Town Meeting Says ‘No’ to Trash Cans

Reading, MA — Town Meeting rejected the motion under Article Thirteen to appropriate $900,000 for the purchase of trash and recycling receptacles on Monday night. Though the vote was 93-62 in favor of the motion, Moderator Alan Foulds explained that a two-thirds vote was required for the measure to be adopted.

Assistant Director of Public Works Christopher Cole explained that the $900,000 would have been paid off over five years and would have provided a standardized trash can and a standardized recycling can for each household in town. The standardized trash receptacles would allow for automated pickup, which requires fewer workers. Town Manager Fidel Maltez explained that having these in place when the next rubbish removal contract is bid could result in significant savings for the town, which is likely to see its trash removal costs double in the next contract. “We have to plan for the future now,” Cole stated.

Town Manager Fidel Maltez

Objections from several Town Meeting members ranged from the number of receptacles provided to each household to the timing of the rollout of the plan. Member Mark Ventura commented that larger families could be forced to pay as much as an additional $200 a year for each extra can. “Don’t pass costs on to taxpayers,” Ventura argued. Member John Arena agreed, “Let the people decide what they need.” Member Carla Nazzaro stated that this was a punitive measure to larger families.

Member Thomas Wise also suggested that the terminology regarding what constitutes a household had yet to be properly defined, citing houses with accessory apartments. He also said that people could purchase the correct receptacles for themselves at local retailers. Member John O’Neill proposed an amendment raising the sum authorized to $1.15 million, which would allow for families to acquire a second can if needed. Maltez noted that the fee for extra cans was mainly to cover additional hauling and pickup costs, not for the cost of the physical can. After debate, the amendment failed.

Member Vanessa Alvarado shared her belief that town staff had done well to prepare in advance for this to avoid the costs seen in communities such as Danvers. Select Board Chair Mark Dockser noted that though costs will inevitably go up, “We can limit how much it goes up, or we can just see what happens.” Member Joe Carnahan also noted that the one trash barrel per household could incentivize the production of less trash overall.

Prior to this discussion, Dockser gave the “State of the Town” address in which he highlighted some of the work of the past year, including progress on a new senior center and the Killam Elementary School Project.

“The state of the town is strong, positive, and active,” Dockser declared. 

He also reported that plans for a new senior center at 17 Harnden Street are stalled as the town and the property owner needed help to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. A planned feasibility study to determine a new site will move forward, and Dockser anticipates a recommendation for Town Meeting in the fall. Dockser also thanked the Town Clerk’s office and the Board of Registrars for a well-run election and recount.

Town Meeting approved article Four which amended the capital plan, placing a glycol reclamation project planned for this year into Fiscal Year 2024. Town Meeting also approved changes to the Fiscal Year 2023 operating budget under Article Five and transferred Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) funding from the operating fund to the OPEB trust under Article Seven.

Also approved was Article Nine, which updated the bylaw for the inspections revolving fund to include current development projects and to remove completed projects. Member Bill Brown proposed an amendment lowering the cap on the expenditures of the fund by $75,000 in order to remove funding for the Economic Development Director position, which he termed “a waste of money.” After discussion, he rescinded the amendment and will offer it during the budget discussion on Thursday evening.

Articles Three, Six, Eleven, and Twelve were tabled, and Articles Eight and Ten were indefinitely postponed. On Thursday, the meeting is expected to begin by removing Article Twelve, the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, from the table for discussion and a vote.

Town Meeting adjourned at 10:10 pm.

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