GUILFORD -- Should Guilford continue to host public recycling bins?
That's the question officials are considering after receiving notice that Friends of Algiers Village Inc., the owner of the Guilford Country Store property where the bins are located, will not renew its lease with the town.
That will force removal of the recycling roll-off bins from the store's parking lot as of June 30. Town officials could seek a new site for the recycling center or get rid of it altogether -- a debate made more complex by pending changes in state law that soon could make the bins obsolete anyway.
"We're in a holding pattern," Selectboard Chairman Dick Clark said.
The big green bins are owned by Windham Solid Waste Management District, which coordinates recycling collection in 19 member towns. Windham Solid Waste empties the bins, but Clark said the town of Guilford pays $1,200 annually to lease the site that hosts them -- a corner of the Guilford Country Store parking lot.
And with the store business having been revived last year, conflicts have arisen.
"For the three years during which the country store was closed, the placement of the recycle bins did not pose a problem," Gary Swindler, Friends of Algiers Village president, wrote in a recent letter to Guilford Selectboard.
"Since the store has reopened, however, the bins have become a growing issue," Swindler said. "They not only interrupt traffic patterns in the parking lot, creating a serious safety hazard for motorists and pedestrians, but they take up what could potentially be five to seven more parking spaces for the growing store business."
That's not to mention problems associated with illegal dumping at the site.
"In addition, there is regular dumping and constant loose/blowing debris around them," Swindler wrote, adding that the bins become attractive to vermin.
"None of this is an ideal environment to have around a food-service business," he wrote.
Guilford officials confirmed those problems, saying store employees have been spending time trying to clean up a mess that is not caused by the business. Selectboard member Anne Rider added that "the traffic situation in that parking lot has become pretty tough."
"We are trying to figure out, should be make the effort to re-site them?" Rider said of the bins.
In February 2012, one of the recycling containers caught fire, which was quickly extinguished by the Guilford Volunteer Fire Department. The cause of the fire was never determined, and a surveillance camera at the site and all its contained footage was destroyed by the blaze.
With the Friends of Algiers lease not expiring for more than two months, town officials have time to consider other sites for the recycling center. But Clark points out that "we've done that before" -- with little success.
A new recycling center also could involve capital costs. And officials are hesitant to make such an expenditure if the bins are going to disappear eventually anyway.
That's a possibility as Act 148, Vermont's new waste-management law, takes effect incrementally over the next several years. Because all haulers and trash facilities will be required to collect and accept recycling, administrators at Windham Solid Waste are examining the need for roll-off bins.
Cheryl Franklin, who represents Guilford on the Windham Solid Waste board, said the district may send a letter soliciting towns' input on the roll-off bins and also may undertake a survey of the usage of those sites.
Getting rid of the bins would save the district money -- more than $100,000 in trucking costs alone, Franklin told Guilford Selectboard. But she stressed that the Windham Solid Waste board first "wants to get people's opinions on how that would go over."
"There are a lot of options coming up," she said. "Nothing has been decided."
That means Guilford Selectboard also cannot yet make a decision. There was discussion Monday night about another alternative -- creating a mobile, manned recycling-collection site open a few days a week -- but the board is making no move in any direction at the moment.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.