Selectmen hopefuls weigh in on weekly recycling
Published in the April 19, 2017 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — As part of our coverage of the April 25 Town Election, the Daily Item posed a set of questions to the candidates running for the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee. We are publishing their responses in four parts this week. The first installment appeared in yesterday’s paper.
The selectmen hopefuls are incumbent Phyllis Hull, Dan Benjamin, Mehreen Butt, Stefan Chase, Ed Dombroski and James Lapery.
Today, we asked the six selectman candidates if they thought that the town should increase curbside recycling pickup to a weekly schedule rather than the current biweekly schedule.
Candidate James Lapery says that he would not favor such a move if it increases costs.
“As much as I would like to see weekly recyclable collections due to the fact that houses are missed occasionally and large amounts of recyclables produced by some households,” Lapery said, “I would have to agree at this time with the Director of the DPW that it would not be cost-effective. The last thing we need is to raise taxes to pay for it.”
Edward Dombroski would like to see weekly recycling if it can be done affordably.
“I would like to see recycling weekly, but it must be done within our financial means,” Dombroski said. “Currently, if you miss a recycling day (say, due to a vacation), you face a month between pickups. With the values of paper and plastic recyclables low, the cost of pickups is driven up. This issue requires creative, innovative thinking.
“We have been effective with sharing certain other resources with neighboring communities and sharing costs proportionally. This has resulted in a savings for Wakefield. We could similarly
explore ways to leverage negotiating power with service providers by partnering with neighboring communities. And, we can explore ways to cost-effectively add supplemental
recyclables drop off capabilities, like we have for yard waste, in addition to regular recyclables pickups,” Dombroski added. “We need to be thoughtful and deliberate in any approach, to ensure we are developing a sustainable solution that will not create a financial burden on us, the taxpayers, in the future.”
Stefan Chase believes that the increase in recycling from moving to a weekly schedule would not justify the cost.
“I spoke with the DPW Director, Richard Stinson, about the possibility of moving the Town to weekly recycling,” Chase said. “Our current five-year contract with JRM provides the Town the option to move to a weekly recycling schedule but at a large cost. Bi-weekly collection currently costs the Town $370,000. The change to a weekly schedule would cost the Town an additional $280,000 or a 76 percent increase. By switching to weekly recycling, respondents to last year’s DPW Request for Proposal peg the increase rate of recycling at about only 5-10 percent. Such a small increase in recycling does not justify the added cost.
“As the fiscally responsible candidate on this year’s ballot, I do NOT recommend the Town move to a weekly recycling pickup schedule. As a proposal manager for a major defense contractor, my recommendation for the town’s future bid strategy is to join together with surrounding communities as one entity. This strategy will allow bidders to realize economies of scale and operational efficiencies and allow taxpayers to enter into negotiations in a favorable leverage position,” Chase added. “Employing this strategy will provide the Town its best possibility to move to the weekly recycling schedule within our current budget.”
Mehreen Butt said that if weekly recycling is something that people really want, she would want to evaluate the options and the added expense.
“Like all issues that are raised, it’s important to weigh the issue with the cost,” Butt said. “I’ve worked in public policy for 12 years in the fields of environment, health care and health insurance, hunger and homelessness. When tackling a new issue, my method of addressing the problem is the same. First, when problems are raised, I learn the scope of the problem. Is this a widespread problem? Have there been complaints to the DPW or other Selectman? Since starting my campaign for Selectman, I have talked to hundreds of Wakefield residents and knocked on over 500 doors. The issue of weekly recycling has not been mentioned as a concern of the people of Wakefield to me, but if the concern is being raised by some of our constituents, we should evaluate our options.
“Every concern is an opportunity to see if we can improve our services to the town,” Butt added. “I would ask the DPW to find out the additional costs Wakefield would incur by making recycling a weekly occurrence. I would also ask that we look into best practices. For example, what are surrounding towns doing about recycling? We need more information about the scope of the problem and the possible solutions before making a decision.”
Dan Benjamin said that he saw no reason to move to weekly recycling.
“I don’t think moving to weekly recycling makes sense because the current bi-weekly recycling seems to be working well,” Benjamin said. “So if it’s not broken, why fix it?”
Incumbent Selectman Phyllis Hull believes that increasing to weekly recycling is unnecessary and would be costly.
I believe the DPW Director Rick Stinson is correct,” Hull said. “The recycling company does an excellent job and will pick up any number of recycling barrels left out by homeowners. The increased cost will eventually end up being paid by the taxpayer.”