City reps weigh tipping fee hikes
STAMFORD — It seems unlikely that deliberations over dump fees would include discussion of human behavior.
But city representatives weighed impulse and incentive into last week’s decision to recommend an increase in the charges people pay to discard waste at the Harborview Avenue transfer station.
It wasn’t trash talk.
Representatives speculated whether a $10 or $15 charge per dump visit would spur some people to throw their trash in the street.
Would the same happen, they asked, if tipping fees — which have been the same since 2007 —were raised enough to cover all of the city’s dumping costs?
They debated whether residents would be more likely to bring leaves and brush to the dump themselves, rather than wait for city pickups, if charges for those items were lowered.
But, they wondered, if dumping leaves and brush cost less than dumping garbage, would people try to sneak garbage into the leaves and brush they cart to the transfer station?
Members of the Board of Representatives have been talking dump fees for months. Mayor David Martin requested fee hikes to cover more of the costs of equipment and staffing.
The tipping fee is now $88 a ton, though Stamford residents get the first 200 pounds for free. Martin proposed increasing the charge to $91 a ton for garbage, then lowering it to $45 a ton for brush and $44 a ton for leaves as an incentive for residents to cart their yard waste to the dump.
For the handful of people who bring recyclables to the dump, Martin proposed an increase from $15 a ton to $80, because the city’s cost of disposing recyclables rose drastically last year.
Martin also proposed something that representatives resoundingly rejected, landing his request back in the lap of the board’s Operations Committee. Martin proposed charging $10 per car for weekday dump visits, and $15 per car on weekends.
Committee members last week took that off the table.
“Right now there’s a desk sitting on the side of High Ridge Road. I think we’ll see that everywhere,” said Rep. Dennis Mahoney, R-20. “I think people will not comply when they have to pay a fee every time they go to the city dump, because they think they should get that service as part of the taxes they pay. I think if we pass this fee, we’ll spend a tremendous amount of money going around the streets, picking up junk.”
Rep. David Watkins, R-1, raised another possible problem. Yard-cleanup companies would pass the per-car fee onto their customers, Watkins said.
“Landscapers will pick up leaves and brush from a bunch of people and each will be charged $10 extra. Then the landscaper will show the people the new fee schedule and say, ‘This is why,’” Watkins said.
Removing the per-vehicle fee wiped away most of the revenue increase Martin proposed. The money is needed to cover the rising cost of salaries since the last fee hike 12 years ago, and to cover hard costs, the mayor said.
Last year, for example, the city spent $1.1 million to repair the transfer station floor, and $220,000 to rebuild one of the loaders that pushes piles of garbage into the trucks that haul it away, Martin said.
So committee members came up with a compromise. They proposed raising the tipping fee for everything to $25 above whatever the city pays a private contractor for haul-away.
The price changes, but right now it’s $71 a ton for garbage. So that tipping fee would increase from $88 a ton to $96.
The committee voted to add $15 to the city’s cost of disposing of recyclables, which right now is $65 a ton. That would bring the new tipping fee for recyclables to $80 a ton.
Dan Colleluori, supervisor of solid waste and recycling, said Martin sought to raise about $580,000 in additional annual revenue, but the committee’s changes brought that down to about $150,000.
Rep. Benjamin Lee, D-15, said perhaps the city should subsidize dump service — it’s just a question of how much.
“Maybe it’s a worthy use of taxpayer dollars,” Lee said.
Colleluori said the changes will affect residents only minimally, since most stay well within the 200 pounds they may dump for free.
“It’s the commercial guys who come in with trucks and vans who will feel it,” Colleluori said.
One charge for everything is the best way to go, Colleluori said.
“With 300 vehicles coming to the scale house every day, we’re busy, and we don’t have the staff to inspect every load to see what they have,” he said after the meeting. “With one charge, everybody knows what to expect, and we won’t have people arguing with us about what they brought in, or dumping items in the wrong place.”
The committee reached a good compromise, Colleluori said after the meeting.
“The fee per vehicle was tough,” he said. “If you’re just dropping off a Christmas tree and we charge you $10, that’s hard. People would feel that.”
If the full board approves the committee’s changes, the city will subsidize dump service about $300,000 annually instead of $500,000, Colleluori said.
The Board of Representatives will take up the committee’s recommendation at 8 p.m. Monday at the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd.