Selectmen Hold Off On Treasure Chest Sticker Fee

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Recycling and Solid Waste , Municipal Finance

The Harwich Treasure Chest.   FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — While selectmen have approved an increase in a couple of disposal area fees, the board balked at placing a $10 fee on stickers for the Treasure Chest, the town's swap shop. The board also agreed to hold the line on the price of residential disposal area permits for this year.

The proposed $10 fee for the Treasure Chest sticker drew debate last week, but questions were raised about the nature of the facility and the its ability to provide useful items to those in need. Selectmen also had questions about staffing and the funds generated from a fee.

DPW Director Lincoln Hooper said his calculations indicate a residential disposal area sticker should be priced at $162 to offset the costs of the service, noting a slight impact based on the depressed market for recyclables. But he recommended the residential sticker remain at $160.

What caught the eye of people in attendance was the proposed imposition of a $10 Treasure Chest fee. Over the past couple of years the towns of Dennis and Yarmouth have closed their swap shops, Hooper said. Based on the increased use of the Harwich facility by people from out-of-town, the town instituted a free resident-only sticker for the Treasure Chest a year ago.

“We’re the busiest on the Cape,” Hooper said of the Treasure Chest. When the town established the no-fee sticker for the Treasure Chest, 5,000 stickers were purchased at a cost of $3,500, and another 1,500 had to be purchased to meet demand. He said only 5,126 residential disposal stickers were sold last year.

The Treasure Chest fee would cut down on users as well as out-of-town people still trying to access the facility, he said, adding that there are people who trade off the sticker to people from other towns so they can access the swap shop.

“I don’t think there should be a fee for it,” Peggy Gabour said, adding it would only lead to more items being disposed of at the transfer station.

Mandy Devery took issue with a fee, stating the program recycles items and keeps a lot of items out of the waste stream. Other towns on the Lower Cape provide free access to their swap shops, she said, while the town of Eastham has a $5 non-resident fee. Devery said she doesn’t want to see taxpayers getting “nickeled and dimed.”

Hooper said the resident sticker for the Treasure Chest has help resolved problems. He anticipated a fee would reduce the number of stickers for the facility to between 4,000 and 5,000.

Tom Caruso, chairman of the Treasure Chest committee, said the hardest problem he has is getting volunteers to work the entrance because they do not want to say no to people who are coming from other towns. When he is there, he has that conversation when a license plate does not match the plate number on the sticker.

“It’s not uncommon to have the F-bomb dropped,” Caruso said of angry out-of-town people seeking to enter. “I had one person say I don’t have a sticker, but I have a gun. He came back the next week and apologized, but that’s the type of treatment volunteers get.” It would be helpful to have an employee available for six hours each Saturday and Sunday to enforce the town policy, he said.

“We weren’t aware people are blowing by the gate without stickers,” Selectman Donald Howell said. “Why not add that person. It costs, but it wouldn’t be $10. Show us what it would really cost.”

Selectman Ed McManus said the projected number of stickers would generate $45,000. Hooper said adding an employees for 12 hours a week would cost about $10,000. Existing expenses are about $10,000.

Town Administrator Christopher Clark said an additional person is not planned for in the budget.

Selectman Michael MacAskill said the board would need to talk about hiring someone much more before making such a decision. Hooper pointed out the stickers go on sale June 10 so there is not enough time to hold a public hearing and comply have stickers available for the new fiscal year. Hooper said he could come back in the spring with more information about instituting a Treasure Chest fee.

Selectmen approved a $10 increase for construction and demolition materials, putting the price at $155 a ton, as well as a $10 increase for commercial municipal solid waste, now $100 per ton.