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Herald Featured Story: Council Battles Over Bulky Waste

May 3, 2013 by Josh Morgan

This article appeared in the May 2, 2013 edition of The Cheshire Herald:

The Town of Cheshire plans to solicit bids for a one-time bulky waste collection to occur this fall, but just because bids will be obtained doesn’t meant the program will actually be instituted.
The Cheshire Town Council is split on the idea of bulky waste pickup because of the costs involved. Last fall, the Council had identified some surplus funds that could potentially be used to pay for the one-time collection. Town Manager Michael Milone was instructed, via Council resolution in October, to solicit bids for bulky waste pickup. However, as the budget process moved along, and the economic outlook darkened, Milone never solicited bids at the request of the Council.
On Tuesday night, a motion was put on the floor to rescind the approved resolution from October. However, that motion failed to garner the necessary five votes, and Milone will move forward and solicit bids.
The motion failed 4-5, with Republicans Tim Slocum, David Schrumm, Andy Falvey and Tom Ruocco voting in favor of rescinding the October motion, while Republicans James Sima and Sylvia Nichols joined Democrats Michael Ecke, Patti Flynn-Harris, and Peter Talbot in opposing it.
With the vote, Milone is again free to solicit bids for the one-time bulky waste collection. However, Ecke indicated that, just because bids are being obtained, the pickup might not actually occur.
“I’d heed a warning that just because it’s bid doesn’t mean it’s happening,” Ecke said. “If we can’t afford it, we won’t proceed.”
Back in October, the Council identified approximately $264,000 in surplus funds that could be used, in part, to fund the bulky waste collection. A total of $100,000 of that money was used in this year’s Operating Budget, Schrumm explained, and the rest returned to surplus. Talbot said there was “more than enough” surplus money to be used for the collection.
“Funds were available for this purpose,” Talbot said. “The Council now wants to claim there is no money.”
The last time the collection was held it cost the Town approximately $150,000, Milone explained. Informal estimates obtained through the Public Works Department show that a collection this fall could cost approximately $140,000.
The service was last held in 2008, and some members of the Town Council feel it is something that residents want.
“People have been clamoring for it,” Flynn-Harris said.
Falvey stated that while he agrees with the notion of bulky waste collection, it is something the Town simply cannot afford at this time. With uncertainties still looming in the Operating Budget, Falvey didn’t believe it was wise to move forward with bulky waste collection.
“It would be a waste of time and money to go out and get a bid when the chances are we couldn’t even honor it,” he said. “It’s a nice-to-have service, not a need-to-have.”
The motion on the floor was to allow Milone to go and obtain numbers, not actually approve the money and move forward with bulky waste collection. Flynn-Harris said not moving forward with at least obtaining solid numbers was “short-sighted.” Likewise, Nichols called the plan to stop the process moving forward “foolhardy.”
Sima said the Council is willing to continue to spend money on the Cheshire Community Pool, which has “limited use,” but will not spend surplus dollars on a service that “virtually every house” will utilize.
Schrumm said bulky waste was a nice-to-have program, but it wasn’t a necessary service.
“You’ve got junk. It’s your responsibility to get rid of it,” Schrumm said.
Slocum indicated that he would not support bulky waste collection once the bids come back. He said it would “look pretty stupid” to implement bulky waste collection only then to have to cut other services or staff in Town because of a reduction in funds from Hartford.
“I would feel like a bloody fool,” Slocum said. “Come on, how do you balance that? We’re creating a problem for ourselves.”

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