BRIDGEPORT – As contract negotiations with WIN Waste near, hauling costs remained a hurdle at a Thursday meeting as officials looked for Orange, Shelton and East Haven to join and help reduce tipping fees.
The Greater Bridgeport Regional Solid Waste Interlocal Committee – made up of Fairfield, Westport, Trumbull, Bridgeport, Milford, Easton, Monroe, Bethany, Stratford and Woodbridge – was formed in 2014 to negotiate a joint agreement with WIN Waste that saved the towns more than $1,100,000 over the 10-year contract. But with the 2024 contract expiration approaching, officials are searching for leverage for negotiating.
John Marsilio, interim manager of Fairfield’s Department of Public Works, told CT Examiner that GBRSWIC brought WIN Waste approximately 190,000 tons of waste this year at a fee of $67 per ton.
Marsilio said that under the current contract, the towns could lower their tipping fee by recruiting other municipalities, as each increase of 25,000 tons in municipal solid waste reduced the fee by $1 per ton. Marsilio said it was in the interest of both WIN Waste and GBRSWIC to lock down additional tonnage.
At the meeting, committee members recalled past queries from Orange, Shelton and East Haven to join the group. But Marsilio said the municipalities were still on the fence.
“We haven’t been successful in attracting anyone else,” said Marsilio on a phone call with CT Examiner. “I don’t know why, but that just hasn’t happened.”
Marsilio said there were no downsides to joining the group. He said that the contract with WIN Waste’s predecessor, Wheelabrator, ensured that committee members would be unaffected by the spot market, and said waste amalgamation provided negotiation leverage.
“The reality is that their waste is probably going [to WIN Waste] now, and they’re probably paying more than us,” said Marsilio.
Marsilio suggested that because trash fees were “in the back end” of most municipal budgets, Orange, Shelton and East Haven may not prioritize tipping fees.
“Nobody really focuses on it and it’s not very glamorous. So that’s what happens – it’s kind of ignored,” Marsilio said. “But there are opportunities if some of these other communities would want to join us.”
At the end of the Thursday committee meeting, Marsilio said he would speak to Shelton officials later that night.
But on Friday, Marsilio said Shelton was uninterested.
“I don’t know what kind of arrangement they have, but it seemed to me that it wasn’t attractive for them to join our group,” Marsilio said.
Both Shelton and East Haven officials were unable to comment in time for this story, but Town of Orange Engineer Bob Brinton told CT Examiner that hauling costs were a key deterrent.
Orange and East Haven’s transfer stations were 14 and 25 miles from WIN Waste, while stations in Westport and Trumbull were less than 10 miles away. Brinton said Orange officials considered committee membership last year, but questioned the hauling costs.
“The question was, ‘is it going to save us money?’” Brinton recalled. “And the unknown was, ‘what’s it going to cost us to haul the trash to Bridgeport?’”
Brinton said Orange was an original member of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority’s Southwest Division, which dissolved in 2014 and was replaced by GBRSWIC. He said Orange decided not to join the new committee because they felt they could better negotiate prices on their own.
On average, Orange produces about 4,000 to 4,500 tons of municipal solid waste per year and pays WIN Waste a fee of $95 per ton. Last year, Brinton said, the Board of Selectmen awarded their contract to City Carting, a WIN Waste-owned garbage collection company, as they were the only company to provide a full bid.
Brinton said Orange may join the committee, but said the town planned to wait until negotiations with WIN Waste were finished.
“When that agreement is reached, then we would be in a better position to re-examine it,” Brinton explained. “But for this current period, we went out to bid.”
But Peter Ratkiewich, Westport director of Public Works, told CT Examiner that growing committee membership could provide additional leverage in negotiations, especially given increased costs.
“The cost of solid waste and recycling is going up. It’s not going down, and there’s not a whole lot that we can do about that,” Ratkiewich said. “But this is one instance where there is power in numbers because the GBRSWIC represents a big block of tonnage, so we’re hoping that that buys us some good will.”
Ratkiewich said that with the closure of MIRA, a waste-to-energy plant in Hartford, WIN Waste was “in the driver’s seat,” for contract negotiations. But if the committee maintained their tonnage incentive after negotiations, Ratkiewich said Orange, Shelton and East Haven’s membership could save the group over $200,000 a year.
At the meeting, Ratkiewich told members that nothing was finalized yet, but the committee planned to meet on Jan. 26 to discuss contract proposals as a group. Ratkiewich was tasked with recruiting East Haven and Orange in the meantime.