VERNON -- In just one month, Vernon residents will see drastic changes in how their trash and recyclables are collected -- and they'll be paying for that service directly.
To explain those changes, the Selectboard and the town's Recycling Committee have called a public forum for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, at Vernon Elementary School's cafeteria.
Officials plan to discuss details of the town's new "pay as you throw" system, in which property owners will have to buy specially marked bags in order for their rubbish to be collected curbside. But they'll also be talking about recycling, since that will be a way to cut each household's costs under the new program.
"People don't really understand how much stuff they can get rid of without throwing it in the trash," said Mike Courtemanche, Recycling Committee chairman.
Vernon is one of the few Windham County communities with townwide, curbside trash collection. In other towns, residents use transfer stations or make their own arrangements with private haulers.
Currently, Vernon property owners pay for trash pickup through their taxes -- the town contracts with Triple T Trucking for $135,000 a year. But that setup is ending, in part because town officials are looking for every way possible to save money as the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shuts down.
Hence the move toward pay as you throw, which takes effect on July 1 with the new fiscal year. Recycling Committee members have been working hard to assemble details of that program in just a few months' time.
"There's been tremendous work by the committee," Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O'Donnell said. "They've done a lot of research."
Some results of that work will be presented Wednesday. That includes where residents will be able to obtain the town's drawstring trash bags -- which will come in 33-gallon and 15-gallon sizes -- and how much they'll have to pay.
The idea, officials have said repeatedly, is that the program must be financially self-sustaining aside from startup costs covered by the town's Solid Waste Fund.
"The big key is to try and keep the cost low but also have this pay for itself," O'Donnell said.
Recycling is a big part of the new program. Officials pledge to maintain the recycling roll-off bins stationed at the town garage "at least for the first year to help people through this process," O'Donnell said.
But the new fiscal year also will bring biweekly, curbside recycling pickup for the first time. Recyclables will be collected in half the town each week.
"The (garbage) bags will be imprinted with a Vernon logo on them. The recycling bins will be printed with the same logo," O'Donnell said. "Each household will get one recycling bin to start."
Details will be discussed at Wednesday's forum, where officials want to encourage residents to do more recycling and composting.
"If somebody is really recycling well, they shouldn't be using a lot of (garbage) bags," O'Donnell said.
The educational process will continue beyond Wednesday's meeting.
"We're going to actually send out in the mail a three-page, detailed list of what can and can't be recycled, what the (pay as you throw) process is going to be, where to get the bags ... it's going to go out probably the third week of June," O'Donnell said.
Courtemanche said officials expect to hold another public meeting this summer in order to see how the program is working and how it might be tweaked. "We want to have an ongoing dialog," he said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.