Portsmouth transfer station sticker jumping to $191 next year

Fewer users, higher operational costs provide little wiggle room

By Jim McGaw
Posted 11/26/19

PORTSMOUTH — Once again, users of the town’s transfer station will be paying more for a vehicle sticker next year. This time it’s going up by $11 — from the current $180 …

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Portsmouth transfer station sticker jumping to $191 next year

Fewer users, higher operational costs provide little wiggle room

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Once again, users of the town’s transfer station will be paying more for a vehicle sticker next year. This time it’s going up by $11 — from the current $180 to $191.

However, the fee increase may be small potatoes compared to the more difficult challenges on waste disposal that will confront Portsmouth in the near future, town officials said Monday night.

According to Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr., the contract between the town and the station’s operator allows the latter to seek an increase in operational costs that’s equal to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The operators sought a 3-percent increase, which was negotiated down to 1.5 percent, he said.

To offset the increase, Mr. Rainer proposed cutting one transfer station employee’s hours by 11 hours per week, as well as hiking the sticker fee.

Without the cut in hours for the third employee, he said, the sticker fee would be $207, he said.

The new fee, which the council approved unanimously, is based on a projection that about 2,600 stickers will be sold. If that number turns out to be lower, there will be a shortfall.

According to figures presented by Brian Woodhead, director of the Department of Public Works, revenues through sticker sales are about $475,000, while pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) bags bring in another $230,000. Adding another $22,600 in general revenue brings total revenue to about $727,500. Expenses total about $738,000, however, which accounts for a shortfall of about $10,500.

Mr. Woodhead also presented a user cost analysis to determine what the average household that users the transfer station pays for waste disposal using the new sticker fee. According to his figures, it would be $24.58 for the month ($15.92 in sticker fees and $8.67 for one large PAYT bag per week). That comes out to about $295 for the year.

Fewer users

The cost of using the transfer station is also being impacted by its dwindling popularity, as fewer users means less revenue.

“We’ve lost over 1,500 sticker sales over the past three and a half years,” Mr, Rainer said. “We’re running out of (landfill) space, China doesn’t accept recyclables any more, the tipping fees are going through the roof. These are the numbers and we’re cutting as much as we can. It doesn’t help that we have fewer people using the station.”

He noted that the current contract on the station expires June 30, 2021. The town has the option to extend the agreement. 

“We’re going to have to readdress the future of the transfer station next summer,” Mr. Rainer said. “There’s not much left to cut.”

Local resident Robert Collins said he sympathized with the town’s plight. 

“Our landfill’s done in like 2022, and we’re going to have to be more aggressive with recycling,” he said. “We’re in a serious situation here.”

Larry Fitzmorris of the taxpayer group Portsmouth Concerned Citizens told the council the time has come to move some of the transfer station costs into the general fund, rather than depending on a select number of users to fund its operation.

“The predictable end of this thing is we’ll end up with five people paying $20,000 a year,” Mr. Fitzmorris said, noting that fewer and fewer people are putting up with the expense of getting rid of trash.

“I’m starting to see garbage bags and mattresses around town in the overpasses and places like that,” he said. “(The sticker fee has) increased by about 6 percent over the current $180, and that exceeds inflation.”

Moving some of the operational costs into the general fund needs more study, Mr. Rainer cautioned. 

“If you put it in the general fund, every single person who pays taxes in Portsmouth will be allowed to use the transfer station. It will be over capacity,” the administrator said.

“Someday,” council member Keith Hamilton lamented, “we’ll figure out trash.”

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