Next step for Merrimack trash

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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby John Harrahy » Tue May 03, 2011 10:23 pm

I went to the RC/TS today. I observed 26 vehicles go through the RC, while one bypassed it (don’t know if he went straight to the TS, or some other location). Of the 26, 18 had valid stickers, 2 had outdated stickers and 6 had no sticker. The ones without valid stickers were obviously very familiar with the RC, knew just what to do, where, and did it quickly, so I’m pretty sure they were all town residents who just hadn’t gotten stickers for some reason.

I observed 5 vehicles (3 cars, 2 pickup trucks) at the TS. They tossed both loose odd-sized items and plastic trash bags. The loose items were all clearly not recyclable. I looked at the trash sitting on the TS floor (I’d guess it was roughly twice as much as I’d just seen tossed from the 5 vehicles). I estimate 20% of the tossed trash was loose, 80% was in bags. Some of the bags (maybe 30%) were transparent plastic, and I could see through them. I saw no bottles or cans, the only obviously recyclable material I saw in the bags was loose paper – quite a lot of that, but maybe not so much by weight.

I stopped at the office to get a sticker (I was one of the two with expired stickers) and talked to Steve, the foreman. He was very friendly, easy to talk to, and he answered all the questions I asked.

They write down the name and address on a paper form for each sticker issued. They don’t compile that data into any computerized listing, they just keep all the filled-out sheets in a file. Lately the Town Clerk has been issuing stickers too, but they send the data on what they’ve issued to Steve to keep in his files.

Steve said he issues about 9,000 stickers a year, and that number has held pretty constant over the years. Many households get more than 1 sticker, but few get more than 2. Steve guesses that 2 stickers per household is about the average, i.e. about 4500 households get stickers.

I told Steve about my seeing 8 out of 26 cars without current stickers, and he agreed with me that virtually all of them are Merrimack residents who just haven’t gotten a sticker for some reason or another. He’s been there for 20 years, and every once in a while they check stickers, asking for an ID whenever someone doesn’t have a valid sticker. In his 20 years, there were only 3 or 4 users from out of town. All the rest were Merrimack residents, and they went right over and got stickers when asked to.

According to the Census, Merrimack has about 9,000 households. Based on Steve’s estimate, about half of the households have bumper stickers. Considering that some (22% in my survey) use the RC/TS without current stickers, even if most of them have valid stickers on another car, that still indicates that more than half the households use the RC/TS.

This estimate is a lot more consistent with the election results than the (unsupported) estimate that only 1/3 of the town uses the RC/TS. When, election after election, more than 70% of the voters want the RC/TS, it just doesn’t make sense that only 1/3 of the town uses it. People vote in their own best interests, and it stretches the imagination to think that the majority of people would vote to increase their own taxes just to provide other people with a benefit that they themselves don’t enjoy.

I talked to Steve about the possibility of someone making copies of his sticker records. I asked if I or someone could get permission (from the TC? Town Manager?) to use his copier to make copies of his lists of stickers issued and take them away to do a good count, would it be alright with him? He said it would be fine with him. So, I think we should do that. Probably buy Steve a ream of paper to make up for what we’d use.

I’d be willing to do that, but I couldn’t do it before probably a month from now.

I asked Steve how much we were paid for recyclables. He said if we baled them, we got $25 a ton. For loose recyclables we get $17.50 a ton. He thought that right now we bale well more than half , but he didn’t want to guess at a percentage. If we actually recycle 1350 tons a year, guessing at a 60/40 split between baled and loose recyclables, that’s $22 a ton, or $29,700 a year. From information in the town warrant, this year about $30,000 represents one cent on the tax rate. So all our recycling this year will save one cent on the tax rate.

Estimates vary wildly on how much of what’s now dumped in the TS is actually recyclable. Some have said 50% or more. Before my visit today, I believed the actual number was much less than that, and my quick look at a few transparent trash bags reinforced that belief. I would be surprised if a super-aggressive effort to educate and ask townspeople to recycle everything they can would result in more than another 1350 tons recycled. That’s another one cent on the tax rate. Even if all 1350 tons came out of what would otherwise be tipped as trash, at $63.95 a ton, that’s a total of ($22 + $63.95) x 1350 = $116,032.50, or 4 cents on the tax rate.

