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Hebron votes to dissolve Refuse District


September 29, 2010
HEBRON— In a decisive vote at a special Town Meeting held last Tuesday evening, Sept. 21, voters in Hebron approved a measure authorizing the select board to withdraw from and/or dissolve the Hebron –Bridgewater Refuse District if a "satisfactory solution" cannot be reached in negotiations with Bridgewater by a Nov. 1 deadline.

The vote was 80 in favor, 31 opposed.

In the event that an agreement cannot be reached with the town of Bridgewater by the deadline, the measure further authorized the Hebron board to develop an alternate plan for the disposal of trash for the town of Hebron.

Voters quickly and overwhelmingly approved an amendment offered by Ralph Larsen that specified that in the event of a dissolution of the Refuse District, any alternative proposal for trash disposal will come back before voters before at a Special Town Meeting.

Once again, the Hebron selectmen detailed their concerns and differences of opinion with the Bridgewater selectmen about the high costs of operating the small scale incinerator at the Refuse facility, as well as ongoing environmental and financial management issues. Board Chairman John Matthews explained that the two boards were deadlocked on the Refuse District Board of Commissioners, which is composed of the three Hebron selectmen and the three Bridgewater selectmen.

Hebron is seeking a re-structuring of the District in order to provide more input and control for the Hebron Commissioners on the board, which they say is dominated by the Bridgewater officials.

The operations committee of the District is composed of two Bridgewater selectmen and one Hebron selectman, and the Bridgewater officials currently occupy positions as Treasurer and Chair of the Board of Commissioners.

Matthews emphasized that the hope is still to be able to negotiate a "fairer contract" between the two municipalities, but if changes cannot be agreed upon, he indicated that there are a number of other options for Hebron that would be considerably less expensive than continuing the present arrangement with Bridgewater.

Under current arrangements, Hebron spends approximately $250,000 per year for refuse disposal. Other options under consideration include an offer to use the Plymouth recycling center at a cost of $51,000 per year, single stream recycling at the Bristol Transfer Station at the cost of $30,000 per year, or curbside pickup for $77,000 per year, as well as other alternatives to be determined.

In the course of several hours of discussion, Hebron voters considered an amendment offered by Bruce Barnard which would have steered negotiations down a less precipitous slope.

Barnard suggested that the Hebron selectmen attempt to change the formula for appropriations between the two towns following procedures outlined in the existing contract between the towns, and secondly, explore the legality of appointing a treasurer from outside the board of commissioners.

Barnard also suggested that adequate provisions for changing the structure of the Refuse District were already outlined within the existing contract, and that there was no need to threaten to withdraw from the District in order to resolve outstanding issues.

Matthews and his fellow select board members insisted, however, that they had attempted repeatedly to resolve differences under existing arrangements, and had gotten nowhere. Matthews said that he clearly felt that Hebron needed the vote authorizing dissolution of the district in order to give them the bargaining "leverage" to break the impasse with the Bridgewater board members.

Ultimately, the amendment offered by Barnard was defeated on a voice vote.

Matthews said that if an agreement on outstanding differences cannot be reached by the deadline of Nov. 1, the Hebron selectmen will petition the court to dissolve the Refuse District. In that case, he expects that a court appointed mediator will determine the equitable distribution of assets and debts between the two parties.

The Bridgewater Select Board has taken the position that if Hebron withdraws from the District, Hebron forfeits any claim to Refuse District assets, but remains responsible for liabilities and debts, including the bond for the incinerator.

The Hebron Select Board maintains that withdrawal from the District will save Hebron as much as $125,000 per year, even if Hebron continues to make bond payments on the incinerator.

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