WINCHESTER - To help pay for the improvements and upgrades to the Transfer Station, the Select Board approved eliminating the SMART program effective Jan. 1, 2022, adding an additional sticker fee of $22 (combined with the current cost of $270) starting on Jan. 1, 2023, using Capital Stabilization or Building Stabilization funds from FY24-FY32, and increasing the costs for commercial hauling starting this January.

The board also mentioned raising the sticker fee add-on from $22 to $80 on Jan. 1, 2024 but did not make that official just yet. All these increases should generate more than $500,000 to help pay down the $6.5M price tag (or $5.5M if the town uses $1M in Free Cash as previously discussed). The commercial fee increase should bring in another $37,000.

According to Assistant Town Manager Mark Twogood, the first BAN (Bond Anticipation Note) payment will come due in 2023 (interest only); therefore, these fee increases will help the town cover that cost. Getting rid of the SMART program will also generate more revenue, as it will force everyone to purchase a full-price sticker (except those who qualify for a reduced sticker fee), as opposed to those only paying $70 with the SMART program. If 800 people leave the SMART program and pay the additional $200, it would give the town an extra $160,000 in revenue.

For the Transfer Station, DPW Director Jay Gill said it ran a deficit the last few years thanks in part to increased fees for hauling away solid waste and recycling. He projected more fee increases over the next three years. (The town used to get paid to recycle, now it pays to recycle.)

“It’s been a long time since we’ve broke even,” Gill said about the station’s cost effectiveness.

Some of the changes proposed, along with the upgrades and renegotiating with the town’s recycling partner JRM, could help in that department. Though the board eliminated the SMART program, Gill said it could return in the future once the town finishes improvements to the station.

“Doing both doesn’t work,” the DPW director said about running the SMART program and the regular program, noting that the SMART program isn’t currently fiscally feasible.

Although the station continues to operate at a deficit, raising the sticker fee to $270 and the SMART fee to $70 closed the gap by $248,000, Gill acknowledged. Going forward, he said they would maintain the current sticker fee.

Starting in FY24, the town will owe $570,000 as it relates to the Transfer Station upgrades; therefore, the town plans to increase the additional sticker fee to $80 at some point prior to that. It’s also why the board approved the use of capital funds from FY24-FY32, something members of the Capital Planning Committee supported (though not overwhelmingly).

“We’re willing to work with the town and board for nine years,” Capital Planning Committee member Jim Johnson said. “We’ll make it work.”

Roger McPeek, also of the Capital Planning Committee, reminded the board how much $170,000 over nine years - funds the board wants the committee to support - equates to: a school roof or fire engines.

“This will have a real impact on things we can get done,” McPeek stressed.

The board also discussed the possibility of starting the $22 fee in 2022 (and not 2023) and moving that revenue to the Capital Stabilization Fund to help offset the $170,000 the town wants the fund to support. Select Board member Mariano Goluboff backed that idea as sort of a nest egg, but member Michael Bettencourt shared concerns about messaging and the timeline of eliminating the SMART program and adding on an additional fee to the $270 sticker price.

“Taking away the SMART program and adding an additional fee would be a big jump,” he proposed.

Chair Susan Verdicchio agreed, saying that removing the SMART program and adding on the fee earlier would be “hitting them twice.”

Therefore, the board kept the start date for the additional fee to 2023.

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