By Cary Shuman
Will approximately 5,000 Winthrop homeowners be able to select a trash collection company for weekly curbside pickup, sign up for the service, and make payment arrangements – all in a six-week period?
That’s one of the variables that David Hickey, director of the Winthrop Department of Public Works (DPW), has been considering in light of the trash collection question voters will decide on May 19, on the Proposition 2 1/2 ballot referendum.
Hickey, Michael Merullo, owner of Capitol Waste Services, the company that currently holds the town’s trash collection contract, and Peter Jurovich, owner of Pete’s Rubbish Removal, sat down with the Sun-Transcript to discuss the ramifications of local voters choices on trash collection.
The town’s vote in the May 19 election would go into effect on July 1.
“It’s a relatively short period of time from the override election to the start of the new fiscal year [July 1] in comparison to the magnitude of the question – which, in essence, is having the town cease its involvement in curbside trash collection,” said Hickey.
The Winthrop DPW administrates the town’s contract with Capitol Waste Services. The regulations and enforcement of trash collection violations are a function of the Winthrop Board of Health.
The town currently has an existing contract with Capitol Waste Service that has three more years to run. Capitol collects solid waste, recyclable and white goods (refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves). From all reports, Capitol has done an admirable job in all aspects of its local trash collection operations.
Hickey explained why the trash collection question is on the ballot.
“What the town is finding is that our ability to financially keep that [trash] contract in place is strained,” said Hickey. “All of the town’s costs are going up, and all of our revenues are either decreasing or are limited by Proposition 2 1/2, such that the Town Council said we can no longer fully fund the trash collection contract.”
On May 19, Winthrop voters can decide by voting yes to increase property taxes and continue the town’s trash collection contract as it now stands. A no vote means the town is no longer going to provide curbside trash pickup.
“Winthrop would be what the state calls a washed-hands community, which means that you’re on your own for all trash pickup,” said Hickey.
Hickey made it clear that he strongly supports the issue.
“I’m a big supporter of voting yes on Question 1,” said Hickey. “It preserves trash collection as the community knows it and is accustomed to it. I think Capitol does an excellent job, and the contract we have with them represents a very good value.”
Hickey said he is concerned about Winthrop becoming a washed-hands community.
“I’m worried about the byproducts of this,” said Hickey. “By and large, most Winthrop residents will recognize the ramifications of properly dealing with solid waste, but some residents may not. There are some residents who have financial hardships and may not make the right arrangements to get rid of the trash, and a result, you have the potential for health issues if people are storing the trash in their garages or their basements.
“You certainly have the potential for people to try to dispose of their trash illegally – on abandoned properties or in parks or on our beaches. It’s a byproduct of this that I’m very fearful of,” said Hickey.
Hickey said the average household would pay approximately $180 a year if the question passes. If the town rejects the question, Hickey said homeowners would have to pay four to five times as much for trash collection.
“If people are thinking about the finances, it’s [Question 1] what I would call the one no-brainer on the ballot,” said Hickey.
Jurovich, a Winthrop resident, agrees with Hickey.
“It would for sure be more than $180 per year for trash collection,” Jurovich confirmed. “There’s no way a business could stay in business and charge that kind of price. If that were the average price throughout the community, they would be getting a great price with a yes vote. Speaking as a Winthrop resident, it would be a cheaper way out for residents.”
Merullo said his company’s trash collection contract with Winthrop has proceeded well. A no vote would end the contract and create some confusion among residents who have grown accustomed to their trash being picked up on a specific day.
“I could see a lot of people taking their trash from one place to another place and a bigger expense for most homeowners,” said Merullo. “Unfortunately, one of the bad things is that I can see recycling – Winthrop has a pretty good recycling number – decreasing in the town. There won’t be too much recycling going on.”
Merullo said the cost would likely exceed more than $20 a week ($1,040 a year) for a trash pickup. That figure is consistent with the 400-500 percent increase that Hickey predicts if the measure is defeated.
Merullo said that a no vote on Question 1 would likely create additional truck traffic in the town, too. There could be two or three trucks operating on the same street on the same day if homeowners select multiple trash collection companies.
“You’ll have a lot more people coming into the community with trucks,” said Merullo.