Chester board, Springfield officials talk Transfer Station fees

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

Following a question about the cost of the Springfield Transfer Station at its Dec. 4 meeting, the Chester Select Board heard from Springfield officials last Wednesday, Dec. 18.

At that early December meeting, Lister and Chester resident Wanda Purdy had questioned the number of Chester residents buying stickers, noting that it appeared to be quite low. And she wondered if the town’s contribution of $40,000 per year to the operation of the trash and recycling facility was warranted if so few Chester residents were participating.

Springfield Select Board chair Kristie Morris explains the transfer station’s finances. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Purdy noted that residents of other towns use the facility without a contribution by their town governments. She pointed to Andover and Grafton as towns where some residents use the Transfer Station.

Springfield Select Board chair Kristie and Town Manager Tom Yennerell explained to the board why changes to the operations of the Transfer Station had been made, saying that since the market for recycled materials dried up, the cost of operating it has become more burdensome with deficits running into six figures.

Morris said that Yennerell came up with a plan to offset the losses by selling stickers to enter the station and by changing the system of weighing trash bags and paying with paper tickets to a punch card system for the number of bags of trash to dispose.

Yennerell presented a sheet of financial details pointing to a reduced loss since the program began. Morris noted that the positive balance for the 2019/20 year is deceiving since most of the ticket sales have already occurred and there’s still more than six months of expense left in the fiscal year. Nevertheless, Morris thinks the new scheme will reduce the annual deficit.

Morris praised the cooperation between the two towns and noted that Chester’s contribution is not $40,000 but rather $35,000, which could be reduced if the new system works well. Select Board member Leigh Dakin asked about the use of the facility by residents of other towns that don’t contribute. Morris told the Chester board that Springfield would look at some ways of making it fairer.

Derek Suursoo, who represents Chester in the solid waste district, said he likes the new setup because it puts more of the financial burden on the user.

New budget could raise property taxes; town employee contribution to health care discussed

Town Manager David Pisha presented a revised municipal budget that showed the need to raise about $266,000 in property taxes or about 6.5 cents on $100 of assessed value. That would represent an increase of about $130 on a home assessed at $200,000. Pisha said that the lion’s share of the increase comes in the Public Works budget, driven by the weather and the need for sand and gravel.

Town Manager David Pisha, left, walks board members through the latest version of the budget

Pisha explained that rather than having several substantial snowstorms last winter, the town got a lot of freezing rain and sleet, which uses up sand, which then washes away in the next storm. He wondered if this is the “new normal.”

Board member Heather Chase said she is in her fifth year on the board and this would be the fifth time she would raise the question of town employees paying something toward their health care. The town currently pays the premiums and all out-of-pocket expenses for employees because in the past the salaries offered by the town were not considered to be competitive.

Board chair Arne Jonynas said this was indicative of the mess that health care and health insurance are in the United States.

“Every time we go through school budgets, through town budgets, health insurance is strangling this country,” said Jonynas. “We get some of the worst results and we’re paying twice as much as anyone else does in the industrialized world … it’s a monopoly, something’s wrong with our system.”

“As we sit here we’re up 6½ cents and I can’t sit in this chair and not at least bring it up,” said Chase. “Most people pay something toward their health care.”

Derek Suursoo asks how much Chase would expect to save on health care through employee payments

Suursoo asked Chase if she had a dollar goal for employee participation.

Chase said she is open to suggestions. “We need to look at everything,” said Chase, adding, “We pay 10 percent of our total budget for health care. If that’s a sacred cow that we can’t touch, you guys need to tell me that.”

Dakin suggested that the board should have a look at the plan if they are going to have this discussion.

Member Lee Gustafson noted that employees in corporate America pay toward their health care though not in government saying that it was unfair for taxpayers who don’t receive such benefits.

Whiting Library Board chair Kathy Pellett reviewed the library’s budget with the board noting that there has been regular turnover in the position of children’s Llibrarian. Pellett said this was because the Whiting cannot offer competitive salaries and benefits. She noted that the library had taken a cut several years ago to help reduce the budget and that was restored a couple of years later. This year, Pellett asked the board to increase the operating fund by $3,000 to $78,000. The Whiting just announced the hiring of a new children’s librarian.

Whiting Library board chair Kathy Pellett explains the request for additional funds

The Whiting is a municipal library that receives an annual amount from the town to cover payroll, basic maintenance, utilities and heating fuel. The trustees and volunteers raise money for the remainder of the operation. Pellett said fundraising has been strong this year.

Members of Chester Townscape asked the board for help with some of the watering they do during the summer when they dress up the town with  flower pots and boxes. As the age of the membership increases, they hoped that the town would be able to have someone spend a couple hours a day watering the boxes on bridges, which are especially strenuous. A proposal to hire a temporary employee to work summers and do the watering and then be shared by several departments was discussed.

Jonynas thanked the Townscape members for the beautification and noted that everyone had grown used to it now.

Gravel extraction awaits OK of amended Act 250 permit

Pisha told the board that attorney Jim Goss was filing the Act 250 amendment application that would – if approved – allow the town to extract sand and gravel, including crushing and screening on the land purchased for siting a water tank on the east end of town off Vermont Rt. 103.

He is hopeful that the request will be turned around in time for to provide some savings to the town as it prepares for next winter.

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  1. P Hendrickson says:

    O well the Telegraph ain’t working, will try the rotary telephone to contact those who make the decisions for recycling at the transfer station, my pony express is out of service. Go to bf and see how “zero sorting” works. Then look at casella on utube for a neat film.

  2. P Hendrickson says:

    On the transfer station subject. Have those working on this checked out Rockinghams recycling? I use to go to Springfield but have changed to Rockingham. It must be 5 times more efficient. How do I get that number, because you don’t have deposit your cardboard, cans, plastic, paper, glass in different places. Instead of being a circus it is fast and easy. It could be made even better if they got another compactor.

  3. It is not unusual for old information to continue to circulate as current, much as memes do on facebook. As a State employee I can tell you that I have been paying a significant amount of money every pay period for coverage for myself and my family since I signed on with the State in 2004. The amount I pay is similar to what iI paid when I worked in the non profit sector from which I came. Further, I have co pays for all events, from prescriptions to doctors appointments to ER visits to hospital stays. Those co pays increased this year.