The town’s budget now posted on the web site shows $1,159,527 for the Solid Waste Disposal. Of that, $464,164 is wages/salaries and benefits for 6 employees (1 Foreman, 1 Secretary/Scale Operator, 2 Equipment Operator III, 2 Recycling Attendant), $215,738 operations and maintenance, and $479,625 tipping fees (7,500 tons at $63.95 a ton).

This sure looks like an optimistic budget, since it assumes 7,500 tons tipped this year vs. the 9,000 we tipped last year, and also since fuel is a major part of the O & M budget, and that was estimated at $2.69 a gallon for diesel fuel and $2.43 for gas.

Don’t know where we go from here, but hopefully this at least sheds more light on the actual situation at the RC/TS.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby TonyRichardson » Wed May 04, 2011 5:37 am

Great post John

The household usages numbers you are quoting are still only estimates, so we now have two estimates one estimate of 1/2 and an estimate of 1/3.
My guess would be somewhere between the two.

Election results have limited meaning statistically, only a minority of eligible voters actually vote, making analytical projections little better than guesswork.
I would love to see the records copied and provided for analysis.

Even if half or more households in town have stickers, that does not mean they actually use the TS.
For instance my wife picked us up a sticker this year in case we needed to dispose of something our curbside hauler would not take.
Since its inception we have never used the TS, and I doubt we will this year either, so our sticker is not an "Active" one.

The recyclable numbers show that we are spending Dollars on our tax rate to receive back pennies.

The Transfer Station is an unnecessary money pit.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby ggkrupp » Wed May 04, 2011 8:37 am

Excellent post John ... thanks for taking the initiative
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby RBarnes » Wed May 04, 2011 9:11 am

John Harrahy wrote:I went to the RC/TS today. I observed 26 vehicles go through the RC, while one bypassed it (don’t know if he went straight to the TS, or some other location). Of the 26, 18 had valid stickers, 2 had outdated stickers and 6 had no sticker. The ones without valid stickers were obviously very familiar with the RC, knew just what to do, where, and did it quickly, so I’m pretty sure they were all town residents who just hadn’t gotten stickers for some reason.


26 cars on a Tuesday? I have a very hard time believing that. I've worked from home enough times during the week and watched traffic heading to the transfer station that I'd have a hard time believing 26 cars in a full day much less a short period of time of just going to the site to dump your own trash.

Regarding those without stickers, I wouldn't be shocked to find out that some of them are from Bedford. Then again I have a valid sticker by mine is sitting in my cup holder between my seats.

John Harrahy wrote:Steve said he issues about 9,000 stickers a year, and that number has held pretty constant over the years.


The council, the head of the DPW, and just about any other valid source has always given the claim of 4,000 to 5,000 as the number of stickers given per year. This is the first time I've ever heard a claim that high.


John Harrahy wrote:Many households get more than 1 sticker, but few get more than 2. Steve guesses that 2 stickers per household is about the average, i.e. about 4500 households get stickers.


I agree with your logic but as stated, I disagree with the total number of stickers.

John Harrahy wrote:This estimate is a lot more consistent with the election results than the (unsupported) estimate that only 1/3 of the town uses the RC/TS.


The estimates of 1/3 come from the solid waste committees that used counts of cars going in and out of the landfill prior to the station being built. They also estimated that from the fact that last year 4500 stickers were given out. Both of these claims ARE supported because you can contact DPW and validate them. The solid waste committee reports are available for public viewing.

Gary suggested earlier in the thread that we should set up car counters again and claims to have seen them. I'd be very interested in what they came up with for counts during the time period they had it set up.

John Harrahy wrote:When, election after election, more than 70% of the voters want the RC/TS, it just doesn’t make sense that only 1/3 of the town uses it.


Election after election? I seem to recall only one elections in which people had any say if they wanted the transfer station.

They were to choose between curbside and the transfer station, in that election a lot of money was pumped into false ads claiming the town would see $1 million in savings if we build the transfer station. The facts now prove it to be a lie and show we spend more then if we had town wide curbside.

What other elections are you aware of?

