MIDDLEBURY — The sluggish economy is slowing the local waste stream, which is good news — unless you are the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD), which during the past year laid off two workers and must hike some its fees in 2010 in light of declining trash revenues.
The ACSWMD board late last week approved a 2010 annual budget of $2,363,773, an amount that is $453,970 (15 percent) less than the current year’s district spending plan. That decrease is based on a much more conservative estimate by solid waste district officials on how much trash the district will take in at its Middlebury transfer station next year. The ACSWMD had projected it would take in 22,363 tons this year, an amount that is now being downgraded to 17,760 tons. District officials are basing the 2010 budget on that same 17,760 estimate.
“The (17,760-ton) estimate is about on par with the year 2000; we haven’t seen that number in a long time,” said solid waste district manager Teresa Kuczynski.
Each ton represents $122.50 in tipping fee revenues to the district. Less trash therefore means less revenue to run the ACSWMD’s transfer station, household hazardous waste and recycling programs.
The bulk of the trash decline can be traced to less construction and demolition debris finding its way to the transfer station.
“It is a reflection of the economy and lack of construction,” Kuczynski said. “We’ve seen a steady decline or leveling off of municipal solid waste over the last six years, but the construction and demolition debris remained strong enough to subsidize it. Now, in 2008 and 2009, construction and demolition debris has declined considerably — by 30 percent.”
Kuczynski called the present numbers “unprecedented declines.” She also noted a less favorable market for recyclables. The district is paying to have handlers accept some recyclables that used to generate revenue.
“There has been a huge decline in prices for recycling,” Kuczynski said.
She stressed that Addison County is not alone in seeing its trash-related revenues decline. That in turn has forced other districts to increase their respective tipping fees. Kuczynski noted other counties and districts have introduced per capita fees and/or depend on property taxes to help balance their trash disposal budgets. At a rate of $122.50 per ton, she said the ACSWMD is still one of the better deals in the state. Windham Solid Waste Management District charges a tipping fee of $135 per ton for trash, while the Rutland Solid Waste Management District charges $130-$150 per ton, according to Kuczynski.
Bristol and Salisbury are the only towns in the county that operate their own town dumps. The cost of dumping trash in Bristol amounts to around $300 per ton, while in Salisbury it runs $166 to $333 per ton, according to statistics provided by the ACSWMD.
The ACSWMD provides solid waste management services for 19 Addison County communities. The district has a contract (through 2012) with Casella Waste Management through which trash is processed at the Middlebury transfer station and then disposed of at a landfill in Coventry.
Kuczynski said the ACSWMD relies on tipping and user fees for revenues, and therefore must run a very tight ship. With that in mind, the district has already cut around $200,000 from this year’s budget to balance the books. The unfortunate casualties included the laying off of one full-time worker and one part-timer. Another full-timer was cut back to part-time status.
ACSWMD officials have chosen not to tap into the district’s emergency reserve fund to help balance the budget. The board wants to keep that $75,000 set aside for any mid-year emergency that might surface, according to Kuczynski.
District officials have, however, voted to increase some fees in 2010 to help give the ACSWMD some more financial stability going forward. The increases include:
• A bump in the tipping fee to $125 per ton from the current $122.50. This should translate into an increase of 3 cents per 25-pound bag of trash for district consumers, according to Kuczynski.
• A $1 administrative fee per transaction at the transfer station. The fee applies to transfer station services where there is already a charge; it will not apply to services that are currently free.
• A $5 fee in cases where ACSWMD workers must assist customers loading mulch. People can avoid that charge by bringing their own shovels and bins; the fee applies to people who need transfer station equipment and people to assist them with the loading process.
• A $2-per-load fee for people disposing of household-generated latex paint and/or joint compound.
• A $1-per-load charge for yard waste. The fee is needed because the district must pay to haul that waste to a compost facility, according to Kuczynski.
She stressed that customers can reduce the impact of most of the aforementioned costs by consolidating their loads, perhaps even pooling such deliveries with neighbors.
“That would be to everyone’s benefit,” she said.
Tim Wickland, ACSWMD board director, was unavailable for comment for this story.
Bill Finger, Middlebury’s representative to the ACSWMD board, said he believed the 2010 budget is a responsible one given the current economy.
“I think the staff did a good job in addressing the needs of the times,” Finger said.
“It is a tough (financial) year all the way around.”