Selectmen Vote Unanimously for Tip Fees; Hold their Noses at $25 Resident Permit Fee

On Thursday the Board of Selectmen voted to implement a tip fee at the Holly Hill Resource Recovery Facility, aka “the dump,” of $112.00 per ton, and a $25 permit fee for residents who prefer to bring their own trash to the dump. They said $93.66 is the actual hauling and disposal fee to the town.

Tip fees in other nearby towns are: Norwalk $85/ton, Stamford $95/ton, Port Chester$110/ton, Darien $94/ton.

“The RTM passed language saying it (resident permit fee) doesn’t exceed $25, so we recommend it is set at $25 so town can recoup some cost of MSW disposal and get it out of the town budget to help manage the pressures on the budget this coming year,” First Selectman Camillo said.

He said the per ton fee to haulers is not lower than neighboring towns, and therefore would not create the temptation for haulers to bring in MSW from other towns.

Camillo said the new fee to haulers would result in them being vigilant about separating recyclables from MSW.

“You’ll see recyclables go up and MSW go down,” Camillo said. “They’ve been great partners for many years. They’ll make us all proud.”

Camillo said the $25 permit fee was set too low, and that decision was rendered by the RTM after just a half hour.

Local hauler Angelo Pucci of Pucci Carting was put on the call via Camillo’s cell phone.

“It’s so unfair to the people paying haulers,” Pucci said of the tipping fee implementation. “It’s going to cause problems. The RTM voted on that because the gentleman who brought it up brings his own garbage to the dump. They spent 2 hours on your item to reprimand you, Fred, (RTM Votes on Sense of Meeting Resolution on $100K Emergency Appropriation to United Way, May 12, 2020) and only 30 minutes on this. They had no empathy for the people out of work, the businesses that are shut down.”

“We think Amy (Amy Siebert, DPW commissioner) should put together a committee to share good ideas. Let’s not jam tipping fees down people’s throats to fill up the hole in the budget,” Pucci added.

“We’re trying to implement what the RTM passed,” Siebert said. “But in the ordinance, it says there’s a working group to be put together to work on this. I’m sure Mr. Pucci and others will be part of that group.”

“I think it’s unfair and I think it’s way too low,” Camillo said. “They spent 30 minutes on it which I thought was a joke, but it can’t be undone. The $25 fee will be revisited – how quickly, I don’t know.”

“I thought it was maybe a good number for senior citizens,” he said. However, he said the permit fee should be higher in general, and that he’d spoken to many people who agreed, both RTM members and non members.

Selectwoman Lauren Rabin pointed out that some towns have a separate permit fee for households who pay a hauler and those who don’t.

In Darien residents pay $40 for a dump permit with proof of garbage collection from a hauler registered with that Town, and $120 if they don’t.

The question came up whether a resident would need to pay for a dump permit to go to the Goodwill trailer or book swap – or the food scrap recycling are for that matter.

DPW commissioner Amy Siebert said there is no way to police people once they’re in the gate, and pointed out there is a Goodwill on the Post Rd.

There were questions about City Carting’s contract. Siebert said City Carting had bid for and won the town’s MSW contract, recycling contract, bulky waste contract, which refers to construction and demolition debris and organics.

She said it was ideal to have the same contractor responsible for both MSW and recycling. “They came in and it’s a good thing because that has to be shared on the tipping floor. In future we’d probably look to bid those out together,” she said. “It’s complicated to run that with multiple operators.”

Siebert said in addition to being a licensed commercial hauler, City Carting won the operations contract with the town.

She said City Carting is also responsible for operations. They manage the transfer station building, oversee basic operations and maintenance, deal with storm water management, pay utilities, provide staffing and deal with equipment on the tip floor, in addition to providing the trucks and drivers that take the material away.

“They’ve provided the town very good service through a number of challenging times,” Siebert said. “A lot of people have insinuated a lot of things about them, about each other. We jokingly say we like to talk a lot of trash about each other. We do our best to keep an eye on all of it.”

For months the town was embroiled in controversy over the idea of Pay As You Throw as proposed to include hiring a DEEP preferred vendor WasteZero and a system where residents paid for plastic bags ($2.00 for a large bag) that they’d have to use for their trash.

The RTM didn’t vote to kill PAYT and approve tip fees until May 11.

The Selectmen didn’t vote on the fees until Thursday, May 28.

The new system of tip fees and resident permits goes into effect on July 1, giving DPW just one one month from the Selectmen vote to figure out a way for residents to apply for a permit, prove residency and pay – with social distancing due to the pandemic, and Greenwich Town Hall just having reopened Monday by appointment.

The Selectmen didn’t discuss whether existing dump permits (stickers) will continue to be valid.

For many years the town required park users to apply for stickers for their cars. Those stickers were also valid for access to the dump. But a few years ago, Parks & Rec stopped issuing stickers and instead put user vehicle information in the bar codes on the park passes.

Also, in the month before tip fees goes into effect, DPW will also have to organize a billing system for haulers to charge them for their tonnage.

“If we vote I’m torn between voting and abstaining,” Selectperson Oberlander said. “We need to track closely the experience and put together that working group quickly.”

Oberlander said it would also be important to get comments from the haulers.

“We might want to revisit the fee structure in very short term if the impact is so great,” she said.

Siebert asked the Selectmen to vote given, the short notice for her department and the Hill staff to prepare.

“From an implementation side, we would request you all vote because we have the pleasure of trying to get this in place by the first of July. We have one month to have everybody ready to go. Meaning all the residential permits as well as commercial. We’re doing the best we can. We’ve ordered things. We’ve put sign ups online. DPW is also concerned about traffic from residents going to Holly Hill.” –DPW commissioner Amy Siebert

After some discussion about traffic concerns, given the line to get in the dump since the pandemic began has been long, sometimes stretching nearly to the Post Rd, Ms. Rabin said, “The good news is we’re the traffic authority as the Board of Selectmen.”

The selectmen took their vote, which was 3-0 in favor.

“We need to monitor this closely and frequently to make changes from fee structure and traffic standpoint,” Rabin said after the vote.

Reached by email on Monday, Michael Spilo, chair of the RTM’s Public Works committee, said he felt the $25 permit fee was appropriately priced, and already contains restrictions. 

“The issue is that in Greenwich, nearly ten million pounds of waste are in by self-haulers annually, and we don’t know how much of this is commercial waste,” he said.  “If this is all residential, it translates into 60% of all households hauling all their own trash every year, which is not very likely in my opinion.”

Mr. Spilo said the Greenwich ordinance already limits this permit to “town residents” hauling waste “generated at their residence.” 

“So the permit is clearly personal to the residents and excludes commercial and construction waste, but this should be monitored,” he said. “Stamford deals with this issue by setting a maximum annual weight (800 lbs per household) on the trash brought in under a residential permit, charging per ton above that.”

Spilo said the ordinance refers to a permit fee, and does not preclude charging an additional tipping fee.

“I would prefer the RTM vote to clarify this,” he said. “Perhaps DPW can monitor this and if it turns out to be problematic, the Selectmen can add a weight restriction or tipping fee to the permits.”