The cost of offloading trash at the New Shoreham Transfer Station just got a little more expensive. The price per pound has increased from 12 cents to 15 cents, with a few other increases, after the New Shoreham Town Council approved the measure at its meeting on Monday, July 9. The rate hikes, which went into effect immediately after the vote, are due to Rhode Island’s Central Landfill raising its rates, that in turn impact Block Island Recycling Management, the company that manages the Transfer Station, according to BIRM’s owner.
Sean McGarry, co-owner of the company, told the Town Council at its meeting on Monday that the Central Landfill raised its rates for the first time in 20 years on July 1, 2017, and then increased them again on July 1, 2018. McGarry does not know the reason for the rate hikes and noted that to “compound” the issue, Gov. Gina Raimondo has requested the transfer of $6 million in surplus revenue from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, a quasi-public agency that operates the Central Landfill, to help balance the state’s FY 2018 and 2019 budget. The Town of Exeter is seeking support from the New Shoreham Town Council for a resolution opposing the transfer of those funds.
On Wednesday, Town Manager Ed Roberge told The Times that the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns informed him that Raimondo will not use the $6 million to fund the deficit. Roberge also said the rate hikes at the Central Landfill will be used to cover the costs of capital improvements for the RIRRC.
During the meeting, McGarry made it clear that the rate hikes are detrimental to BIRM’s operation at the Transfer Station.
“It was my hope that the legislature would take some kind of action, led by the League of Cities and Towns, to stop this rate increase,” said McGarry, who noted that RIRRC is “gaining substantially in revenue at the expense of the municipalities across the state. This is what’s happening. I’m going under because of it. You should take some action to protect your asset.”
The Town Council, on recommendation from Roberge, voted unanimously (5-0) to approve BIRM’s request to raise its rates, while agreeing to eliminate the mattress disposal charge. The Town Council also agreed to discuss the Transfer Station’s rising cost issues, which include cap rates, the contract with the Central Landfill and solid waste disposal, at future meetings. Second Warden André Boudreau made the motion, which was seconded by Councilor Chris Willi.
BIRM will implement the following rate increases at the Transfer Station: a price-per-pound increase from 12 cents to 15 cents; used waste oil disposal, which was free and paid for by DEM until July of 2017 — BIRM has since paid $1 per gallon to dispose of the oil, and will now charge $2 per gallon for its disposal; the tire disposal rate will now be $10 per car tire, $20 per truck tire, and $100 per heavy equipment tire; and the commercial recycling rate will increase from five cents per pound to seven cents per pound. BIRM noted that the Central Landfill charges $34 per ton for commercial recycling.
In a June 17 letter to the Town Council, BIRM made the rate request, while citing the reasons that are driving the cost increases: “The most significant increase in expense came July 1, 2017 when the Central Landfill raised the rates of disposal from $32 per ton for municipal under-the-cap waste to $39.5 per ton. These rates again increased July 1, 2018 to $47 per ton. The over the cap rates went from $54 per ton to $67 per ton in 2017 and will increase again on July1, 2018 to $80 per ton.”
“In line with this change, the Central Landfill has been lowering the allotment of under-the-cap waste allocated to each city and town. In 1998 New Shoreham’s allotment was approximately 3,400 tons, the current allotment is approximately 1,200 tons. Over the past 10 years, increases in health insurance mandates, diesel fuel, general vehicle, workers compensation, and general liability insurance have been absorbed with no fee adjustments requested.” McGarry noted that the town charges the company $20,400 annually to rent the Transfer Station’s facility.
Boudreau raised the question of what impact private contractors have on the waste disposal system. “They raise their rate each summer season, don’t they?”
“Some of them do,” said Roberge. “Some of them have a seasonal rate. At the beginning of the season they sign a contract” with a party for trash/waste pickup. Roberge noted that private contractors’ exhibit a “lack of flexibility” when it comes to rate changes.
Councilor Willi noted that rate hikes impact the island business community. Willi said trash disposal is a complex operation both in the state and at the local transfer station. “I think the whole economics behind it are lost on people,” he said. “I don’t think the public at large — the island community — understand how BIRM’s operation works. Just like I didn’t understand how the Central Landfill’s operation works.”
Roberge stressed the need to get educated about the issues associated with trash disposal. “I think Sean has outlined what the future is going to look like,” he said, noting that changes are needed “to reduce the waste stream” on the island.
“This is a policy decision by the Town Council,” to raise the rates, said Roberge. “I support BIRM’s proposal to recognize those cost impacts” — and “I look forward to the next round of contracts.”
The contract with the Central Landfill expires June 30, 2019, while BIRM’s three-year contract for managing the town’s Transfer Station expires on Nov. 12, 2020.
At the conclusion of the discussion, McGarry lauded Roberge’s efforts in understanding the issues.
“Roberge wants to be in tune with what’s happening at the Central Landfill,“ said McGarry. “Ed has been very much involved with what goes on at the Transfer Station. I’m glad he wants to get the Council and the community up-to-date on what’s going on in the industry.”
The next Town Council meeting is Wednesday, July 18 at 7 p.m.