NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Services Committee is recommending an increase of 25 cents for trash bags and a $10 increase in the scale rate.
Administrative Officer Michael Canales said the increases would keep the transfer station "revenue neutral."
This is the first increase in two years. The only change last year was the institution of a $10 one-day permit. The full City Council will have to approve any changes or fund transfers.
In his presentation to the committee on Wednesday, Canales said the amount of waste for the coming fiscal year was anticipated at 4,000 tons with a waste disposal cost of $354,723.87, including a 15 percent contingency for fuel and environmental charges. Waste disposal is the largest cost for the transfer station, taking up about 73 percent of the budget.
Expenses covering salaries, insurance, supplies and other costs come to $151,621.60 for a total budget or $506,345.47 for fiscal 2020. That's up about $50,000 over this year.
The sales of resident ($60), non-resident ($80) and commercial ($85) stickers is expected to bring in $113,615. The transfer station no longer accepts large haulers, and is considered a small-scale operation, but it does expect to sell 163 commercial permits for small haulers and commercial-plate vehicles.
The scale rate would increase from $116.44 to $126.59 that, added with the sticker price of $60, would raise the average family's cost to dispose of waste by $32.81 per year. The administration recommended bag prices be raised 25 cents to $1.25 for small bags and $2.50 for large ones.
The amount of trash and garbage per household is based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data of 4.43 pounds per day for a family of four, or 3.2339 tons per year, explained Canales.
"The average family will be paying $469.37," he said. "Obviously, there are some controls families can do: if your increase your recycling by 10 percent, you can wipe that increase out."
Another way, he said, would be to encourage composting, an issue that had been broached by Councilor Marie T. Harpin. "It's an enormous amount of the waste," he said.
"I do think it's something we have to look at, something we should be doing to be more green," Canales said. "We're going to open up a conversation with the [Northern Berkshire] Solid Waste District on doing better outreach ... to get people at home to consider composting."
He said there are programs that the city is looking at. "It may be not something we institute this year but something that's on our radar to consider in the coming years," Canales said.
Committee Chairman Joshua Moran said it was time for a serious conversation on composting.
"That's a way for everyone to offset a huge amount of their waste through composting," he said. "How do we get the schools involved" ... I think that would be advantageous to us."
Committee member Wayne Wilkinson asked that the administration look into if the school system is recycling. He'd been told the system was not separating out recyclables wasn't but wasn't sure if that information was correct.
"That's tragic if we're teaching kids about the importance of recycling but not doing it ourselves," he said.
Canales also offered the committee an option to use biodegradable bags that he had sourced out also on the request of Harpin.
"I go through all this trouble of recycling ... and then I'm putting my trash in a bag that's plastic," said Harpin.
Those bags would cost $1.50 for small and $3 for large but the committee decided not to pursue that option after some conversation about their viability.
The bags would break down after 90 days but only if they had oxygen, such as being turned in compost pile. On the other hand, they would be full of non-biodegradable trash.
Moran asked Commissioner of Public Services Timothy Lescarbeau where the city's trash bags go.
"They get shipped off to Casella's land fill and buried," responded Lescarbeau. "They go through the recyclables and sort them but there really isn't really a market for them."
The committee rejected the concept of biodegradable bags for now since they were just being buried with regular trash.
The panel will also recommend to the full council that its spend $42,942 out of the landfill reserve account to purchase six 20-cubic yard roll-off containers with barn roofs and sliding poly doors. The landfill reserve account has about $400,000 in it.
Canales said the older containers are rusting out to the point they are becoming unsafe. The roll-offs have a commercial lifespan of about a decade and Lescarbeau said the ones at landfill date to the 1990s.
The containers would also be color-coded for trash and recycling.
Canales said he is also looking into a hazardous waste collection open to permit holders for later this year.
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