The election this year was whether to use pay as you throw or not... a far different question then if you support the transfer station or not. The Merrimack Tea Group did a good job convincing people that PAYT would be a 2nd tax and there would be no savings. Again far different then saying do you want a middleman transfer station or not. Look back on the discussion here, even some of the people who said PAYT is not the way to go admit the station isn't working but said PAYT isn't the solution.

John Harrahy wrote:People vote in their own best interests, and it stretches the imagination to think that the majority of people would vote to increase their own taxes just to provide other people with a benefit that they themselves don’t enjoy.


And there's the rub. The transfer station IS the more expensive option. Numbers prove it.

Did you read the Merrimack Journal last week? The council ADDED $600,000 back to the budget because of the vote not to go with PAYT. That was the headline.

The quote we were given for town wide curbside was $1.2 million a year for EVERYONE in town. You supplied the solid waste budget amount as $1,159,527 and even your claiming the station services 50% of the town. And if you look through the full budget of the town you'll see there are transfer related costs in other parts of the budget so the $1,159,527 is actually low for the full cost.

Give fact after fact shows the transfer station as the highest possible option available to us what makes people still believe they are saving money with it?

John Harrahy wrote:I talked to Steve about the possibility of someone making copies of his sticker records. I asked if I or someone could get permission (from the TC? Town Manager?) to use his copier to make copies of his lists of stickers issued and take them away to do a good count, would it be alright with him? He said it would be fine with him. So, I think we should do that. Probably buy Steve a ream of paper to make up for what we’d use.


Freedom of information act requires that he'd have to make them public. I fully agree with you and I'd be more then happy to volunteer time to review and see if we could come up with an accurate figure of how many households actually have stickers without having to do the guessing of some houses having 2 or 3 etc.

John Harrahy wrote:I asked Steve how much we were paid for recyclables. He said if we baled them, we got $25 a ton. For loose recyclables we get $17.50 a ton. He thought that right now we bale well more than half , but he didn’t want to guess at a percentage. If we actually recycle 1350 tons a year, guessing at a 60/40 split between baled and loose recyclables, that’s $22 a ton, or $29,700 a year. From information in the town warrant, this year about $30,000 represents one cent on the tax rate. So all our recycling this year will save one cent on the tax rate.

Estimates vary wildly on how much of what’s now dumped in the TS is actually recyclable. Some have said 50% or more. Before my visit today, I believed the actual number was much less than that, and my quick look at a few transparent trash bags reinforced that belief. I would be surprised if a super-aggressive effort to educate and ask townspeople to recycle everything they can would result in more than another 1350 tons recycled. That’s another one cent on the tax rate. Even if all 1350 tons came out of what would otherwise be tipped as trash, at $63.95 a ton, that’s a total of ($22 + $63.95) x 1350 = $116,032.50, or 4 cents on the tax rate.


I believe the 50% number was tossed out when PAYT was considered and they estimated we could get up to that amount. I think right now the number is between 20 and 30 percent. Tim mentioned the percentage in the debate about PAYT so I'm sure it's quoted somewhere on this forum.

One additional point to consider is that the current tipping fee of $63.95 is going to go up in 2012 when the contract expires. Tim was estimating we could see it as high as $140 a ton.

John Harrahy wrote:The town’s budget now posted on the web site shows $1,159,527 for the Solid Waste Disposal. Of that, $464,164 is wages/salaries and benefits for 6 employees (1 Foreman, 1 Secretary/Scale Operator, 2 Equipment Operator III, 2 Recycling Attendant), $215,738 operations and maintenance, and $479,625 tipping fees (7,500 tons at $63.95 a ton).


Unless they changed the budget since I'd last seen it (and admittedly it's been a few years since I went through the town budget line by line) but fuel, vehicle maintenance and several other line items were in other parts of the budget.

When the town purchased the trucks for the station they charged them against the miscellaneous line item for public works. If you look back at the budget committee minutes I made several comments about it and how I felt it was deceptive. Not to mention the fact that the line item was only $2,000 or something small like that so they went far over the amount put there but since they took the money from elsewhere in the budget they didn't pass the bottom line.

John Harrahy wrote:This sure looks like an optimistic budget, since it assumes 7,500 tons tipped this year vs. the 9,000 we tipped last year, and also since fuel is a major part of the O & M budget, and that was estimated at $2.69 a gallon for diesel fuel and $2.43 for gas.


