DARIEN – On Monday, the Board of Selectmen approved a request to increase solid waste fees for residents and haulers to offset growing expenses.
The per-ton tipping fees will increase from $40 to $50 with a personal hauler and from $120 to $150 for those without. Private haulers including Darien Disposal and Oak Ridge Waste & Recycling will pay a $118 tipping fee instead of the current $94.
Edward Gentile Jr., the director of Public Works, explained to the board that a combination of Hartford’s incinerator closing, Wheelabrator Bridgeport stopping taking additional customers and Win Waste’s limited hours of operation, has contributed to a significant jump in the use of Darien’s transfer station.
“We’ve become very popular over the last seven months,” Gentile said.
The transfer station’s intake increased by more than 2,000 tons from fiscal year 2021 to 2022 while operating at a loss of $5 per ton. Gentile said he was shocked when he saw the deficit.
Win Waste will continue to charge Darien $99.37 per ton to transfer waste offsite, but Gentile said the tipping fee bump will generate more revenue from haulers – his proposal estimated an increase of about $48,000 in fees from municipal solid waste disposal alone.
Residential dump permits, with or without haulers, are rising by 25 percent. Seniors will continue to receive one free town dump sticker, but the cost of additional permits will increase from $40 to $50.
Gentile said that board members could adjust the increased costs and described the proposal as a “menu,” but he estimated that the suggested rate would bring in more than $62,000 for Darien.
“I just gave you what I thought was in the best interest of the town to keep up with the cost, but still be fair to the residents,” he said.
Board member Michael Burke said he was fine to vote for a tipping fee increase, but didn’t feel as comfortable approving an upcharge for residents. He asked if the two requests could be voted upon separately.
“I think taking together all the hits that people have been taking in town in their day-to-day expenses that, you know, perhaps we can forgo the [increase],” Burke explained.
Board member Jon Zagrodzky said he regrets that any residential fees have to increase, but given Darien’s inflationary environment, the change is needed.
“I tend to err on the side of asking the people who use specific services to pay for what they use, and to not burden other taxpayers with that,” Zagrodzky said.
Kathy Finnegan, a resident and member of the Darien Advisory Committee on Sustainability, expressed her approval of the proposal to the board. She said the raise was inevitable and perhaps should have been done sooner.
“I’m not sure if folks in town are aware of the depth of the challenge ahead, and I hope that the discussion about raising the fees you’re having tonight is really the beginning of a broader conversation – not the end,” Finnegan said.
Finnegan said that Connecticut was running out of capacity to process waste, and asked the board to educate the community on why the fees are increasing about why reducing the total amount of waste is the only real solution.
Rolf Obin, a resident and member of the RTM Public Works Committee, agreed with Finnegan. He said the problem will only get worse if the board doesn’t take action now.
“We can’t be running in a continual deficit in that facility,” Obin said. “I don’t think we really had much of a choice but to bite the bullet.”
Obin also recommended the board to push the town’s food scrap recycling program to control and reduce the large volume of food waste.
By a 4-1 vote, the board moved to increase dump fees for the first time since 2013 – with Burke voting against.
Town Administrator Katheen Buch agreed with the board’s decision and said that the fees should be reviewed more often.
“We’re not waiting 10 years for the next one. I think we should review these every other year,” Buch said. “Even if you decide to make no changes, they ought to be reviewed on a regular basis.”
According to the Public Works proposal, tipping fees will increase on October 1, 2022 and residential dump permits will take effect in the fiscal year of 2024.