. But next to those, the transfer station fees are the town’s largest sources of revenue.

In the previous fiscal year, the facilities paid a combined $317,081 in fees, according to Susan Lamb, Williston’s finance director. All Cycle paid $175,158 during the period and Burlington Transfer Station paid $141,923.

The new three-year contracts continue the longstanding practice of charging a per-ton fee that is adjusted each year to account for increases in the Consumer Price Index, the federal government’s principal measure of inflation. The contracts each call for a base rate of $2.11, which was immediately adjusted upward to $2.22 to account for inflation, Lamb said.

Other provisions allow the town to verify the amount of waste collected by mandating access to records and to impose fees for late payments.

The 10-page agreement with the Burlington Transfer Station — double the length of the All Cycle contract — adds rules governing where waste can be trucked and how stray debris is controlled. The Burlington Transfer Station facility is near residential areas while the All Cycle transfer station is in an industrial district.

Tractor-trailers hauling trash to and from Burlington Transfer Station may use only Vermont Route 2A, Mountain View Road and Redmond Road. The contract makes an exception for trucks that need to refuel or “gain access to other necessary services.”

The contract also requires Burlington Transfer Station to pick up debris at or around the transfer station. The company must, on the request of the town or any resident, promptly collect debris that blows away from the site. And the company must maintain a log detailing dates and times litter has been picked up.

Contract talks took place over the past year. The town was represented by Selectboard members Judy Sassorossi and Jeff Fehrs as well as McGuire and Public Works Director Neil Boyden.

Negotiations moved slowly in part because of scheduling difficulties associated with the relatively large number of people involved, McGuire said. The town was also trying to be fair to both companies, which compete with each other, while getting the best deal for Williston.

McGuire declined to detail specifics involved with the contract negotiations.

“There were lots of issues we talked about, and I don’t want to pick one out,” he said. “Fees and everything else were on the table.”

Asked how the public could confirm the town got the best possible deal, McGuire said the contracts speak for themselves and noted they include provisions protecting the public’s interest, such as the trucking restrictions.

Mike Cozad, general manager for All Cycle Waste in Williston, could not be reached for comment.

Tom Badowski, general manager of Burlington Transfer Station, said talks did not turn on any one issue.

“I don’t thing there was any bones of contention, per se,” he said.

Due to the competitive nature of the market, Badowski said his company does not always pass the town’s fee increases on to customers. Sometimes the transfer station simply absorbs hikes.

The transfer stations are used mainly by commercial trash haulers. Residents can dispose of their household waste without using a hauler by using drop-off centers operated by the Chittenden Solid Waste District. The Williston drop-off center is located on Redmond Road near the Burlington Transfer Station facility.

The new contracts comprise two of the three host town agreements in Williston. The other, with CSWD, permits a landfill to be built in the future.

That 1992 agreement has generated considerable controversy in recent years, and organized opposition has formed to the landfill. Residents living near the proposed site filed a legal challenge to the agreement. But a Vermont Superior Court judge ruled earlier this month that the agreement was valid.