TOWNSEND -- New limits on how much trash Townsend residents can throw away are on hold pending a Special Town Meeting in July, where the Board of Health will ask that residents be able to vote on the reduction.
The limits, which would have reduced the trash allowance from 96 gallons to 64 gallons, were set to go into effect July 1, until the Board of Health voted 2-1 Monday night to reconsider them and stay at 96 gallons for now.
The Special Town Meeting, for which a date has not yet been set, is expected to be called by selectmen this summer to address a petition asking that the town adopt a non-binding resolution against a proposed natural-gas pipeline. But board members hope the trash issue can be addressed there as well.
Jim Le'Cuyer introduced the motion after he said he received more than 100 comments from residents unhappy with the change.
Michelle Dold also voted to halt enforcement of the new limits, while Chairman Christopher Genoter voted against it.
Le'Cuyer said he is hoping to renegotiate the trash contract with G.W. Shaw and Sons, which has already been signed.
"All the people that I talked to around town are disgusted with the decision that was made by the Board of Health," Le'Cuyer said.
"I take it on myself to assist the taxpayers because they elected me, and I had to make something happen in the best interest of the citizens of Townsend," he added.
He said ideally, he would like to see the town purchase trash totes for residents so they can easily see how much trash they can throw away. He would also like the town to adopt weekly recycling pick-up to save money on trash-collection costs by reducing tonnage.
Genoter thought the existing trash contract, which included the new limits, should stand.
"I had worked on the original contract negotiations with Shaw and I thought that we had gotten a fair contract for the town and for Shaw. I think going to the two-barrel limit will help increase the recycling, which keeps the cost down for the town," Genoter said. "I'm in favor of the two-bag system to help control the costs and try to do our part in recycling, but the Board of Health voted and we're going to go with what the people decide."
He said the decision should not have been made a week before the new limits were due to go into effect.
"It shouldn't have been made this late. We already have the overflow-bag program in place and we've been advertising and telling people this is what's going to happen. If this motion was going to be made, it should have been made sooner," Genoter said.
Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said because the new contract relies on reductions in tonnage to keep trash pick-up level-funded, he's concerned about the town's ability to stay under budget without the reductions.
"I have a concern on the financial end of things. The Board of Health has put a lot of effort into enforcing the current limits and to just kind of pull the rug out now and say 'go ahead and put out whatever you want to put out,' there's a very good chance that we'll spend more than we have available," Sheehan said.
He said while it is possible to reopen contract negotiations, this is usually not done just because one party changes its mind.
"From my perspective there's a signed contract in place that goes into effect on July 1," Sheehan said.
Health Administrator Carla Walter said she was also concerned about stalling the new limits so close to when they were supposed to become effective. She said resources had been wasted from buying overflow bags for those with more than 64 gallons of trash in a given week and informing the public about the changes.
"The (overflow) bags were less than $300, but the amount of time that has gone into rolling them up, speaking to the retailers and helping people understand the process has just been a lot of time," she said.
The Board of Health will speak on the issue at the next Board of Selectmen meeting July 1.
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