WESTERLY — The Town Council is continuing to look for ways to move the transfer station closer to being a financially self-sustaining operation.

During a workshop meeting on Monday, the council agreed by consensus to implement a new permit or sticker program for Westerly and Hopkinton residents. The stickers would cost $50 per household and would be issued annually.

The sticker program and other initiatives the council agreed to will have to be formally adopted by the Town Council as amendments to the municipal solid waste ordinance at a future meeting of the council. The proposed amendments would be the subject of a public hearing prior to being formally adopted or voted down by the council.

The council also agreed to increase the cost of the orange trash bags that are issued by the town for use at the transfer station from $8 to $10 for 33-gallon bags and from $5 to $7 for 15-gallon bags. The cost charged to trash haulers would increase from $115 per ton to $120 per ton for trash picked up at locations in the town and from $120 per ton to $125 per ton for loads that include trash that originates from outside the town.

Members of the council also asked interim Town Manager Shawn Lacey to speak with municipal officials in Hopkinton regarding a proposal to increase Hopkinton's annual payment for using the transfer station from $16,000 to $45,000 for the current year and to $90,000 per year for future years. Councilors also asked Mike Serra, assistant Department of Public Works superintendent, to recommend a potential fee for recyclable items.

The council is considering all of the proposals as a means to reverse a trend of the transfer station, which is designated as an enterprise fund, needing an annual allotment from the municipal general fund rather than operating at break-even or better based on fees charged to users of the facility.

The Board of Finance, during deliberations on the municipal and enterprise budgets last spring, asked the Town Council to study the transfer station's financial performance, noting its increased reliance on funds from the town budget rather than fees charged for use of the facility to balance the facility's annual budget. The transfer station is relying on $488,571 from the annual budget in the current fiscal year to balance its $2.96 million budget.

Councilor Suzanne Giorno pushed for a lower permit fee for Westerly residents, saying the other proposals being considered by the council would reverse the need for balancing the facility's budget with money from the general fund, but other councilors said charging Westerly and Hopkinton households $50 per year would allow the transfer station to build a surplus that could be used to pay for equipment replacement.

Councilor Caswell Cooke Jr. noted that the town's two other enterprise fund operations, the water and sewer departments, both routinely maintain a surplus.

Serra said it might be possible to reduce the permit fee for Westerly residents after a few years.

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com

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