Selectboard Meeting Notes – Trash Talk

The Brattleboro Selectboard heard two overviews at their short Tuesday meeting. The first was regarding the very long process of relicensing the dams along the Connecticut River. They got the overview and agreed to send a letter to FERC outlining local desires for the relicensing plan.

The second overview was about the major changes to trash, recycling and organic waste collection in Brattleboro after July 1. The sole bidder for the collection contract, Casella, wants to use one-person trucks that use joystick-controlled grabbers to pick up new, special trash receptacles. Town staff will be gathering information from residents about how much more they are willing to pay, and if they’d like to contract directly with Casella, if all waste should be picked up every other week, what to do about already-bought bags and containers, and other important issues.

Comments | 4

  • Preliminaries

    Chair Daniel Quipp was absent.

    Liz McLoughlin filled in for him. Vice Chair’s remarks: I have none.

    Town Manager John Potter – Water report is available on Town website and printed copies are available. Call DPW with questions. DPW will start water main flushing this Friday. You might get some air or discolored water- run water for a bit to clear it out. Brattleboro was asked to endorse legislation for arts by Welch. Board had a presentation on Farm and Food – a final presentation is April 23 at the library. Brattleboro Rec and Parks is still taking registrations for summer stuff.

    Franz Reichsman – one comment. I had some inquiries if my office hours are going on and the they are. Wed and Friday. I may change my hours this year.

    Liz – the rest of the board is available to discuss whatever citizens wish.

    Public – none.

  • Consent Agenda

    A. Line Striping Bid Award

    B. Crack Seal Bid Award

    C. Black Mountain Stormwater Scoping Grant – Accept

    D. Fairground Road Sidewalk Grant – Accept

    So consented, 4-0.

  • Connecticut River FERC Relicensing

    Liz – we have the CT River FERC relicensing. Let’s ask Sue Fillion to talk to us.

    Sue Fillion – I bring a letter for you to send to the relicensing. It’s taken years and years and is coming to a close. There is a public comment period until last week, but extended until May. These would be comments expressing local concerns of the Vernon Dam – we are in the impound area. Comments were crafted by staff – me and conservation and planning commissions. Kathy Urffer can help answer questions. Our comments focus on recreation and improving recreation along the river. We ask for improved facilities, taking a look at the island – land was lost there and it wasn’t maintained well, so they could improve it. We ask for a trail along the CT river, since they could get past regulatory issues for the next 30 years. We ask that they do a cultural resources management plan, with input from Abenaki tribes – they weren’t consulted. Migratory fish passage we’d like implemented quicker. We want improvements at the boat launch at Retreat Meadow. Also asking for a recreational trail to cross the river under the I-91 bridge. Finally, some monitoring and control of invasive species. Plus report on water quality.

    Liz – thanks to you and Kathy for your long term commitment to this project. Discussion?

    Franz – a couple of questions . I don’t understand the bigger context – a 30 year license? Is that how it works, and during that period what input do we have into these questions?

    Sue – Kathy can help answer this…

    Kathy – Under federal law, the timeline has been set. each license is 30-50 years. The relicensing has been going on since 2012, in anticipation of a 40 year license. Once issued, there is no opportunity to resist. Some limited reopened situations, but FERC is likes to structure a license so a company doesn’t have to revisit it until the next relicensing. So the process… ideally, the company would have provided in their application with a detailed proposal for mitigation. Great River has not provided it. They expect to do post licensing detail hammering out. This is the final comments, then the state issues a water quality certification, and the public can comment for 12 months. FERC needs to develop an impact statement over the next 12 months. WE have reached out to towns to comment – the last chance to express opportunities for mitigation and concerns. Towns providing this level of detail puts it in front of FERC and the company. FERC will likely issue a license then tell them to develop a plan in X number of years… so another period of planning after licensing. Then they’ll have a comprehensive recreation plan. Companies put up a lot of capital up front, but 20 years from now it isn’t so much. We’d like license that requires maintenance funding.

    Franz – when would it be issued?

    Kathy – easiest would be around this time next year. After the 401 process and NEPA process. They inform what is in the license. The state can put conditions that automatically become part of the license. Assuming… if we get a good license, we’ll move on from there. If not, we may appeal it.

    Franz – a year or more. And that license will include rec improvements but won’t say what they are. What happens if we aren’t happy with the plan?

    Kathy – I’d encourage towns to be involved in that. I came back to the Towns to help move the process along, so the Town has an interest in being involved in those discussions, and that plan would have to be approved by FERC, so there may be comments there.

    Franz – but they already gave them a license…

    Kathy – the license permits them to continue to generate electricity from the river, with numerous articles about how they do it. A rec plan is one requirement. They may need to do an erosion control or invasive plan. The license dictate the exact amount they can change things. Many constraints.

    Franz – very complicated!

    Richard Davis – so these go to FERC, do they get back to us on it? Will we know how they respond?

    Kathy – there is a public process and you can follow how FERC replies but we do it as advocates. They won’t make a ruling on these specific comments – they are aggregating them, for 3 dams, and 30 towns. Individual comments are giving FERC the big picture as to what to include. They will tell the company to develop a plan, not the details. Then we can get involved again.

