Trash, recycling drop-off out to bid: Project draws fire over costs, planning

Courtesy photo
This pole barn shed at the Williston drop-off center is a design being considered for the new Hinesburg trash and recycling facility as a way to keep special waste containers under cover. Previously, shipping containers were used and are still an option depending on the final project cost, according to Chittenden Solid Waste District officials.


Plans to return a trash and recycling drop-off center to Hinesburg moved one important step forward last week when the Chittenden Solid Waste District board decided to advertise for construction bids on the project.

The district that manages solid waste and recycling for Chittenden County currently operates six drop-off facilities and had one more located alongside the town garage in Hinesburg until the fall of 2017. The drop-off closed when the town began building a new highway garage which was completed last year.

At a district board meeting on June 26, Hinesburg’s representative to the Board of Commissioners Lynn Gardner said his community relied on the drop-off and is eager for its return.

“The biggest question when I see people in the grocery store is, ‘When’s the drop-off center reopening?’” he said.

The district has been working on designing a setup to return to the town garage site with a new configuration that’s more efficient for users and those running it.

“We took an approach to the design as trying to look to the next generation of our drop-off centers,” said Brian Wright, director of engineering and waste services for the waste district. “All of our drop-off centers are 25 years old.”

Like the others still in use, the former Hinesburg drop-off relied on temporary containers and roll-offs for collecting materials.

“We wanted to try to improve upon that,” Wright said.

The district hired the engineering firm Lamoreaux & Dickinson Engineers of Essex to draw up plans. Wright said four layouts were considered with the “most practical” presented to the board. The price tag? $445,000 including a 10 percent contingency of $40,775.

The design has collection spots for trash, recycling, yard waste and food waste as mandated by state law. It also includes a 20×40-foot pole-barn-type enclosure to shelter bins for items such as batteries, propane tanks, fluorescent light bulbs, textiles and electronics, Wright said. To illustrate the idea, he used a photo from the Williston drop-off. 

The plan includes two compactors to best fill trucks to haul materials away. Food waste would still be collected in push carts and there would be a covered container for oil, Wright said. The site design has an entry booth atop a concrete foundation “so critters won’t live underneath the booth,” he added. 

The plan avoids using space to collect scrap metal and local residents have a full-time private-sector option with Burnett Scrap Metals in Hinesburg, district officials said. The center also won’t try to collect construction and demolition debris or furniture, Wright said.

Some board members questioned the cost estimate, noting that the capital budget’s line item for the project is $325,000.

Newly-elected board Chair Michelle DaVia of Westford cautioned that the budget figure was “truly back-of-the-envelope” preliminary estimating.

“I don’t want us to get stuck on numbers that were just a ballpark range,” DaVia said. “This can be accommodated in the budget without changing the budget bottom line.”

Winooski commissioner Bryn Oakleaf asked about possible grants for the project or for bidders to be encouraged to hire laborers from a job-training program to help lower costs.

“We owe it to our communities to be fiscally responsible,” she said.

Executive Director Sarah Reeves replied that the request for proposals could ask bidders to “please suggest any and all options that could reduce ongoing operational costs if not construction costs.” 

Gardner said he felt replacing the 20-plus-year-old center is worth the investment.

“It will outlive most of us on this board,” he said.

Some of the strongest criticism came from Shelburne commissioner Tim Loucks, who expressed regret for closing the previous Hinesburg center and now having to rebuild it.

“My objection is with benefit of my flawless 20/20 hindsight,” he said. “We made a bad decision as a board two years ago.”    

Loucks reminded the board that it cost about $30,000 to close the center in 2017 which means the overall cost may end up close to $500,000.

“The ship has sailed unfortunately,” he said. “I’m not saying this is not a good place for a drop-off center, but this is money we didn’t need to spend.”

Residents from multiple district communities used the Hinesburg center including Charlotte, St. George, Sheburne and Huntington.

“The population isn’t decreasing,” DeVia said. “I don’t see that we can do without this.”

Calling the Hinesburg project “a fire that needed to be put out,” the chair then looked to the board to consider the future of the other drop-offs that all need upgrades.

“We have to have a comprehensive plan. … We don’t have one,” DeVia said. “I would love to hear intellectual input from our board members on something that you feel that strongly about.”

Loucke was the only commissioner to abstain from the vote to move ahead with bids for the project. The board next will need to vote to award the contract once bids are received.

The news of the project reaching the bid phase was welcome at Hinesburg Town Hall where Development Review Coordinator Mitchel Cypes said that site plan review will be needed.

“It is incredibly straightforward. It is incredibly simple,” he said, noting that the project has few structures, little landscaping, a basic traffic pattern and replaces the site’s former use.

There was much disappointment when the district decided to close the center in 2017. Town officials had hoped it could have stayed open through the town garage construction.

“That was a huge letdown at town hall,” he said. “It is very missed.”

While the new design aims to make dropping off trash and recycling more efficient than before, the new configuration may mean tighter space for vehicles to queue up, Reeves cautioned. She told the district board that she’s willing to consider scheduling the center to be open one full day a week as before, as well as a second full or partial day to accommodate users.

Cypes said his office would clear time on an agenda as soon as the district’s plans are ready. “We would figure out a way to fast-track them through the process as soon as possible,” he said.

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