At the Town Council meeting Monday night, New Windsor’s leaders decided not to continue with the pay-as-you-throw waste program.
With only three council members present, along with the mayor, the council decided to not renew the pilot program after it expires at the end of June.
Despite the decision to end the program, some town officials still expressed some support for it.
“At first I wasn’t a big advocate of it but the more we got into it, I became an advocate for it,” Mayor Neal Roop said. “I did not have a vote for it, but if I had that opportunity, I would’ve voted for it. I still think the program has a lot of merit. I want to thank the residents, the most part, for their support — some did not support it. This was an opportunity for the town to try and lower expenses. Which is what everybody wants and I really think this could’ve saved the town, going forward, possibly enough to lower taxes two or three cents.”
Council members Kimberlee Schultz, Ed Smith and Terry Green each explained how they felt about the program, which is set to expire July 1.
“I will say, obviously, I’m against the program,” Smith said. “But I will say this, I think a program like this can work and I didn’t believe that in the beginning. For me and my wife, it was very eye-opening, it would absolutely, positively save us money because there were times we would go two or three weeks without having to throw away anything. That’s how much we were able to recycle, so I think it can work, but I also understand that it hurt a lot of other people, for various reasons, some selfish reasons, some because people simply did not want to do this and they would do everything in their power to make sure it didn’t work.”
Smith also encouraged people to keep recycling at the level and pace as they did within the program.
From the Fair Trash Reduction pilot program’s launch in early November to April, the town’s overall waste generation decreased by 26%, according to the county Department of Public Works. Households were trending toward saving $58 annually from tip fees and saving from not needing to purchase regular trash bags, the department said in April.
By late June, the town’s waste generation has been reduced further, according to Kristen Brown, a consultant with WasteZero, which administered the pilot.
“Trash is down by 43.5%, which means a 43.5% lower tip fees pain by the town of New Windsor at the landfill,” Brown said in an email. “And the recycling rate nearly doubled — from 19% to 37%.”
Green said residents faced difficulty getting bags for the program toward the end. The program required residents to use specialized garbage bags to have their waste picked up.
“Just in our last two weeks, I think you’re seeing how hard it was to get bags and things happened behind the scenes I think most people are privy to and I’d like to thank the mayor,” Green said. “Every time I emailed [Roop] and said ‘Hey, 7-Eleven has told me or other residents they are discontinuing to sell the bags, there’s no more bags.’ And then, of course, as soon as I would hear something, there’d be a social media post about ‘We’re out of bags, they’re not selling bags anymore.’ ”
They were able to get more bags in the stores until the end of the program, according to Green.
Schultz said she was a supporter of the program and is disappointed that it didn’t get the support it needed.
“I voted for the program because it saves the town money and I think we should be doing things that save the town money,” she said. “Now, going forward, the county is not supporting this, which I’m very disappointed by and I don’t see what we could possibly do if the county is not going to support us. The county is going to come back around to doing something like this and we’re going to know what it feels like to try it on.”
The Board of County Commissioners previously voted to move management of the program from the county level to the town level when the pilot expires.
Looking forward, county Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, plans to analyze the numbers after the pilot program ends to evaluate if it could work countywide.
“Once this program is complete on the initial pilot, then we’ll sit down and analyze all the data,” Bouchat said. “Now, if the data pans out to be good for us, then we need to sell that to the rest of the county and advise the citizens that this is the right thing to do.”
Bouchat also commends the Town of New Windsor for participating in this program without knowing how it would turn out.
Councilmen Edwin Palsgrove and Dave Hoffman were not present at the meeting. Palsgrove sent in his remarks on the program ahead of time.
“Because Carroll County will not be instituting a countywide program at this time, I will suggest that New Windsor suspend the program,” Palsgrove said in a letter that Roop read. “I would encourage all residents to continue to recycle or repurpose as much as possible, as this is beneficial towards the ultimate goal of conserving landfill space, minimizing the tipping fee expense, and hopefully leaves planet Earth a better place for our children and grandchildren.”
The mayor explained the decision to end the program and why it shouldn’t continue.