Don't forget the budget accounted for PAYT. Since that failed the number of tons will be higher then they anticipated in the budget.

Also fuel costs are notoriously off because of how far in advance the budgets have to be put together. They are guessing almost a year in advance what gas will cost next year.

While I do question some of your comments, I am glad to see the debate continue. I hope the town considers Gary's suggestion of a committee to look into options and I would love to see you volunteer as well.
Last edited by RBarnes on Thu May 05, 2011 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby RBarnes » Wed May 04, 2011 9:53 am

RBarnes wrote:
John Harrahy wrote:People vote in their own best interests, and it stretches the imagination to think that the majority of people would vote to increase their own taxes just to provide other people with a benefit that they themselves don’t enjoy.


And there's the rub. The transfer station IS the more expensive option. Numbers prove it.

Did you read the Merrimack Journal last week? The council ADDED $600,000 back to the budget because of the vote not to go with PAYT. That was the headline.


Here's the article I was referring to:

http://www.cabinet.com/merrimackjournal ... s-you.html

"In eliminating the proposal, councilors added more than $600,000 into the budget negating projected savings."

I was incorrect about it being the headline but the $600,000 came from that article.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby Fitzie » Thu May 05, 2011 3:35 pm

John Harrahy wrote:I went to the RC/TS today. I observed 26 vehicles go through the RC, while one bypassed it (don’t know if he went straight to the TS, or some other location). Of the 26, 18 had valid stickers, 2 had outdated stickers and 6 had no sticker. The ones without valid stickers were obviously very familiar with the RC, knew just what to do, where, and did it quickly, so I’m pretty sure they were all town residents who just hadn’t gotten stickers for some reason.

I observed 5 vehicles (3 cars, 2 pickup trucks) at the TS. They tossed both loose odd-sized items and plastic trash bags. The loose items were all clearly not recyclable. I looked at the trash sitting on the TS floor (I’d guess it was roughly twice as much as I’d just seen tossed from the 5 vehicles). I estimate 20% of the tossed trash was loose, 80% was in bags. Some of the bags (maybe 30%) were transparent plastic, and I could see through them. I saw no bottles or cans, the only obviously recyclable material I saw in the bags was loose paper – quite a lot of that, but maybe not so much by weight.

I stopped at the office to get a sticker (I was one of the two with expired stickers) and talked to Steve, the foreman. He was very friendly, easy to talk to, and he answered all the questions I asked.

They write down the name and address on a paper form for each sticker issued. They don’t compile that data into any computerized listing, they just keep all the filled-out sheets in a file. Lately the Town Clerk has been issuing stickers too, but they send the data on what they’ve issued to Steve to keep in his files.

Steve said he issues about 9,000 stickers a year, and that number has held pretty constant over the years. Many households get more than 1 sticker, but few get more than 2. Steve guesses that 2 stickers per household is about the average, i.e. about 4500 households get stickers.

I told Steve about my seeing 8 out of 26 cars without current stickers, and he agreed with me that virtually all of them are Merrimack residents who just haven’t gotten a sticker for some reason or another. He’s been there for 20 years, and every once in a while they check stickers, asking for an ID whenever someone doesn’t have a valid sticker. In his 20 years, there were only 3 or 4 users from out of town. All the rest were Merrimack residents, and they went right over and got stickers when asked to.

According to the Census, Merrimack has about 9,000 households. Based on Steve’s estimate, about half of the households have bumper stickers. Considering that some (22% in my survey) use the RC/TS without current stickers, even if most of them have valid stickers on another car, that still indicates that more than half the households use the RC/TS.

This estimate is a lot more consistent with the election results than the (unsupported) estimate that only 1/3 of the town uses the RC/TS. When, election after election, more than 70% of the voters want the RC/TS, it just doesn’t make sense that only 1/3 of the town uses it. People vote in their own best interests, and it stretches the imagination to think that the majority of people would vote to increase their own taxes just to provide other people with a benefit that they themselves don’t enjoy.

I talked to Steve about the possibility of someone making copies of his sticker records. I asked if I or someone could get permission (from the TC? Town Manager?) to use his copier to make copies of his lists of stickers issued and take them away to do a good count, would it be alright with him? He said it would be fine with him. So, I think we should do that. Probably buy Steve a ream of paper to make up for what we’d use.

