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I am insulted that anyone would think that having an affordable way to dispose of their trash that generates public revenue is a bad thing. This attitude strikes me as out of touch with working Vermonters and the daily struggle they face in making ends meet. I make $45,000 a year as a union representative for the VSEA. This is a fair wage. But with this wage I must support a wife, a 4-year-old child and come August a new baby boy. This $45,000 does not go very far when one has to spend $100 a week on food, another $100 on gas, another $100 on family health care, regressive taxes, etc. And now I, and hundreds of other working people in Moretown, will be asked to make a choice between burning one’s trash or spending $4 a bag for garbage at a different facility?
We live in a world where even if you belong to the local food co-op, the average household generates two bags of trash a week. We have modern packaging to blame for much of this. For most of us the days of going out to the barn to get our milk are over. My family gets our eggs from our chickens, but our bread comes in a wrapper and milk comes in a plastic jugs. And now I will be asked to reduce my pay by $8 a week to dispose of my trash at a different facility; $8 is the combined price of a gallon of milk, a loaf of reasonable bread and maybe a stick of butter. Furthermore, our taxes will go up, or the basic services our town receives will be gutted.
I am not a stranger to environmentalism or opposed to the goals of most Vermont environmental organizations. But we make trash and that trash needs to go somewhere. If we burn it in our backyards we are told it generates greenhouse gasses and pollution. If we bring it to a landfill, shouldn’t we keep it all in one place?
Bottom line, the landfill, any landfill, sucks. But we already have a landfill and even if we closed it today, it would still be a smelly bad place. But it is here and it is very real and I for one think we should keep it where it is, expand it modestly and seek to retain its centralizing aspect. I would rather it (the trash) be in one place than in many. We should also increase recycling, reduce or eliminate unnecessary packaging and generally be moving in a direction where landfills are not necessary. But as we transition to this better, more sustainable society, we should not put our heads in the sand, seek to hide our trash (at someone else’s expense) and sacrifice the public revenue benefits that Moretown Landfill has historically generated for us.
I would suggest we require the managers of the landfill to take every step necessary to make sure toxins stay put, that our water is not affected, that the site limits bad smells, that no out-of-state trash is unloaded, that Moretown residents be granted free trash disposal and that the dump maximize energy production through the capturing of byproduct gasses.
When I served two terms on our select board, I suggested that we turn our landfill money into green money. I proposed that we invest a portion of our annual tipping fees into a municipal solar project and in local wind energy production. I also floated the idea of using dump money to purchase local forestlands in order for our community to sustainably log for revenue. In addition to local public revenue, all of these projects would have also supported job creation. These suggestions failed to garner a majority support among the select board. The tipping fees continued to go to offset taxes for higher income residents. That’s right; to reduce taxes for those of means.
In an average year a person who lives in Moretown and rents their home gets nothing as a benefit of the annual landfill revenue. A family with a $50,000 mobile home in Moretown will get $50 off their property taxes as a result of the landfill money. A person with a $100,000 home will get a $100 reduction. Those with a $250,000 home (I would venture to say the average) would get a $250 reduction (a number which is reasonable and fair). But, as soon as we get to a property worth $1 million, the savings through the offset would be $1,000 a year. When you directly tie landfill revenue to tax breaks, our tax structure is such that those with more receive more of a benefit, and those with less receive less benefit. Lots of our collective money went to those who did not need the subsidy.
I suggest that Moretown support the expansion of the dump so that we keep Vermont’s trash centralized and controlled, but that we do so only under the conditions that those who manage the landfill make sure pollutants do not get into our water supply or into the soil. I suggest we require the landfill to capture more of the resulting gasses to produce electricity. Tipping fees should be increased so our community earns a base of at least $600,000. I suggest that the select board bring proposals to Town Meeting which would invest that money in locally produced, carbon neutral projects that would generate new long-term revenue for Moretown.
If we did these things and added 20 years of life of the landfill, we could generate resources that could be used to progressivelyreduce taxes for working families, boost locally controlled social benefits and even expand our pre-K public school program to better allow families to work full time to better support their children.
I think the landfill should remain open (with conditions), and I for one believe we should and must convert any public landfill revenue into green, sustainable revenue.
Van Deusen lives in Moretown.