Hearing produces opposition to raising trash tipping fee; decision delayed

GILFORD — Selectmen tabled action of a measure that would raise the town's municipal dumping rates at the Laconia Transfer Station from $30 per ton to $90 per ton after a public hearing where all who addressed the board spoke against the idea.
Selectman Gus Benavides made a motion not to accept the rate structure increases but Selectmen John O'Brien and Chair Kevin Hayes voted against dismissing the rate increase out of hand. They both said they would like more information.
The solid waste rate disposal increase would mirror that of Laconia as of July 1 and was proposed so that the town's taxpayers were not subsidizing private trash removal.
The town does not offer curbside trash removal as a municipal service.
Town Administrator Scott Dunn said it costs the town about $90 per ton to dispose of its solid waste collected within its borders and estimated the tax rate would drop by seven cents per $1,000 assessed value for the balance of this year and by $.14 cents next year and in successive years should the town stop subsidizing solid waste disposal.
In 2012 the total cost of solid waste disposal in Gilford was $413,000 but only $124,000 of that sum was paid for by haulers, paying at the $30 per ton rate. The rest came out of the Gilford treasury.
Resident and business owner Doug Lambert said garbage disposal was one of the basic roles of municipal government like public safety and roads. He described it as a task that needs to be handled by society.
"The proposal will effect everyone in town," he said, noting that since there is no curbside pickup the town's residents will end up paying more individually than they would collectively.
He also said he feared the increase in the town rate was a "scheme" to put the burden for trash disposal onto the individual but spend the money elsewhere. He agreed to back off the word "scheme" when Benavides objected, telling him there was no "scheme" or "back-room" ploy to reduces the annual costs to taxpayers by $100,000 for the balance of 2013 and spend it in another place.
"It's a good point that if we take $100,000 out we must be aware that it doesn't get put in anywhere else," Benavides said.
Budget Committee member Kevin Leandro, who owned a garbage company in Rhode Island, explained that most garbage haulers don't like "subscriber-based" trash pickup because it's a lot of paperwork.
He said it was very difficult teaching drivers the routes and said they have to continually check and update lists to make sure a subscriber is on the route and not in arrears in their bill. He said it's easier for the haulers to negotiate and collect one bill from a town rather that $1,500 smaller bills and the additional costs would be passed on by the haulers.
David "Skip" Murphy noted that price of garbage collection is inelastic — meaning that the people will pay for it regardless of the costs or, in this case, resort to disposing of their trash illegally by dumping on the side of some road or using someone else's dumpster.
"What about people who can't afford it?" he asked. "There are some poorer people in town."
"I don't think you're going to save as much as you think you are," Murphy said.
When Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan said there was the possibility the individual could pay more for trash disposal than what they pay in taxes now, the board decided to delay any further action until Dunn could get some figures on how much it could cost.
In other Gilford news, Fire Chief Steve Carrier said Engine 4 was back in service and responding as needed to incidents. When asked by O'Brien what the "real cost" of repairing it, Carrier said it was $76,500 and he expects it to stay in service for another five years.
He also said the department's preventative maintenance program is continues to improve and each front-line vehicle gets checks daily and the other vehicles are checked on a set weekly schedule. He said deficiencies are noted immediately and the Department of Public Works is contacted.
Carrier also said the department is flow testing all the dry-hydrants and has identified three water supply priorities — Alpine Ridge that should be dredged, Alvah Wilson Road, which is ready to go to bid, and a new hydrant on Watson Road to replace the cistern that has a crack and has never worked.