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Northfield voters reject Pay As You Throw, curbside recycling

After the Town Meeting, Town Moderator Scott McGuffin swears in Peg Shepard as the new Selectman, replacing Lisa Swancott. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
March 21, 2012
NORTHFIELD — Residents gathered at the Pines Community Center Saturday, March 17 for the 232nd annual Town Meeting, and voted down both the Pay As You Throw waste disposal program and a proposed curbside recycling program, as well as a major road construction project.

After many comments, residents voted down implementing a Pay as You Throw (PAYT) trash collection system by show of hands, 102 to 74.

Selectmen and Town Administrator Glenn Smith said they began researching PAYT after receiving requests at the 2011 Town Meeting to find ways to increase resident recycling rates.

According to Smith, residential trash collected in 2011 totaled 1,806 tons. Of that, about 174 was recycled material; about nine percent.

Smith explained that that nine percent of recycled material saved the town about $33,000 or about 9.4 cents off the property tax rate. Smith said the national average is about 34 percent. He compared the Northfield rate to surrounding towns, such as Franklin, which has curbside trash and recycling pick up and a limit on trash, with a rate of 25 percent; Concord, which has trash pick up and PAYT, with a rate of 50 percent; and Laconia, which has curbside trash and recycling pick up, with a rate of 13 percent.

According to town officials, PAYT encourages residents to recycle because the more trash they throw out, the more bags they must buy.

According to the Board of Slectmen, residents could save on bags by recycling more and composting.

Residents voiced concerns about bag prices increasing over time and the burden on large families; some said they already recycle, and still have at least four bags of trash each week.

Residents also voted down curbside collection of recyclables, or single stream recycling, by a vote of 102 to 61.

Smith estimated that with curbside pickup and PAYT, resident recycling rates would incrase from nine percent of total residental waste to 50 percent of total residental waste, with a net savings of $182,701 from the 2012 budgeted amount, or about 52 cents off the tax rate.

Residents approved the allocation of about $161,000 to the road reconstruction fund (Article 6), bringing the fund ballance to about $228,000. Town officals inteneded to use $225,000 from this fund for total reconstruction of Fiske Road (Article 7), as it was deemed in need of major repare by a 2011 survey, according to Highway Superintendent Robert Southworth.

Residents voted down Article 7, however, as some felt other roads were in worse shape.

According to Selectman Steve Bluhm, the funds intended for the project will remain in the Road Reconstruction Fund until the next Town Meeting.

Residents approved the accusition of 1.2 miles of Bean Hill Road from the state following the completion of improvments funded two-thirds by the state and one-third by the town. According to town officials, the article needed to be approved to garuntee the town would accuire the portion of the road. If it had failed to pass, the selectmen said the state would not put in their two-thirds, about $800,000, and the town could be left with the portion of road anyway.

Residents approved the proposed 2012 budget of $4,466,418.13 unammednded. Bluhm attmepted to amend the budget to include $40,000 for road repair expenses, which, according to Southworth, was already spent fixing roads dring the early mud season.

According to Bluhm, the funds would be aquired elswhere in the town budget.

Following the meeting, Town Moderator Scott McGuffin swore in Peg Shepard as Northfield's new Selectman, replacing Lisa Swancott. McGuffin also congradulated Marjorieh H. Norell with the Boston Post Cane award. Norell, now the oldest resident of Northfield at 98 years-old, was not present to accept the award, but McGuffin said the cane would be presented to her at her home on a later date.

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