I’d be willing to do that, but I couldn’t do it before probably a month from now.

I asked Steve how much we were paid for recyclables. He said if we baled them, we got $25 a ton. For loose recyclables we get $17.50 a ton. He thought that right now we bale well more than half , but he didn’t want to guess at a percentage. If we actually recycle 1350 tons a year, guessing at a 60/40 split between baled and loose recyclables, that’s $22 a ton, or $29,700 a year. From information in the town warrant, this year about $30,000 represents one cent on the tax rate. So all our recycling this year will save one cent on the tax rate.

Estimates vary wildly on how much of what’s now dumped in the TS is actually recyclable. Some have said 50% or more. Before my visit today, I believed the actual number was much less than that, and my quick look at a few transparent trash bags reinforced that belief. I would be surprised if a super-aggressive effort to educate and ask townspeople to recycle everything they can would result in more than another 1350 tons recycled. That’s another one cent on the tax rate. Even if all 1350 tons came out of what would otherwise be tipped as trash, at $63.95 a ton, that’s a total of ($22 + $63.95) x 1350 = $116,032.50, or 4 cents on the tax rate.

The town’s budget now posted on the web site shows $1,159,527 for the Solid Waste Disposal. Of that, $464,164 is wages/salaries and benefits for 6 employees (1 Foreman, 1 Secretary/Scale Operator, 2 Equipment Operator III, 2 Recycling Attendant), $215,738 operations and maintenance, and $479,625 tipping fees (7,500 tons at $63.95 a ton).

This sure looks like an optimistic budget, since it assumes 7,500 tons tipped this year vs. the 9,000 we tipped last year, and also since fuel is a major part of the O & M budget, and that was estimated at $2.69 a gallon for diesel fuel and $2.43 for gas.

Don’t know where we go from here, but hopefully this at least sheds more light on the actual situation at the RC/TS.


John,

With all due respect for the effort you've put into this over the last few mopnths, I need to inform you that your description of the 2/3 vs 1/3 estimate as unsupported is....well.....unsupportable. Sit down and I'll tell you why:

First off, these numbers were intially suggested by me in 2001 in the Minority Opinion on Solid Waste as a member of the original Solid Waste Advisory Committee. I developed them not by counting the number of stickers sold (because this has nothing directly to do with usage) but rather the following:

1. Traffic counts conducted by DPW over the course of one year Source: Chip Chesley, DPW Director at the time
2. Tonnage (at the time expressed in the form of collected landfill tipping fees). Same source, but with the additional need to use an average HH volume from NHDES' website

When I first presented this data to the SWAC both Chesley and the remainder of the SWAC laughed at it. Be advised both were firmly behind a TS and didn't want to know the truth (in my humble opinion). Then this happened:

During the meeting one week earlier I asked any and all local haulers if they'd share the number of customers they served in MMK. They could do so anonymously, I didn't care who held what portion of the market, I just wanted to understand how many residences had private pickup as a measure against my estimate of TS users. Well, sure enough they came back the next week and the total number was just shy of 6000. End of argument.

I am 100% confident these numbers remain very close to this day and would argue that they may even be more favorable towards curbside than they were previously. I could support this contenion with historical references throughout NH and New England but I think the 2010 volume numbers already make the point.

I end by stating again that one cannot estimate usage by number of stickers sold....there is zero correlation to usage. In order of importance (or more accurately relevance):

1. Volume
2. Traffic
3-9......any number of things
10. # of Stickers sold
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby John Harrahy » Thu May 05, 2011 11:16 pm

Fitzie,

Sounds to me like your study is apples and oranges. For number of dump users, you counted traffic, i.e. number of visits, while for private pickup you used number of customers. Two very different things.

As has been stated before, some TS users make several visits a week, while some visit only infrequently.

How did you normalize the data? How did you translate number of visits into number of users?

Can you give us that data? You say the DPW generated it. How many days out of a year did they watch and count? How much time per day? I can't imgine the DPW had a lot of time to devote to watching and counting cars, so it probably was a small sample. The methodology they used in assuring their data was statistically valid is just as important as the data itself.

I'd be very interested in seeing that study.

