By Tracy F. Seelye, Express editor
HANSON — The Board of Health and Selectmen differed in separate meetings Tuesday night on whether to return a state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) grant which helps fund the town’s new pay-as-you-throw program.
The health board voted 2-1 against a motion by member Richard Edgehille to return the $18,000 — partly because doing so would block the board from applying for any DEP grants for three years. The same motion made at a July 3 meeting failed to obtain a second and was not voted.
Selectmen, however, voted 3-2 later on Tuesday, July 22 to return the money — an action, which superscedes the Board of Health vote [See story].
The key issue for opponents of the grant lie in accompanying language that requires private trash haulers to bundle rates for curbside trash and recycling pickup even for customers who plan to recycle at the transfer station.
“It’s got noting to do with pay-as-you-throw or $2 a bag …we’re going to be doing that,” Edgehille said. “It’s that people who have been trash haulers for 15 years are being penalized now for $12-$13 extra and they already pay taxes.”
Health Board Chairman Gil Amado and member Terence McSweeney both stressed that the DEP regulation is already in place as part of the new waste ban policies, which prohibit the inclusion of a long list of recyclable materials from the solid waste stream. The ban covers about 40 percent of what is now thrown away. Hanson recycles at a rate of about 9 to 19 percent of its waste stream, which limited the life of the landfill.
“Historically, Hanson residents have not recycled at a rate we need to by law,” McSweeney said. “A secondary concern of mine is not only losing the grant we received, but being ineligible to apply for subsequent grants for three years.”
One of those subsequent grants could have meant $200,000 to the town. Since 1993, Hanson has received more than $40,000 in DEP grants.
“Trash haulers already know they’re supposed to comply with this,” Amado said. “If you’re a hauler, and you’ve educated yourself about your business, you’ll understand what you have to do.”
Even after a rescinding of the grant, the regulation will have to be enforced, according to Amado.
Edgehille said he was putting forth the motion to rescind the grant because he expected the Board of Selectmen to do so before reading a letter to the Board of Health he wrote on the matter into the record.
“We were given no paperwork regarding this regulation,” Edgehille said of the bundling rule. “We were told the regulation was required to be voted.”
The regulation requires private trash haulers to charge an extra $13 for the bundled service.
“The private hauler customer already pays tax dollars to [support] the transfer station,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to pay this extra amount. We should be able to take their recyclables at the transfer station. This is nothing more than paying double … it isn’t anything that affects the health and safety of our town.”
A Hanson waste hauler in attendance said he understands the enforcement of waste ban regulations, but is concerned with the need to report customer information, which is also required.
“You’ve got to find some common ground here,” he said.
He also asked if the grant regulations could be adjusted to permit one free bag per household each week without losing the funding, but McSweeney replied that would not be possible because the cost of disposing of recyclable materials is also at issue.
In other business, the Board of Health decided to leave the length of the contract governing the town’s membership in the South Shore Recycling Cooperative (SSRC) to Town Meeting after Chairman Claire Galkowski said a one-year renewal was not permitted, according to the SSRC counsel.
“Our municipal agreement has to be identical for every member town,” she said of the SSRC board’s recent decision on the issue.
Kingston’s town counsel has also opined that the contracts can be renewed without going to town meeting, but Hanson officials want to review that opinion.
“I don’t think there’s a debate as to whether or not we want to continue our relationship,” McSweeney said. “I think the question was did it have to be a five-year commitment or was there some mechanism to allow us to sign for a shorter term.”
Hanson has been a member of the SSRC for 10 of the organization’s 16 years. The contract lapsed last year without anyone noticing and Hanson has continued membership on a waiver meaning the current decision to renew would be for four years.