Trash collection in Thurman is now under reconsideration for elimination in town, according to discussions aired at the local town board meeting held Monday, Nov. 7. The gathering featured a full house of local residents expressing opinions and frustrations over both taxes and potential cutbacks in services.
Town Supervisor Evelyn Wood reintroduced her initial 2012 budget plan that scraps the town’s curbside trash collection and calls for a zero percent tax increase, rather than the 11 to 17 percent now pending with trash pickup retained.
Town Board members Al Vasak and Becky Hitchcock, who several weeks ago rejected eliminating trash collection, spoke in terms favoring the move to avoid a tax increase.
Also, the board made no move Nov. 7 to enact a tax cap override, which would be a preliminary step in passing a budget reflecting such an increase.
Wood proposed that the town collect trash at the town landfill, and charge for disposal services, $1 per 15-gallon bag, and $2 for a 33 gallon bag.
Resident Diane Golden criticized the proposal, saying that local residents would dump more refuse on the local landscape than they do now.
“This is an absolutely horrific loss of services that will be so destructive of property values,” she said, suggesting the town step up its enforcement measures.
Vasak responded by noting that hiring a code enforcement officer to stop the dumping would boost taxes, as would a new trash truck, at a cost of $250,000 to replace the town’s existing deteriorating trash hauler.
“Unless we fire two employees, there’s no way to keep the town budget under a two percent increase if we retain trash pickup,” he said, adding that if residents want garbage pickup, they’d have to shoulder a hefty tax increase. He and others responded that trash dumping would likely occur whether or not there was curbside pickup.
“Keeping roads plowed is a necessity,” he said. “But garbage pickup is a luxury we might be able to do without.”
The remark prompted applause from many in the packed town hall.
Resident Jean Coulard suggested cutting two full-time positions in the highway department to offset the expense of trash pickup, adding that a new trash collection truck would be a “good investment.”
Wood responded that the move of cutting the positions would curtail the ability of the highway crew to keep roads plowed, endangering the loss of the town’s contract with Warren County to plow county highways, an agreement that earns Thurman $160,000 annually.
Wood said that free garbage pickup services were being abused in town. The tonnage that the town was hauling away was 24 times the national average, she said, and some residents were depositing heaps of trash by the town trucks on town property at night regardless of the free pickup.
She speculated that some people were driving their garbage to Thurman to dispose of it. Several local residents agreed, adding that some residents were putting tons of material out to be picked up.
Resident Pierre Cyr said that free trash pickup was a service that created “unintended consequences” including lack of effort in separating recyclables.
“Residents have to take responsibility for their own trash,” he said.
Vasak agreed, noting that recyclables were now a saleable commodity, although the town was paying dearly to have the materials hauled away — either sorted out for recycling, or improperly mixed in with household trash.
While some people raised questions about the burden on elderly and housebound in transporting their trash to the landfill, Cyr suggested that townspeople act as good neighbors and help out those in need.
• In other business, Wood said that loss of state aid of $1,000 to the summer youth program put it in jeopardy. She and Vasak suggested that the program be cut, and the several dozen children attending join Warrensburg’s summer program.
• Despite pleas from the Warrensburg emergency squad to continue their contract to it’s 2010 level of $50,000 annually, rather than the sum of $20,000 now budgeted for 2012, the board didn’t back down. Warrensburg Squad Board President Bob Farrell said his agency would suffer substantial losses providing full services to the town for $20,000 per year.
• Supervisor Wood said that efforts to regain possession of the town-owned ambulance from the beleaguered Thurman emergency squad might soon end up in litigation. She said that although prior town Supervisor John Haskell had signed a contract that promised to turn over the ambulance to the squad when the squad fully reimbursed the town for its purchase — and there are now only two payments remaining — substantial legal flaws existed in the contract.
“Our case is strong,” she said. “We could get the ambulance back by the end of the year.”
• Doug Needham of the Thurman Connections Snowmobile Club asked the board for permission for snowmobilers to use a portion of River Road near its intersection with Bowen Hill Road to connect snowmobile trails running between Hamilton County and Lake George.
The route alongside the town roadways was now needed because of the loss of use of the county rail bed due to newly reactivated winter train service, and the Thurman link was vital for sledders traveling through the Adirondacks to Vermont or even Canada, he said.
Board members raised concerns about public safety, noting that the roadway requested had steep drop-offs and was narrow portions, presenting a hazard to both sledders and motorists rounding turns and encountering unexpected snowmobiles.
Needham responded that these problematic stretches could be posted with signs warning of hazards. The board tabled the issue for further consideration.