From the Town Administrator
To most of us, Tuesday was just another beautiful blue sky day in Jamestown marking the beginning of July and the movement of summer 2008 into full swing. Understandably, few would take note of the somewhat mundane fact that July 1 represents the start of our new fiscal year - so in a sense Tuesday was New Year's Day for town government. Having just settled our fiscal year 2008- 09 budget at the Financial Town Meeting, this is an opportune time to look forward at the plans and aspirations that our town officials have established for the next year and beyond.
At the last Town Council meeting in June, the council adopted a Goals Agenda listing 32 separate priority projects and programs that will guide the activities of town government over the next several years. These initiatives address a diverse range of issues encompassing environment and natural resources, village character and downtown streetscape, recreation and leisure opportunities, safety of pedestrian and bicycle routes to our schools, and management of town assets. The complete Goals and Actions Statement can be viewed on the town's Web site at www. jamestownri.net.
One of the new project initiatives that will get underway immediately is the enhancement of the town's recycling program. This column will focus on the reasons why recycling is a community priority and one of the options we will consider to improve on our performance.
To comply with 2008 state mandates, the town must recycle 28.5 percent of its residential waste. Under current practices, our diversion rate amounts to about 21 percent or only three-quarters of the recycling volume that we will need to achieve. It is well-known that enhanced recycling will enable the community to do its essential part in helping to conserve natural resources, mitigate energy use, and, very importantly, extend the life of the Central Landfill. There are also very significant financial benefits to be gained by the community.
Each year the RI Resource Recovery Corporation issues a solid waste tonnage cap for each city and town based on the collective volume of trash generated by each household. Jamestown's municipal solid waste cap for next year is 2,466 tons. This limit is determined based on tons of annual trash per person (0.49 tons or slightly less than 1,000 pounds for every individual) multiplied by total population less the mandated recycling rate. For every ton of trash dumped at the Central Landfill, the town is charged a fee. The fee is set by the General Assembly at $32 per ton up to the cap limit and $56 for each ton over the limit. In years past, the town has routinely exceeded the cap and has incurred substantial additional expense in doing so. We are looking to change this record and reduce our solid waste disposal expenditures by instituting new approaches to recycling.
One of the more successful strategies used by municipal governments across the country is the Pay-As-You-Throw program (PAYT). With PAYT, households are required to purchase trash bags or sticker tags (e.g. 30 or 15 gallon bags) at a fixed price. In most towns, the bag or sticker cost ranges from $1 to $2.50 depending on local trash disposal expenses. The premise behind the program is simple - the more an individual household recycles, the less waste is thrown out, the fewer the number of bags are needed, leading to a lower household disposal cost.
Communities have reported highly successful results through PAYT. Some have realized recycling rates as high as 50 percent of the total waste stream. Because this approach relies on unit-based pricing, it is also promoted as a more equitable way to distribute the cost among households. Instead of a fixed price regardless of the volume of waste disposal, users incur costs based on household size and conservation behaviors. This pricing concept is the same as that used for public or private water, electricity, and heating fuel consumption.
The experiences of other cities and towns have proven that conditions and circumstances are unique in every locality and that "one size does not fit all." Therefore, in the coming months, the Town Council and town staff will examine the program and financial details of recycling alternatives to determine how to design a program tailored to our needs. Residents will be encouraged to participate at each step of the way. Based on input and discussion at recent workshops with the RI Resource Recovery Corporation staff, I believe we can create an effective program and be a leader in recycling in Rhode Island.
Happy Fourth of July!