One thing that is clear after the New Windsor Town Council’s discussion on a pilot pay-as-you-throw trash program with the county is the Board of County Commissioners and the town need to put differences aside and get on the same page for it to be successful.
A little over a week ago, county staff informed the commissioners the pilot phase of the Fair Trash Reduction, or FuTuRe, program, would be put on hold. The pilot phase would have called for New Windsor residents to pay for what they throw away in the trash, but not for what they recycle, with a system that treats trash disposal like metered utilities.
New Windsor residents would purchase designated trash bags that hold up to 33 gallons with a 30-pound weight limit, and the cost of the bag would directly pay for its disposal.
Prior to last week, the pilot phase would have begun Oct. 1. It’s now in limbo.
County staff cited concerns from New Windsor officials that they were worried about complaints from residents who may not want to participate and the undue burden on the small town’s staff to respond to those complaints. The town, county staff said, requested a portion of the revenue to balance out those burdens.
While these concerns are legitimate ones expressed by New Windsor officials, they believe county staff misrepresented that the town wanted to halt moving forward with the pilot. In fact, the opposite is true, council members reiterated at their meeting Wednesday.
“I hope we can move forward,” Councilman Edwin Palsgrove said at the meeting. “I never saw it as dead deal.”
The council — and residents — would still like to get some questions answered, in particular, what happens if the program is successful in the sense that recycling improves, but the county decides that it’s costing too much money to handle the additional recycling, which currently has a soft market. (Dusty Hilbert, bureau chief of solid waste for the county, said reassurance that there would be no cost for recycling could be added to an updated version of the memorandum of understanding for the pilot, but did not offer any reassurances once the pilot had concluded.)
Obviously, there are plenty of questions and concerns that need to be resolved on both sides.
New Windsor’s council plans to meet again for a work session Sept. 17 to discuss the pilot and the new memorandum from the county — assuming county officials still want to move forward.
We have on numerous occasions in the past supported implementing a fair, pay-as-you-throw trash collection program in the county and noted that a pilot program is necessary to prove to critics it can be successful here.
The pay-as-you-throw model has been discussed here for years, yet it is only now that we are on the precipice of seeing it in action. It would be a shame for the time, money and effort that has gone into getting to this point to have been wasted because of miscommunication among the parties involved.
County and town officials must get together in a room and hammer out the last-minute details to keep the FuTuRe program on track.