BRATTLEBORO — The Selectboard is waiting on the outcome of a budget hearing before deciding which way it votes on the Windham Solid Waste Management District's budget.
"For over a year, the town through the Selectboard and town manager and assistant town manager have been asking that the district consider a new way of sharing our services," said Bob Spencer, WSWMD executive director, in an interview Wednesday. "One concept is termed fee-for-service, which implies that towns would have an option to sign on for such services as roll-off recycling containers at Fairground Road."
Brattleboro would no longer pay for recycling at the site through the fee-for-service revenue model. Selectboard members have voiced concern over being "double billed" as the town already pays a private hauler for recycling curbside pickup.
Currently, the district charges member towns an assessment fee based on permanent population according to United States census numbers. Spencer said there is no differentiation in the services they receive through the district.
Guilford is another example of a community where the Fairground Road roll-off recycling containers are no longer needed but could be used.
"Yet they still pay the same amount," said Spencer. "Because we don't have a mechanism to reduce those charges."
A discussion on moving to a fee-for-service revenue model is anticipated at the next Selectboard meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Ultimately, approval would be needed from WSWMD Board of Directors
"This is a whole new approach of assessing member towns for their membership. So we're going to take a look at it," said Spencer. "We're going to evaluate it. We're going to give it a good effort to come up with a good methodology."
Whether this could affect the fiscal year 2017 budget coming up for approval no later than early January, Spencer said he thinks it is unlikely.
"It depends what my board decides to do tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 10) night," he said, referring to a budget hearing being held at 6 p.m. at the WSWMD District Office at 327 Old Ferry Road in Brattleboro.
Guilford has shown interest in making the change, according to Spencer.
The subject came up at a Brattleboro Selectboard meeting on Dec. 1. The board intended on discussing whether to support a budget with or without the materials recovery facility, or MRF. Both budgets were prepared by the district.
According to Town Manager Peter Elwell, a Dec. 2 meeting saw discussion between town and WSWMD officials over the potential elimination of the facility's recycling collection. An emergency meeting was called by the WSWMD Finance Committee for Dec. 3 to discuss a budget with no recycling collection. This alternative was ultimately looked at as unfavorable.
But eight WSWMD representatives at the meeting decided to add the fee-for-service revenue model to the Dec. 10 agenda.
"While there is concern among some members that there is insufficient time to complete the analysis and establish a fee-for-service revenue system for implementation with the FY17 budget, there was widespread agreement that this model should be fully developed soon so that decisions can be made well in advance of the FY18 budget process whether — and, if so, how — to implement this system," Elwell wrote in a memo. "We agreed to support this effort and to actively participate in the work group."
Elwell said the revenue model would "provide transparency in allocating the cost of operations among the various services provided" by the district and would help with cost savings for some member towns.
"Most likely it would run alongside (the assessment system)," Elwell told the Selectboard on Tuesday as he recommended tabling the discussion. "We think it's worthwhile for Thursday evening to come and occur with the full board of the WSWMD."
Selectboard member John Allen said he was not too optimistic as too many other small towns are involved. The district includes 19 member towns.