NAUGATUCK — The borough has joined preliminary efforts by the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) to form a new solid waste authority per the recommendation of Recycling Coordinator Sheila Baummer and Public Works Director Jim Stewart.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted unanimously Tuesday evening to authorize a preliminary agreement between the borough and the CRCOG. The vote also approved an initial payment of $500 to defray professional costs associated with drafting a new model ordinance, which the borough would then adopt if it decided to join the new authority, known as the Central Connecticut Solid Waste Authority.
Baummer assured the mayor and burgesses the agreement and this initial payment would not be binding in any way.
Naugatuck’s long-running contract with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) will expire in 2012—along with 70 other CRRA contracts with Mid-Connecticut Project municipalities—and Baummer said involvement with the CRCOG would put the sanitation department in a position to have “buying power” and competitive choice when seeking a new contract for solid waste disposal.
“We have more economic power when we’re in a group,” she said at Tuesday’s meeting. “If we tried to contract for these services on our own, we wouldn’t get a very good price. It would behoove us to get involved.”
The new authority would not handle solid waste itself. It would act as a management agency concerned with securing competitive contracts for member towns with different needs, Baummer said.
Additionally, the preliminary involvement of 46 other towns (as of a Dec. 18 CRCOG release) would help spread the cost of legal, consulting and other professional fees among member towns.
“[The new authority] would be conscious of past history of other authorities,” Baummer said. “If any cost gets exorbitant, it will come out of every town’s pocket.”
Jim Stewart, the public works director, estimated joining the new authority could save the borough $5-10 per ton on garbage processing fees, or tipping fees, in the future.
Currently, the borough pays the CRRA about $69 per ton to process garbage and receives a $5 per ton rebate for recyclables.
Last fiscal year, the borough paid $742,000 in tipping fees at a rate of $67 per ton to the CRRA. Public Works could hypothetically have saved approximately $53,000, or about 7 percent, using Stewart’s $5 per ton savings estimate.
But since the new authority is in its formative stages, savings estimates are entirely speculative, and some burgesses worried that the administrative costs to the borough were not clear and could potentially spiral out of control.
Republican Burgess Bob Neth wondered whether $500 now would turn into $10,000 next year and $25,000 the year after that, and so on into the future.
Baummer conceded that these costs could very well grow analogously in coming months, but she steadfastly assured officials that the potential savings far outweigh any costs incurred during the group’s formation.
A December CRCOG release stated, “Ongoing costs [to municipalities] cannot be accurately predicted at this time, though it is expected that solicitation drafting and final tip pricing will be significantly lower than if a municipality pursued this path on their own.”
Democratic Burgess Mindy Fragoso was sure that the competition created by the new authority would create a “win-win situation” for the borough.
“Even if we spend the hypothetical $25,000 [in startup fees],” she said, “If we could save $100,000” in the long run, the investment would be worthwhile.