The following are excerpts from the Feb. 3, 2015 Westford Board of Selectmen meeting. To see video of the meeting, head to westfordcat.org. For other parts of the meeting, click here.
8:44 p.m. – Sue Thomas of the Recycling Commission came before the board to ask for direction on recycling collection bid results and associated cost increases.
Thomas said that the Recycling Commission decided that Waste Management was the best choice following looking at a look at financial stability and data collection ability of potential bidders.
The Recycling Commission wants to make clear that current toters did not use taxpayer money, they were purchased by the current recycling provider for the town to ease their pickup.
The toters are owned by the vendors, but after nine years, many residents believe that they now own them and residents that did not get free toters felt like they missed out.
Thomas says that the value of the toters is substantially less than the replacement cost for the toters, and the current vendor could take back their toters from residents if the town went with Waste Management.
There are currently about 3,000 toters and the Recycling Commission could not replace all of them for residents.
Thomas said that if every resident recycled everything, it would significantly save money in terms of fees, however that will take time and noted that it will take publicity and educational efforts to see potential savings.
She noted that other towns have proposed routes that have been rejected by voters.
Thomas then said that Selectmen could start by using town water in reusable containers during meetings rather than the current bottles they had on their tables.
Selectmen Scott Hazelton asked a question regarding the issue.
Thomas said in response that the commodity market is at an all-time low and the risk for vendors regarding commodity volatility is very high and the current vendor absorbed a loss after mandatory recycling was put into place.
Going with a large vendor, Thomas said the price wouldn’t necessarily go down.
Town Manager Jodi Ross said that the contract with IPR is $249,696 for Fiscal Year ’15 and the Fiscal Year ’16 with IPR is $416,000 and Waste Management made a bit of $440,100.
Jodi Ross said she is concerned about trying to collect 2900 toters from residents and force them to buy their own for $45.
Jodi Ross then says she doesn’t see a huge risk to the town sticking with IPR, as the town could go to Waste Management if they went out of business.
Both Thomas and Jodi Ross said that IPR is working hard to keep their business with the town, and both Waste Management and IPR are capable of working during snow storms.
Selectman Don Siriani then asked a question on the issue.
Thomas replied, and Siriani asked if the town residents gave up the totes how difficult it would be logistically.
It would be difficult, and both Thomas and Jodi Ross said it would make recycling much more difficult for the near future.
Jodi Ross then said it would be difficult to tell residents to give up their toters because Waste Management has stronger financials than IPR. She said it was best to give them another shot.
Thomas said that the Recycling Commission was doing the best they could in the situation they’re in.
Jodi Ross said that IPR has indicated they want their toters back if they lose the contract and they only service five towns.
Selectman Kelly Ross asked about the price regarding disposing of items as recyclables versus disposing them as trash.
Thomas said that it’s a matter of state law and the state has made additional efforts to enforce this issue, so the town could face fines.
Kelly Ross then asked the comparison between recycling costs versus trash costs.
Thomas said some other towns have gone to pay-as-you-throw and Westford’s position is largely due to low cost hauling coming from two small vendors and now Westford is hitting a point other towns have hit.
Kelly Ross then asked if IPR went out of business if Waste Management would raise their bid.
Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti said that in this case, the town would pursue a performance bond for failure of IPR to fulfill their bid, plus Waste Management is looking for more business.
Jodi Ross said that several nearby towns use Waste Management and Westford would likely not be penalized.
Negotiation with Waste Management would also be different than it was with IPR.
Hazelton said that IPR apparently wants to work with the town and has given totes, but the town is afraid they will face problems in the future.
Thomas said that there would be different problems with Waste Management than with IPR.
Jodi Ross asked the board for a vote on putting the matter on the Town Meeting ballot, asking voters to try and stick with IPR, but renegotiate their current contract.
Dennis Wrona of Sassafras Road served on the Finance Committee as a liaison to the Recycling Committee and strongly recommended Waste Management for multiple reasons.
He also noted that if IPR went out of business, Waste Management could charge a premium.
Thomas said that the town believes the trash vendor does a fantastic job at a low price, but there are fewer bids when recycling and trash isn’t tied together.
Mark Kost of Grassy Lane noted that even if Waste Management jacked up the price, it still would be worth it to save the $130,000 with IPR and there is not much risk with IPR now.
Andrew Sylvia of WestfordCAT News asked if Waste Management would provide residents with toters, Thomas said that no providers give totes anymore and Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet noted that IPR “loaned” the toters.
Wrona then asked another question regarding the totes and potentially letting residents buy the totes from IPR.
There was discussion on this and Thomas said the town should not be involved, but Jodi Ross said that the town would be involved no matter what.
There was a motion to go back to the vote. It was approved 4-0-0.