Hampton Eyes Leaving Regional Trash District

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, November 27, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Selectmen are eyeing the possibility of breaking away from the other communities that make up Southeast Regional Refuse District 53-B, and instead have the town go out on its own to find a place to dispose of its trash.

The board discussed last week moving forward with a warrant article asking voters in March for permission to leave the regional trash district.

"I don't think it's in the town's best interest to remain," said Town Manager Fred Welch.

Hampton pays the lion's share of the cost to belong to the district, which is made up of 10 local governments, including Hampton Falls, North Hampton, Rye and Brentwood.

The group holds the communities contract to Turnkey Landfill in Rochester, which is set to expire at the end of 2015.

Welch drafted the warrant article for selectmen consideration to give them the option of withdrawing, saying he believes the town should go out on its own.

"We are bigger than all the other towns in the district and we are also as large as the city of Portsmouth (which is on its own)," Welch said. "We have the buying power to be on our own and not be subject to the will of 10 other towns."

Welch said the issue is the district will soon be going out to bid for a waste disposal vendor since the contract with Waste Management, originally signed in 1990, is set to expire.

"They are in the process of trying to hire an engineering firm to come in and write up an effective bid document for bidding out solid waste services for the 10 towns," Welch said. "We are going to be paying half that cost."

One of the concerns the town has is the district has the authority, and may someday need to exercise that authority, to vote to construct a solid waste facility. "That may happen in which case we are stuck for 40 to 50 percent of that cost for the duration of the bond issue," Welch said.

While there is a provision in the statute that allows the town to hold a special town meeting within 45 days to void the capital bond, Welch said it would be impossible to adhere to.

"We are an SB 2 town (meaning the town would need to first have a deliberative session and then an election)," Welch said. "So it would impossible to meet the 45-day requirement."

Welch said if the town doesn't hold a special meeting within the 45 days, the town will automatically be on the hook for the bond.

Welch said he's already asked the local legislative delegation to sponsor a bill to change the time-frame to hold a Special Town Meeting from 45 days to 120 days. But even if that is approved, Welch said the town would be better served by withdrawing its membership to the district.

Selectman Richard Nichols said he has no problem with the concept of the warrant article, just the wording.

Currently the wording "instructs" selectmen to withdraw rather than just giving them the "authority."

"It appears to be binding as opposed to giving us the option," Nichols said. "I don't think we are at the point with knowing that we want to withdraw."

Welch said the public works director will soon be bringing the board a recommendation on what the town should do.

"I think you will see the recommendation from (Public Works Director) Keith Noyes is that we withdraw," Welch said.

In the mean time, Welch said he will look at changing the language to the warrant article.

The Southeast Regional Refuse Disposal District 53-B was established on Dec. 17, 1987, in accordance with and pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 53-B of state law.

The district currently serves 10 area towns: Brentwood, Fremont, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Kensington, New Castle, North Hampton, Rye, Sandown and South Hampton. The towns formed the district to save money on trash disposal in the area.

Its objectives are to provide for disposal of solid waste of the district and to provide some means of recycling a portion of that solid waste.

The district also conducts the Household Hazardous Waste Collection days held in Hampton in the spring and Brentwood in the fall. Each member municipality has one representative and two alternates that serve on the board overseeing the district.

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