TILTON — The Board of Selectmen last night decided to begin the "Pay-As-You-Throw" trash collection program on September 3, then met with more than two dozen residents to address their questions about the operation of the program only to find that some were unaware of the initiative and others opposed to it, while a few still had questions.
Pat Consentino, who chairs the Selectboard, said that the board decided earlier during its regularly scheduled meeting to start the program on September 3 and that postcards announcing the start date would be mailed either to all taxpayers or postal customers shortly. She said there would be a two week grace period before the requirement that all trash be contained in a specially marked purple bag purchased at local stores was strictly enforced.
Selectmen Joe Jesseman, who serves on the Recycling Committee, said that he was going to ask store owners to begin selling the bags tomorrow. He said that 15 gallon bags will be sold for $1 in lots of 10 and 33 gallon bags for $1.50 in lots of five. Bags will be available at Hannaford, The Store, Bryant & Lawrence Hardware, Smoke 'N Barley, Walgreens and the Winnisquam Market and Deli. Soon, Jesseman said, bags will also be sold at the Town Hall.
Marjorie Bonneville of the Recycling Committee explained that the panel had spent the last four years studying q variety of different options for reducing the cost of collecting, transporting and disposing of solid waste before recommending PAYT to Town Meeting March, where, with the support of the Selectboard and Budget Committee, it won the the approval of voters. "it's not a question of if we're going to do it," she said, "but when we're going to do it."
Almost at once the program was challenged by Kristen Vaughan, who said that she recently moved to Tilton from Concord where, she claimed, PAYT had led to a spate of illegal dumping, adversely impacted businesses and caused financial hardship. She said that by moving she expected to escape PAYT and was surprised to find Tilton introducing it. She asked how much information residents were given before the vote at Town Meeting.
Bill Riley, citing the example of an unnamed town that introduced PAYT only to abandon it when it led to illegal dumping, warned "it's just a program you can't control."
Several speakers said that residents who already pay for trash collection and disposal through property taxes will be paying twice by purchasing bags and asked how the program would reduce costs. Director of Public Works Dennis Allen estimated that by reducing the annual volume of trash by 600 tons, which costs more than $66.80 a ton to haul and dump at the Concord Regional Solid Waste Resource/Recovery Cooperative in Penacook, PAYT would reduce his department's budget by at least $40,000.
Without disputing Allen's estimate, Finance Director Tim Pearson said that he would be able to measure the financial effects of the program after it has been operating for several months.
A couple of men complained that town officials had done a poor job of informing residents about the advent of PAYT. Reminded by Town Clerk/Tax Collector Cindy Reinartz that it was presented, discussed and voted at Town Meeting in March, one man asked "what Town Meeting?"
When another echoed the first, Bonneville said "we used every means we could think of to communicate," referring to the local newspapers, town website and public meetings. "We can't spoon feed everybody."
She was seconded by Jesseman, who said that short of knocking on every door, the Selectboard and Recycling Committee had done their best to provide residents with information.
"I have to give them credit," said Jerry Davis in support of the selectmen and the committee. "They've worked their hearts out. Let's go for it."