HARTLAND — Hoping to pay down more than $2 million in debt, the 10-town Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District wants to know what it would cost to ready its undeveloped landfill site for trash reception.
“We’re trying to figure out the construction costs and get a per-ton tipping fee that would cover them,” said John Hurd, the waste district’s acting director. “We need to do more research and see if it would be economically viable. The figures and paperwork we have are from 1994, and construction techniques and laws and regulations have all moved on.”
Hurd said the district put out the request last week and that he expects several engineering firms to submit proposals to “update and finalize the preliminary landfill design, provide an economic analysis and complete a waste evaluation study.”
Proposals for the work will be accepted through Aug. 9.
The waste district’s member towns are Bridgewater, Hartland, Norwich, Pomfret, Sharon, Strafford, Thetford, Vershire, West Fairlee and Woodstock. The permitted, 175-acre site in North Hartland is about a mile across the Connecticut River from the Lebanon, N.H., landfill, which serves as the region’s primary disposal site.
The waste district’s board of supervisors is seeking to pay down $2.2 million of debt incurred while paying for a private bridge to be built over Interstate 91 that leads to the landfill site. Built in 2008, the bridge is expected to handle mostly commercial truck traffic in and out of the landfill, Hurd said. It also serves a nearby Twin State Sand and Gravel quarry.
“It’s a pressing issue, no doubt about it, and I think a strong majority of the board feels that way,” said Bob Stacey, Hartland’s town manager and a member of the waste district’s board. “There are questions to answer and we have to crunch the numbers, but we can’t continue to let (the site) continue to sit there and not do anything.
“This isn’t a sexy topic, but it’s an important one. People like to just throw things away, and they don’t care where it goes.”
Stacey said that although the land has gone unused since the district was chartered in the early 1990s, that doesn’t mean it was unwise to designate and prepare the area for refuse collection.
“If the recession had not occurred, it would probably be open and operating at this point,” he said. “We were ready to pull the trigger on opening it right before then, and the amount of trash (generated) dropped off precipitously. The figures still aren’t back up to where they were.”
Another factor in a decision on when the North Hartland site will begin receiving trash is the outcome of a dispute between the state and Advanced Disposal Services Inc., the company that operates a landfill in Moretown. The state denied the landfill’s recertification earlier this year because of problems that included off-site odors.
Hurd said Moretown is one of only two landfills in Vermont, the other being in Coventry, near the state’s Canadian border.
“Even if we got all the trash from our towns (in the district), that’s less than 20 percent of the tonnage we’d need to be economically viable,” Hurd said. “In the past, there hasn’t been the trash available. It was all tied up under contract, but with a possible reduction in the number of landfills, that equation may change.”
Stacey said the district is making a good investment at a good time in its effort to discover what financial and regulatory needs must be met in order to open for business. He added that it would take about a year to clear land and ready it to receive trash.
“I think it’s wise for towns to spend this money and think forward,” Stacey said. “We’ve got to do something, and we’ve got a terrific site, the kind that are hard to find. It doesn’t make any sense not to move forward.”
Is a 2014 opening out of the question?
“I don’t think it’s totally pie-in-the-sky,” Stacey said. “Depending on the numbers that we get fed back to us next month, it could be possible. We have a lot of permits in hand, and we could get moving pretty quickly.”
A more immediate opening is a certified composting site on about five acres of the landfill area, and the district has requested an extension and amendment to its Act 250 permit, Hurd said.
“There’s been quite a bit of interest from both (Vermont and New Hampshire) from companies that have material they want to compost,” the acting director said. “We’re hoping to open for composting early next year for food and yard waste. There’s talk about also composting sewage and septic waste, but that would be done separately.”
The Legislature in 2012 passed a law phasing in mandatory recycling and composting of food and organic waste, banning it from landfills by 2020.MORE IN Vermont News
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