OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
December 30, 2014
The special meeting commenced at 6:02 PM at the Windham Solid Waste Management District Conference Room, 327 Old Ferry Road, Brattleboro, VT. Board members in attendance were Lewis Sumner and Edee Edwards. Earl Holtz was unable to attend. Also in attendance were Greg Marguet from Halifax; Louis Bruso, Jr. from Jamaica, Merrill Mundell from Wilmington; Michelle Cherrier from Dummerston; Johanna Gardner from Newfane; Dale West from Townshend; Mike Coutermanche from Vernon; James Domato from Readsboro; Irv Stowell from Townshend; Christine Druke from Newfane; and Robert Spencer, Executive Director of WSWMD.
Public Hearing on WSWMD Budget
Lou Bruso stated that this was a public hearing on the Windham Solid Waste Management District’s budget. He briefly explained the budget process, starting with the Finance Committee, going to the Supervisor’s meeting, and being taken to the full WSWMD board before being sent to Selectboards and the press. They warned this public hearing, and in January the budget will be up for a full vote of the Board of Supervisors. Votes are apportioned by population, with most towns getting 1 vote, on up to Brattleboro at the top getting 4 plus 1 extra for hosting the facility in its borders.
This year there has been more interest in the budget as some towns are questioning the role of the District in light of Act 148 which requires (as one component) that solid waste vendors pick up recyclables. Towns have been questioning the value of participating in the district as more things become “fee for service.” It was noted that the District did include a raise of 2% for employees in the budget, and that they do have reserve funds which may not show easily in the budget materials. It was also noted that the term “deficit” simply is the delta between the cost and the needed funds; this is essentially the figure used to create the assessments on each participating town.
Each town represented was asked for comments about the budget or services.
Those present generally stated their understanding that the district’s shared services go beyond the recycle bins to deal with additional solid waste needs. Hazardous waste pickup dates; electronic waste collection; composting facilities; creating mandatory solid waste plans (SWIP); and education services were among the items discussed. Edwards echoed a comment by Druke that our town assessments are in essence fees that allow us not to have to individually host our own landfills and deal with the many complicated and often expensive issues that would put upon a small town.
Better insight into individual town’s usage of the services and dollars expended was a theme. The district does have specific usage data and can help Selectboards understand the value they are getting as well as the costs. We were updated that some of the towns mentioned in the papers as questioning the WSWMD will be discussing the budget at upcoming meetings, with a number of them having spent time learning more about WSWMD in the interim. One service model of doing “single stream recycling” is not being proposed by the district at this time due to anticipated prohibitive costs to upgrade our local facilities, but with the changes in the law, the Supervisors expect to see how waste collection activities will change as they continue to monitor future needs. Some spoke in favor of single stream as helpful to smaller waste pickup providers; others noted that single stream moves District jobs out of our county.
Edwards and Sumner stated that the Halifax Selectboard was there to confirm that we supported the budget request, while endeavoring to stand together with other towns for these joint services.
Others indicated that the process for towns to withdraw from the district if they chose was likely to take time. It was noted that two towns are considering joining the district. Earlier Edwards had asked if the budget had ever been rejected, and it was stated that this had not occurred. She pressed again about what steps would be taken if the budget were rejected, and they said the supervisors would then need to go back to figure out what services to reduce.
Marguet asked questions about the Hazardous Waste Collection Days. It was explained that these are put out to bid, but there are only about 3 vendors who service this area. Each truck is a $2K set up fee plus the disposal fee costs. At most 4% of the residents have gone to any given drop off day. The district can collect most of these wastes when they are open, but they are planning to get certified to also handle herbicides and pesticides.
As the main meeting concluded, Edwards confirmed with Sumner one agenda item for next Tuesday; otherwise no town business was discussed.
The meeting ended at approximately 7:20 pm.
Edee Edwards, Selectboard Member