GILFORD — Adoption of comprehensive solid waste regulations and fees will wait a bit as selectmen reconsider the proposal that went to a recent public hearing.
The rules that would create mandatory recycling and require that residents separate the material, along with imposing fines for failure to comply, met with some resistance during the Nov. 20 public hearing, mainly from resident Skip Murphy. He said the policy reverses the relationship between people and their government.
“Government is supposed to serve us,” Murphy said, according to a video recording of the meeting. “Almost as soon as this place opens, you turn that relationship upside down and impose punishment if we don’t follow every part of the regulations.”
Murphy opposed the plans to reconfigure the town’s solid waste transfer station at a cost of $950,000, and was even more upset when the town asked voters to approve another $400,000 to complete the job. He said to learn now that residents would be required to separate their recyclables was another blow.
“Now you’re not only taking my money, I’ll become an involuntary employee of the town,” he said. “Now I’m going to have to spend a lot of time separating, and have to learn how to separate and become the town bottle-washer.”
He also objected to fines that would be imposed for failure to comply with the regulations, including when the contents of a trash bag contain more than 5 percent recyclable products or a pizza box with grease stains or food residue. A first offense would result in a $100 fine; a second offense would cost $500, and a third offense would lead to a $1,000 fine.
Selectman Dale Channing Eddy said after the hearing that Murphy made some good points and he wanted time to review the proposal with the town’s solid waste committee. In particular, the fines that were intended to ensure compliance with the ordinance seemed excessive, he said, and simply revoking a person’s right to use the facility might serve the purpose.
Chair Richard Grenier, who serves on the solid waste committee, asked Murphy to put his thoughts in writing for the committee to consider, but made no promise that they would adopt his suggestions.
Support for recycling
Most speakers at the public hearing supported recycling, saying it was not as onerous as Murphy made it sound, and that it was the proper thing to do for the planet.
“We’re not going to fine anyone from day one,” said Bill Knightly, who served on the solid waste committee. “I insisted we educate the public, which will take a long time. If I find out that anyone gets fined before that time, I’ll be standing here to make sure it gets returned.”
Grenier said the committee had looked at all aspects of solid waste disposal, including door-to-door pickup, “and this is the best we could come up with.”
The regulations state the intention “to provide the rules governing the Town’s acceptance, processing, disposal, and transfer of solid waste products (household trash) with the added goals of protecting the environment and maximizing the most economic use of tax dollars by enacting a user fee system that is designed to cover the costs of disposal for waste products other than household trash.”
That includes, for the first time, accepting construction and demolition debris from homeowners, with fees charged to cover the town’s cost in disposing of it.
Gilford would no longer subsidize the disposal of any waste products that Gilford residents take to the Laconia transfer station, as it has in the past.
Recycled material would be have to be separated, rather than “co-mingled,” with bins for plastics, metal cans, aluminum cans, glass bottles, corrugated cardboard, and paper.
The town would hold an annual Earth Day disposal of bulky items where the regular fees are waived, and would operate a “Goody Shack” for the exchange of “gently used clothing, toys, sporting equipment, appliances, household goods, tools, and other re-usable objects.”
For residents unable to make the trip to the transfer station, the town would issue a temporary pass to allow a non-resident to bring that person’s solid waste to the Gilford facility.
Selectmen did not set a specific date for reconsidering the proposal.