At Town Meeting, voters essentially gave the green light to pay as you throw by authorizing Vernon’s Solid Waste Fund to be used as a repository for
At Town Meeting, voters essentially gave the green light to pay as you throw by authorizing Vernon's Solid Waste Fund to be used as a repository for the program's annual proceeds and as a source of start-up funds. (Mike Faher/Reformer file photo)

VERNON -- The move toward a new trash collection system in Vernon has begun.

Officials pledge that a "pay-as-you-throw" system will be in place by July 1, meaning residents will have to pay based on how much garbage they generate.

Vernon Recycling Committee, which will guide the pay-as-you-throw process, has made its first recommendation: The town should sell trash bags, not stickers that would be attached to bags. But many decisions remain, and they'll have to be explained thoroughly to the public in the next few months.

"Obviously, we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there," said Mike Courtemanche, a former Selectboard chairman who now is leading the Recycling Committee.

Under Vermont's new waste-management law, Act 148, pay as you throw will be mandatory by the middle of 2015. But Vernon is making the switch a year early, allowing the Selectboard to take $135,000 currently earmarked for curbside trash collection out of the town's fiscal year 2015 budget.

At Town Meeting, voters essentially gave the green light to pay as you throw by authorizing Vernon's Solid Waste Fund to be used as a repository for the program's annual proceeds and as a source of start-up funds.

With much focus still on the town's unresolved fiscal 2015 budget -- a special Town Meeting to reconsider the spending plan is scheduled for May 5 -- officials nonetheless must begin planning for the upcoming trash transition.

The revamped Recycling Committee will advise the Selectboard on that transition. In addition to Courtemanche, members include Bob Spencer, Peggy Frost, Heather Frost and Cheryl Franklin.

The Recycling Committee will make recommendations on "how do we go down this road, and how do we do it effectively," said Patty O'Donnell, Vernon Selectboard chairwoman.

The committee organized on April 21 and immediately went to work at a meeting that included representatives of trash hauler Triple T Trucking. Courtemanche, who serves as Vernon's representative on the Windham Solid Waste Management District board, noted that he, Spencer (Windham Solid Waste's executive director) and Triple T already had been working on the logistics of "pay as you throw" for months.

"We did jump right into starting to review the work that has been done," Courtemanche said.

Officials had speculated that Vernon's program would rely on town-issued stickers that would be affixed to a homeowner's trash bags. But Recycling Committee members now prefer that the town issue bags instead.

"There was a big concern -- if we use the stickers, it's such a large learning curve that it may create more problems than it's worth," Courtemanche said. "People using the stickers for huge bags, or stickers that might be hidden -- there's a million things that could go wrong."

The committee is recommending that the town issue two trash-bag sizes. One will be a 13-gallon kitchen bag, while the larger bag's size has not yet been determined, Courtemanche said.

Many other details are up in the air, including where the bags will be sold and -- maybe most importantly to Vernon residents -- at what price. The Recycling Committee has sent the Selectboard a list of questions and is scheduled to meet again on Monday.

Final decisions are up to the Selectboard, and those decisions will be the topic of an informational forum that has not yet been scheduled.

"We will be having a public meeting," O'Donnell said.

Courtemanche said the Recycling Committee has agreed on one other, ancillary issue: Members will recommend that the roll-off recycling bins at the town garage remain there for now, even though recycling will be collected curbside from town-issued bins.

"That way, there are two options (for recycling)," Courtemanche said, adding that officials are trying to alleviate the pain of big changes.

"We're asking the residents to do a lot all at once," he acknowledged.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.