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Montville - The town has started gathering cost information that will help determine whether it should pick up residential trash.
Residents now either hire a private company to haul their trash or pay for a permit to dispose of trash at the town's transfer station on Route 163. The town has a contract with a private company to provide curbside pickup for recyclables.
"We have to look at everything in total and people need to make up their minds if it's the right thing for them," Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr. said. "Rolling it into the tax base would be a fundamental change in the way we do business."
The town put out a request for proposals and three companies prepared bids that outlined costs for townwide trash pickup, McDaniel said.
The town requested the bidding companies have the capability to handle trash and recyclables and keep the town's current recycling routes in place.
McDaniel said it was too early to disclose exact cost estimates and the town's finance director is reviewing the bids, which were due Sept. 21. The mayor said he has heard mixed reaction to the idea of townwide trash pickup and particularly the suggestion of making up the added costs in a tax increase.
The town, with 7,300 residential units and 120 miles of road, transports trash from its transfer station to be burned at a facility on Military Highway in Preston. It pays a third party to bring recyclables to a facility in Windham.
Councilor Dana McFee, an advocate of curbside trash pickup, said it would make sense because the town already pays for recycling to be picked up curbside. He said other savings could be realized by scaling back the hours of operation at the transfer station and eliminating the need for the town to spend money to bring trash to Preston.
McFee said an initial review of one bid showed curbside trash pickup would cost a resident with a house assessed at $150,000 about $70 more per year in taxes.
"There are people who will argue they like going to the transfer station. But you have to figure a vast majority of the people would rather have their trash picked up for a fair price," McFee said. "It's time to come out of the Dark Ages here."
Councilor Chuck Longton, the chairman of the town's Public Works/Solid Waste Standing Committee, said opinions on curbside trash pickup are split.
"I've heard every opinion you can think of. People who are totally in favor ... people totally against it ... people who say, 'Show me (the numbers)'... and people who say they like going to the dump themselves," Longton said. "I can tell you we're not wasting any time. We want to get it past talking on the sidelines. Will it actually save the town money or not?"
He said it's possible the issue could eventually be decided by voters in a referendum.
If the new trash pickup program were to be implemented, it would call for pickup once a week and would allow residents to use up to three trash cans.
The town has also filed an application for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program state grant to redesign parts of its transfer station. The grant would be worth up to $500,000 and would help make traffic improvements at the station's entrance.