Your 6000 private customers is an excellent piece of information. I was wondering where we'd get that data, after we'd finished counting households with stickers.

My sticker, issued May 3, 2011, is no. 8796. That looks pretty close to 9000 to me, and we still have almost 2 more months to go.

And from my one little sample, over one 20 minute period in mid-afternoon on Tuesday, 22% of users don't have valid stickers. If that number were to hold up over the entire population of users, that would indicate there are almost 11,000 vehicles out there that can access the facility.

If Steve's estimate of 2 stickers per household, average, is anywhere close, we have a statistical problem here - 4500 to 5500 RC/TS users and 6000 CS users. But there are only 9000 households.

Sounds to me like some people have CS but also use the TS. And they may be just as interested in keeping the TS as it is as those who just use the TS.

It still would be interesting to count number of households from the records of stickers issued, though.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby RBarnes » Fri May 06, 2011 6:33 am

John Harrahy wrote:Can you give us that data?


The report is publicly available. I have a copy if you'd like it. The DPW should have it on file as well.

John Harrahy wrote:You say the DPW generated it. How many days out of a year did they watch and count? How much time per day? I can't imgine the DPW had a lot of time to devote to watching and counting cars, so it probably was a small sample. The methodology they used in assuring their data was statistically valid is just as important as the data itself.


It doesn't take any time to put one of those little black car counters down and you can leave it down for days, weeks or whatever and it would be a 100% accurate count of cars.

Mark also pointed out that they used the amount of trash collected based on the average trash per household to generate the number.

John Harrahy wrote:My sticker, issued May 3, 2011, is no. 8796. That looks pretty close to 9000 to me, and we still have almost 2 more months to go.


I realized that the green sticker could doesn't start over from 1, it picks up where last year's blue stickers left off. So 2 years worth of stickers totally to 9,000 equals 4500 per year.

John Harrahy wrote:Sounds to me like some people have CS but also use the TS. And they may be just as interested in keeping the TS as it is as those who just use the TS.


We know there are CS people who use the station, no one debates that but its foolish to spend a million plus a year for something we can accomplish with a bulkie item drop off point for far less.

There are also people who get stickers who only use them for the beach at Wasserman too so you need to take that into account.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby ggkrupp » Fri May 06, 2011 9:40 am

RBarnes wrote:We know there are CS people who use the station, no one debates that but its foolish to spend a million plus a year for something we can accomplish with a bulkie item drop off point for far less.


Foolishness is in the eye of the beholder (or in this case the voter). I am sure that I could find voters who believe it is foolish to spend so much money maintaining parks or athletic fields or the library or pick your "non-essential" service du jour. Until a compelling case is made that persuades the majority of voters to make a change concerning the TS, we will continue down the path of status quo. I think you and John (and from the sounds of it, Fitzie) agree with my assertion that this case cannot be made until sufficient data is collected, presented, and withstands scrutiny, which points to an option with an overwhelming benefit.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby RBarnes » Fri May 06, 2011 11:19 am

ggkrupp wrote:I am sure that I could find voters who believe it is foolish to spend so much money maintaining parks or athletic fields or the library or pick your "non-essential" service du jour.


Good point.

One distinction though would be asking the follow up question, could those who use the service get equal or better service to meet their needs in a different way for cheaper. Any town service that has the answer of yes to that question should be looked at and the alternative should be put forward.

In the case of the transfer station, it's a middleman. I don't know of anyone who can argue that a middleman is the best, cheapest way to go.

Those using it are spending money on gas, taking a toll on their car by hauling trash in it, spending their time to get their trash to the furthest north west corner of town. And then the town has to spend more money on top of that collecting the trash into a large truck, hauling it across the state to a landfill spending more gas, we have the cost of maintaining a building, it's electricity etc.

It's hard to argue that this is the cheapest, best way to go. When the transfer station was first presented to the voters the town excluded all private costs to people using the site such as what you spend on gas etc and any costs associated with people paying private haulers but did include expected revenue from haulers to offset the total cost creating an allusion that the transfer station was $1 million a year cheaper then curbside.

ggkrupp wrote:Until a compelling case is made that persuades the majority of voters to make a change concerning the TS, we will continue down the path of status quo. I think you and John (and from the sounds of it, Fitzie) agree with my assertion that this case cannot be made until sufficient data is collected, presented, and withstands scrutiny, which points to an option with an overwhelming benefit.


