Council Looks at Cutting Trash Pickups



David Sobers of the Chestertown Environmental Committee speaks to the Mayor and Council about a proposal to reduce trash pickups in town to once a week

Waste disposal and the town’s website were the top subjects at a two-hour long Chestertown council meeting, March 5 in Town Hall.

David Sobers and Ford Schumann, representing the Chestertown Environmental Committee, presented a proposal that the town adopt once-a-week trash pickup. Schumann read a letter from former mayor Margo Bailey pointing out that anticipated savings from scaling back the trash service could be used to promote recycling.  Seventy percent of households in Chestertown currently participate in the town’s recycling program which has once-a-week curbside pickup every Friday. And with fewer trash pickups, residents would have an incentive to recycle an even greater proportion of the waste. “There’s no such place as away,” Bailey concluded. “When you throw something away, it has to end up somewhere.”

Sobers then gave a more detailed presentation, giving statistics in support of the proposal. The town generates 1,687 tons of waste annually, compared to 265 tons of recycled materials and 200 tons of yard waste, which is composted. It pays $166 a ton for waste disposal, of which $102 is the fee for collection. The cost per household is $101 annually. For recycling, the annual cost per household is $46.

Moving to once-a-week pickup would result in a savings of $40,000 to $80,000 annually, not counting yard waste, Sobers said. Meanwhile, increasing the participation in recycling from 70% to 90% would cost between $20,000 and $40,000. At the same time, the environmental committee recommended upgrading the recycling containers in use, providing larger, wheeled containers to households at a one-time cost of about $45 per container. Street containers should also be improved, the committee said, increasing usage by making the difference between trash cans and recycling containers more obvious.

Increasing participation would involve sending notices to households. publishing articles in the local press, and involving the public schools and Washington College in spreading the word. Another possibility would be giving awards or certifications to businesses that reached certain milestones for recycling. Residents wishing to join the recycling should contact town hall.

Councilman Marty Stetson expressed support of moving to once-a-week trash pickup. He said he had made the suggestion when he was first elected, but Bailey, who was mayor at the time, was opposed. “I’m glad Mayor Bailey finally saw the light,” Stetson said with a smile.

Mayor Chris Cerino said the current waste disposal contractor may be “getting out of the business,” due to the recent death of one of the owners. Thus it might be the right time to consider moving to once-a-week pickups. He said it would be something for the council to look at more closely during budget deliberations later this Spring.

Francoise Sullivan of Moo Productions gives the Chestertown council a virtual tour of the town’s website (on screen at top) at the March 5 council meeting

The town’s webmaster, Francoise Sullivan of Moo Productions, was on hand to discuss the town’s website. She gave a brief overview of the website, showing some of the submenus and links, partly for the benefit of the two new council members.

Stetson said the website should be designed to attract visitors to town. He said the current design is primarily aimed at residents, with information on subjects primarily of local interest. He suggested making the front page a rotating series of pictures of the town, featuring the approach across the Chester River bridge. “That’s what’s unique about the town,” he said. He also said a voice-over by Cerino would be a good way to give the town an appeal to visitors.

Cerino endorsed the idea of making the site more appealing to visitors. He said the Sultana Education Foundation website, which Sullivan also maintains, could be a model, and volunteered to supply some photos for the front page.

Sullivan said the suggestions were all workable. She said she would get together with Cerino and start making the suggested changes.

Also at the meeting, Prof. Elena Deanda of the Washington College Department of Spanish and Larry Samuels of the Diversity Dialogue Group gave a brief presentation on a community street fair scheduled for April 14. The group has requested a street closure for College Avenue between Campus Avenue and Calvert Street. The event will feature activities for kids, music by local and college bands, information booths by local organizations, and food trucks.

The council approved the appointment of Owen Bailey to fill a vacancy on the Historic District Commission. After the vote, Councilman David Foster said the town should routinely publicize openings on commissions to allow more residents to apply for the positions. He said he would have been interested in being appointed to the Planning Commission over the last few years if he had known of the vacancies. He suggested letting residents who are interested in such positions put their names on a list to be notified when openings occur.

Cerino also gave a report on a bond bill to raise $50,000 for renovations on the Chestertown Marina. He said Kees de Mooy, the town zoning administrator, will testify before the state Senate in support of the bill. Cerino also gave an update on work at the marina, noting that if the bond bill is ratified, it will allow the town to make significant progress toward completing the project.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, during her ward report, requested a review of the town’s policy regarding participation of non-profit organizations in the farmers market. She said churches should be allowed to set up booths at the market on the same basis as other nonprofits.

Cerino said the suggestion was “a slippery slope” because of the principle of separation of church and state. He said a church conducting a bake sale to raise money for a project was probably OK, but distribution of religious materials was problematic. He said the question should be put on the regular agenda if the council wanted to discuss it.

Stetson said he opposed allowing churches to distribute religious materials in the park. He said if you allowed one to do so, you would need to allow all of them, and there is limited space in the park. “What if the Ku Klux Klan wanted to set up a booth?” he asked.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the policy for issuing farmers market permits was worked out several years ago. He said the non-profit section of the park is pretty heavily used, judging by the wear on the grass in that area.

At the Utilities Commission meeting, Utilities Manager Bob Sipes updated the council on a project to generate a map of the town’s water supply system. He said the project would probably cost between $50,000 and $120,000 if it was done properly. Grants might be available to pay for most, if not all of it. He said the project had been moved to the back burner last year when other priorities came up. He said he would reprioritize the mapping project.

The meeting which began promptly at 7:30 p.m. adjourned at 9: 30.


Letters to Editor

  1. Definitely need a community website so we can communicate with other residents.
    Yard sales
    Lost pets
    New business
    We are loosing our town to Middletown & no one cares. Why do we stifle growth and progress? Do we really want to back tk the 1800’s
    We have lost our youth, the churches are empty, and there is no stimulation left in town.
    I have a very long list of what we have lost..

    • Deirdre LaMotte says:

      And you think it is because of Middletown?

      I would say that “town” is probably everything that Our community should avoid. Let us build on what our strengths are and focus on that. No small town is going to be absolutely everything to everyone. Cities fill that need, if one wants that life-style.

  2. Robert Moores says:

    I agree with Mayor Cerino on the proposed changes for waste disposal, web site, and marina upgrade.
    I also agree that the farmers’ market is not the place for religious lobbying.

  3. Mary Celeste Alexander says:

    If trash is to be picked up only once a week, the town will need to institute and enforce trash being placed into trash cans with lids. If you look around the town now the day before pickups are scheduled you will see most of the trash put to the curb in plastic bags, not covered trash cans. Also, will businesses that serve food that use the town trash service still allowed to do so in the future? There is a business on the fringes of the Historical Residential area that uses the town service. I would be concerned about odor and rodents if they are allowed to continue to do so. There was no discussion about this in this report by the Chestertown Spy.

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