    Liz – so we’d like to rely on you when the 401 and NEPA processes happen. They seem like forceful ways to mitigate issues with the dam. If we could reply on you to work on comments for those processes as well.

    Kathy – we are hoping to do public education on this, and when to do comments. The 401 is limited to state water standard s. Under FERC, it is a larger picture. Comments on cultural resources doesn’t fall under water quality, but in VT we have quality standards around aesthetics, but NH doesn’t.

    Liz – we are suggesting mitigation areas – environmental impact issues. Public?

    Letter approved 4-0

  • Solid Waste Program Update

    Liz – Patrick?

    Patrick Moreland – this is an update on our future solid waste plan – just a little follow up from recent activities. The current contract ends June 30th. Back in Feb staff did an RFP to identify our next hauler. We sought letters of interest from 10 firms. Only one form replied – Caslella. Based on this, town manager and Casella met. We agreed that substantive changes would take time and public education, the Town needs input from the public. And casella identified a deal maker or deal breaker – they want automated collection. Automated collection is mechanized – specialized carts are curbside. A single driver truck uses a joystick to pick up the container and drop it in the truck. Ideal in the industry because it uses less employees. Fewer workers means fewer workplace injuries. The person who used to pick up the trash would lift dangerous things and avoid traffic – that person was frequently a more dangerous position. Autuomation reduces employees and makes it safer. The bottom line for us is that we will have to transition to this with Casella. We could do this, we figure, if the contract has a one to one relationship with Casella as we did with Triple T. There are other types – a franchise – the Town negotiates the options but doesn’t have the relationship with the hauler. The hauler would deal with the residents. We just come up with terms and pricing. Another nuance with franchises – for years we have been diverting solid waste from the landfill by promoting recycling and compost collection. If these are services the town wants, we could adopt a franchise where Casella handles trash, but we do compost and recycling. There are a lot of issues to explore, such as frequency of collection. We want to know if people want trash and recycling and compost every week or every other week. We have to comply with state PAYT – currently we sell bags but it can be done other ways! Depending on contracts, we could negotiate that Casella offers small, medium or large cart and you decide what you want. With a standard contract, we could supply a base cart and you could contract with Casella for additional carts. We could step away from the bag program. Ultimately, most important, is to gauge public interest in the various options. We plan to have an online survey to seek input about trash pick up, and compost, and recycling. How much more expensive would you allow? That sort of thing. We will also have a series of 4 different advisory groups – renters, RTM members, West B folks, downtown neighborhood. WE’ll ask them for all sorts of information – do you identify as an underrepresented group? To have deeper conversations about these issues. Might take two meetings – before and after we get pricing. What John and I hope to do is to do this in April and May and gather input and combine it with pricing information, then have a conversation with the board.

    Liz – Very thorough.

    Franz – My question is the timeline – there is a lot of material here. The timeline is really important. The contract is up June 30th. The information gathering is ambitious, but maybe not ambitious enough with the focus groups. In some prior discussions, maybe we don’t start with automated carts right away.

    Patrick – probably not July 1. Casella probably wouldn’t be ready. But during the life of the contract, sooner rather than later, we’d agree to the transition. Any transition will benefit from as much public education as possible. You really need to tell people over and over it’s happening. Aggressive public education.

    Franz – I spoke with a friend who got a huge number of trash bags as a gift for Xmas – time enough to use up existing supplies.

    Richard – they’ll extend the contract under current terms?

    Patrick – I think at present, we are working on a contract for July 1 with a transition to automation not set.

    Richard – so July 1 there is a new contract. What if we haven’t worked out the details?

    Patrick – we’ll get most of the details. It might not be implemented July 1.

    Richard – a lag between the agreement and what they do…

    Patrick – that’s my understanding. We’ll both agree that after some period of time, we’ll transition.

    Richard – so people can use up their trash bags.

    Patrick – there will be some out there and will lose value.

    Kathy – can the town provide a stipend for the working groups?

    Patrick – $25 for each meeting.

    David – I’d like some reassurance. Current activities of competing and recycling would continue?

    Patrick – that is certainly our plan.

    David – I’m half assured. Will that be done by Casella?

    Patrick – at this point – we only have them interested, so you know, if we’re going to have a curbside collection program with organics and recycling it will need to involve Casella. The diversion efforts we have been working on are meaningful to the public. I don’t force and serious likelihood that they will be left behind.

    Liz – reccyling and composting in Brattleboro is not VT law, just Brattleboro’s approach.

    Patrick – there are laws. Can’t throw recycling into the trash, for example. No legal obligation for us to collect compost. Montpelier – not involved. Keen, not involved. Brattleboro has a Cadillac program. We hope to sustain it.

    Liz – the info you gather – you’ll also let people know how much gets diverted. The sustainability element of the current system.

    Patrick – good point. In 2016, we transitioned to PAYT. Overnight trash went down by half and organics went up. It works well for many, but not for all – medical waste, diapers, etc. We can’t be perfect for everyone but we do our best.

    Liz- thanks. End of the meeting.


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