I do agree with your assertion but I would argue that the sufficient data is already there. There are reports, studies etc.

Part of the problem is that the haulers who wanted the transfer station because it benefited their business (they would have gone out of business if the town went with government run curbside which was the only other option presented) pumped a lot of money into a campaign that promoted the incorrect assumption of the $1 million in savings.

They also discounted a lot of information claiming it was NIMBY arguments since Fitzie was one of the leading voices and he lived on Lawrence Rd at the time. This of course ignored that independent voices such as Norm Phillips who lived clear across town supported the data showing there was no savings and curbside would have been the overall cheaper option.

A new independent group could produce overwhelming data but if another smear campaign is launched promoting false data and discrediting the real data as happened when the transfer station was first put up then it wouldn't matter.




One additional thing to consider is that PAYT confused two arguments so I'd like to make a distinction in them...
Argument 1 is what is the best possible option to handle our trash.
Is it curbside run by the town, open market solutions, a transfer station, a combination of some of them, a bulkie item drop off point mixed with something else, several small drop off points all over town...etc etc etc...


Argument 2 is what is the best way to pay for it
PAYT was an option attempted to make what we have work.


I would personally like to see us focus on #1, what is the best option, because I don't believe for a second that it's what we have.

If the voters do feel they want the transfer station, whether it's best or not, then we need to figure out #2 how is the best way to pay.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby TonyRichardson » Fri May 06, 2011 11:54 am

The transfer station is a middleman, it does add cost and that simple fact is not in dispute.


The other elephant in the room is that the current market has been heavily fragmented from the onset.

Because of that the TS was born as a low volume orphan unable to sustain its costs at any price model the market would bear.

The price model put in was sufficiently higher than the market would support that commercial haulers don't use the place either ensuring that volumes remain low.


What we really need at this point is an actual poll or ballot question to find out if after the decade or so of use, the residents still want to fund this.

Personally I do not and never did.
But this forum is not a significant sample size of town opinion on this or anything else.
Liberalism - What happens when emotional reactions are confused with and substituted for facts and reason.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby Fitzie » Fri May 06, 2011 1:23 pm

John Harrahy wrote:Fitzie,

Sounds to me like your study is apples and oranges. For number of dump users, you counted traffic, i.e. number of visits, while for private pickup you used number of customers. Two very different things.

As has been stated before, some TS users make several visits a week, while some visit only infrequently.

How did you normalize the data? How did you translate number of visits into number of users?

Can you give us that data? You say the DPW generated it. How many days out of a year did they watch and count? How much time per day? I can't imgine the DPW had a lot of time to devote to watching and counting cars, so it probably was a small sample. The methodology they used in assuring their data was statistically valid is just as important as the data itself.

I'd be very interested in seeing that study.

Your 6000 private customers is an excellent piece of information. I was wondering where we'd get that data, after we'd finished counting households with stickers.

My sticker, issued May 3, 2011, is no. 8796. That looks pretty close to 9000 to me, and we still have almost 2 more months to go.

And from my one little sample, over one 20 minute period in mid-afternoon on Tuesday, 22% of users don't have valid stickers. If that number were to hold up over the entire population of users, that would indicate there are almost 11,000 vehicles out there that can access the facility.

If Steve's estimate of 2 stickers per household, average, is anywhere close, we have a statistical problem here - 4500 to 5500 RC/TS users and 6000 CS users. But there are only 9000 households.

Sounds to me like some people have CS but also use the TS. And they may be just as interested in keeping the TS as it is as those who just use the TS.

It still would be interesting to count number of households from the records of stickers issued, though.


