FAIRFAX – The Town of Fairfax will continue providing trash and recycling services to residents through Casella Waste Systems for the next five years, officials agreed during the Fairfax selectboard’s last regular meeting.
After hearing a final presentation from Casella leaders in early February, the town’s selectboard formally approved signing a five-year contract with the Rutland-based waste removal company.
Services within Fairfax, one of only a handful of communities in Vermont contracting for curbside pickup for the entire town, will alter slightly under the town’s new contract in order to accommodate the state’s composting law.
While curbside trash pickup will continue as a weekly service for Fairfax residents, recycling will move to a biweekly schedule to alternate with a voluntary compost pickup.
Starting on July 1, the composting mandates of Vermont’s universal recycling law go into effect, requiring Vermonters to compost food scraps rather than throw those scraps in the trash.
According to town manager Brad Docheff, Fairfax will be serving as a pilot site for Casella’s door-to-door composting service, where the trash haulers will pick up compost from participating homes on the weeks where Casella is not handling recycling.
“If we’re offering weekly curbside pick-up but then requiring people take compost somewhere, that’s not ideal,” Docheff said. “If we find that 80 percent of residents are composting in their yard or diverting another way, we’re not going to continue picking that up if it’s not cost effective.”
The contract has also been “left open,” according to Docheff, for the resumption of weekly recycling services if the town finds recycling demands warrant weekly recycling pick-up relative to trash demands in the town.
Per Docheff, a growing population in Fairfax means that, even with operation costs rising for Casella’s services, the flat fee paid by Fairfax residents for Casella’s services would likely remain consistent with the roughly $350 currently paid annually for Casella’s pickup services.
“There are moderate increases in the costs of doing business, but the increases are small,” Docheff said. “As folks move into town... the costs every year have gone up, but that’s shared among residents.”
Fairfax’s current town plan projects that population growth in Fairfax, now at “historically high levels,” will continue well into the immediate future, meaning that Casella’s rising costs of business over the course of Fairfax’s contract will likely continue being offset by a growing population.
That population growth was projected to swell Fairfax’s population by another 26 to 38 percent by 2030, according to Fairfax’s current town plan.
Also new to the town’s contract with Casella was the Recollect cellular phone application that would allow cellular phone users in Fairfax to more directly communicate with Casella.
In an interview Thursday with the Messenger, Docheff highlighted this as a way to “help streamline” communications between Casella and residents while also limiting the town offices’ role as a middleman for trash services.
“I think the app is a really important addition to the contract, because it’s going to allow folks who have questions to communicate more directly with Casella,” Docheff said. “If Casella is running a day behind because of weather or a holiday, they can shoot out a call or text to everybody so you know, without reaching, what’s going on.”
For those who might not be able to access the app, Docheff said the town would still help facilitate communication between the trash haulers and residents.
Casella is currently expected to have a presence at Fairfax’s upcoming town meeting in order to answer questions about the contract and help residents learn to use the Recollect application.
According to Docheff, while Fairfax reached out to several other waste removal companies, only Casella offered a bid to provide services to the town.
When approving the contract unanimously earlier this month, the selectboard appeared positive about the changes in the contract, including its plans for a composting pilot and its cellular phone application.
“One of the reasons why we elected to go with Casella was that you guys had the game plan,” selectperson Stephen Bessette said.
“It’s good to be working with you guys again,” agreed selectboard chair Steve Cormier.