John,

A study of the counts, tonnage and CS users will far more accurately provide an estimate of HH usage than one based on stickers alone and I'm not sure any amount of questioning regarding the earlier (who, when, where, etc..) would make the latter any more viable. To your point....if you have # 8796 and view that fact in it the strictest sense you'd end up with only 204 HH with CS. I think you're correct in that many HH have both but I think you also vastly over-estimate the LEVEL of usage of that group. I support this with...as always.....the tonnage. That's all that really matters. Not bulk, not yard, only that described as MSW (the stuff in your kitchen basket). Tonnage talks, BS walks..... :D

I did not memorialize the information Chesley gave me so I cannot answer your questions beyond it was taken over a one year period. I seem to remember the counter in place roughly one week per quarter but again....I don't know for sure. I'm unwilling however to assume that they were too busy to collect whatever data they collected accurately.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby tastyratz » Thu May 26, 2011 12:50 pm

Data could be collected rather inexpensively while saving us costs.
Why do we issue a sticker at all every year?
Town residents could be issued a sticker with an rfid in it. This in turn would be scanned when driving past the checkin casually. This could happen automatically and would plot the exact traffic and number of people visiting, as well as identify any individuals who may clearly be abusing the system by examining the top 5 or 10%.

An rfid sticker could be considered lifetime of the vehicle and a new on could be created for a nominal $5 charge for example.
To verify residency a credit card could be kept on file. This in turn would be checked against the billing address on a recurring date. The individuals would also have the option of charging against their card on file for unusual trash (if they so choose). A checking account number could also suffice
For individuals with no credit card or checking account they could even fall back to a manual verification at the town hall once per year with a current bill to activate their sticker. Invalid sticker scans could be picked up and employees notified. The transfer station would be required to keep an eye out for bad stickers.

If traffic was routed in such a way as to scan the badge at a gate even it could be automated in such a way that an attendant need not even be present to allow someone to pass. As backup support one of the workers within the station could grant individuals a pass to throw away odd objects as the gatekeeper does.

That sticker could also be scanned in other areas to identify who and how many people are using what. Perhaps removing personally identifiable information could also benefit where this data is sold for market analysis and trending?

A piece of paper with a list of names/badges that long?? That does no seem efficient in the slightest. Time to leave the dark ages and digitize.

Perhaps administrative duties could be entirely done away in whole or in part and consolidated into the town hall administrative positions we currently hold?
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby RBarnes » Thu May 26, 2011 2:12 pm

tastyratz wrote:Why do we issue a sticker at all every year?


People from other towns were using the site and costing us money. Wasn't as big a deal when it was just a hole in the ground but now we pay a lot of money for every ton of trash tossed into the station.

Not to mention when we had the stickers that didn't expire you had people purchasing used cars here and getting the added bonus of being able to use the dump with the sticker left over on the car that never expired.

tastyratz wrote:Town residents could be issued a sticker with an rfid in it. This in turn would be scanned when driving past the checkin casually. This could happen automatically and would plot the exact traffic and number of people visiting, as well as identify any individuals who may clearly be abusing the system by examining the top 5 or 10%.


Interesting. I'd be curious what that would cost. If it's cheap enough it would be a good idea since we give new stickers every year.

As for people "abusing the system", since there's no limits and no rules then how can anyone abuse it.

Since I'm only a half mile away there are times when I'm working on a big project when I'll make many trips in a single day. I don't have to pay for what I toss so even if I tossed out three tons of trash in a single weekend as a resident I'm allowed. You cover my costs. Of course that wouldn't be true if PAYT passed but it didn't so even if I'm in the top 1%, you pay my way.

tastyratz wrote:The individuals would also have the option of charging against their card on file for unusual trash (if they so choose).


Sounds like PAYT... the voters didn't want it. When I haul roofing shingles to the dump you pay, not me. When I haul a car full of old wood, broken furniture, huge rock bits, sheet rock, etc... you pay.
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Re: Next step for Merrimack trash

Postby tastyratz » Tue May 31, 2011 1:56 pm

I think you are confusing a few things in my post.
I am not implying we should not control by asking why we issue stickers, I am saying there can be a better way to do this which gives both tighter security and lower overall costs. I think the way it is now it is very easy to use the dump if you so feel like it.

Also while the dump is "free" there are different items that carry a cost such as used tires, computers, etc. Those items are supposed to be marked at the entrance and paid for. What I was implying was a seamless payment option integral to address verification. This would both make lives easier and help reduce fraud risk.
Also the dump is for personal use only, when I say those who abuse the system I am thinking more along the lines of individuals who should be paying the commercial tipping rate by disposing of trash in excess of normal household amounts. The dump is free for personal use, but it is not free for commercial exploitation which would not surprise me...
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