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HomeNewsArchivesPublic Hearing Raises Myriad Concerns Over Proposed WMA Fees

Public Hearing Raises Myriad Concerns Over Proposed WMA Fees

Nov. 2, 2007 — The Waste Management Authority’s (WMA) proposed environmental user fees on all goods shipped into the territory met stiff public opposition at a public hearing Friday morning in the Port Authority conference room at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. The meeting was the third held this week by Public Services Commission Hearing Examiner Lorin Kleeger to get public input before the PSC rules on the proposed fees (See Environmental User-Fee Hearings Draw Strong Reactions, Small Turnout.)
Private citizens, business owners, leaders of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and the St. Croix Environmental Association all raised similar concerns: that the plan taxes too heavily and will hurt economic development; that it does not encourage recycling and that residents will be paying taxes twice for the same services.
Noting that the services are needed, St. Croix resident John Beagle supported the WMA’s mission. However, he is concerned about the old taxes devoted to waste management remaining in place.
“We still have the old taxes, and now we have a new fee,” he said. “It sounds like we are paying twice for the same service.” A lack of recycling incentives concerned him, too.
“These fees give no incentive to recycle, re-use or reduce consumption,” he said. “And they don’t have any preventive measures to keep waste from ending up where it doesn’t belong …. You’re paying the fee anyway. Why bother to dispose of the goods properly when the time comes?”
Beagle said up-front fees of some kind were preferable to tipping fees at the time of disposal, because tipping fees encourage people to dump trash in the bush.
Michael Dembeck of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce read a prepared statement. He said the Chamber’s biggest concern was that the fees would overburden existing businesses, undermine efforts to attract new businesses and jobs, and increase the already high cost of living.
Dembeck’s statement echoed Beagle’s concern about incentives to recycle. But the Chamber prefers tipping fees.
“More traditional waste management funding approaches, such as landfill tipping fees, provide financial incentives to recycle by levying charges only on the amount of solid waste that actually arrives at the landfill,” he said. Dembeck added that his constituents favor other incentives to recycle.
“We would encourage the Waste Management Authority to actively pursue and promote financial incentives that reward businesses and households for recycling,” he said. “For example, some of the revenue generated by these fees should be dedicated to encourage and reward entrepreneurial individuals and businesses to sweep our island clean of trash, plastic bottles and recyclable items on a continuous basis. We also would suggest that some of the revenue be earmarked as 'seed money' for entrepreneurs to set up recycling businesses on St. Croix, thereby re-investing this revenue in the local economy and reducing the amount of solid waste that must be disposed of at the landfill.”
The Chamber is also concerned the fee schedule is excessively complicated and bureaucratically cumbersome.
“A fee of 12-cents per pound, for example, is proposed for items in Category 68, which is described as “toys, games and sporting goods,” he said. “However, a lower fee of 7.6 cents per pound is proposed for Category 68 (1), which is described as ‘toys, games, sporting goods, firearms and binoculars.” There also is a Category 68 (2), which is described as “toys, games, sporting goods, cameras, excluding digital and cinematography.” The proposed fee for this category is 9.7 cents per pound. … Given the complexity of the proposed rate schedule, how long will it take to process a container of loose cargo on a per pound basis when it arrives in port and before the business owner can take possession?”
Dembeck urged the WMA to look into burning waste to generate electricity and to look into less expensive waste management systems used stateside.
Danny Coughlin of Frederiksted said he was bothered there were no members of the PSC present.
“I know they serve on a volunteer basis,” he said. “But this is an astronomical program being proposed. I would like to hear firsthand what the PSC is thinking, not thirdhand.”
Kleeger, the hearing examiner, said there would be public hearings before the PSC, but that he had been tasked with getting public input as part of his report to the PSC.
Coughlin said the WMA had become a wasteful bureaucracy and that the fees were “draconian,” and urged Kleeger to advise the PSC to turn down the fee plan.
“I recommend you put the plan in the garbage,” he said. “As an engineer, that’s why we use pencils; so we can go back and make changes.”
Donald Diddams of the St. Croix Environmental Association said he was concerned that the fees were regressive, suggesting some income-based adjustment or refund.
Eusebio Christian of ECTAB Paving and Construction said the fees could hurt his business.
“As a heavy equipment company, our equipment is heavy,” he quipped. “Sometimes a part that weighs two or three hundred pounds may only cost $200, so I end up paying more in fees than for the part … If I am paying $200 in taxes for each ton of asphalt, I carry 20 tons in my truck. That’s $4,000 before I pay for the asphalt.”
Half a dozen more individuals expressed similar concerns. After everyone who wished to speak had done so, WMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall responded briefly, saying there would be town meetings to gather more input as well.
“Being completely transparent, at the town meeting you will see our budget and where our money goes,” she said. Cornwall said the plan was not final, and the comments and concerns would be taken into account before a final plan is implemented.
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Nov. 2, 2007 -- The Waste Management Authority’s (WMA) proposed environmental user fees on all goods shipped into the territory met stiff public opposition at a public hearing Friday morning in the Port Authority conference room at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. The meeting was the third held this week by Public Services Commission Hearing Examiner Lorin Kleeger to get public input before the PSC rules on the proposed fees (See Environmental User-Fee Hearings Draw Strong Reactions, Small Turnout.)
Private citizens, business owners, leaders of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and the St. Croix Environmental Association all raised similar concerns: that the plan taxes too heavily and will hurt economic development; that it does not encourage recycling and that residents will be paying taxes twice for the same services.
Noting that the services are needed, St. Croix resident John Beagle supported the WMA’s mission. However, he is concerned about the old taxes devoted to waste management remaining in place.
“We still have the old taxes, and now we have a new fee,” he said. “It sounds like we are paying twice for the same service.” A lack of recycling incentives concerned him, too.
“These fees give no incentive to recycle, re-use or reduce consumption,” he said. “And they don’t have any preventive measures to keep waste from ending up where it doesn’t belong …. You’re paying the fee anyway. Why bother to dispose of the goods properly when the time comes?”
Beagle said up-front fees of some kind were preferable to tipping fees at the time of disposal, because tipping fees encourage people to dump trash in the bush.
Michael Dembeck of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce read a prepared statement. He said the Chamber’s biggest concern was that the fees would overburden existing businesses, undermine efforts to attract new businesses and jobs, and increase the already high cost of living.
Dembeck’s statement echoed Beagle’s concern about incentives to recycle. But the Chamber prefers tipping fees.
“More traditional waste management funding approaches, such as landfill tipping fees, provide financial incentives to recycle by levying charges only on the amount of solid waste that actually arrives at the landfill,” he said. Dembeck added that his constituents favor other incentives to recycle.
“We would encourage the Waste Management Authority to actively pursue and promote financial incentives that reward businesses and households for recycling,” he said. “For example, some of the revenue generated by these fees should be dedicated to encourage and reward entrepreneurial individuals and businesses to sweep our island clean of trash, plastic bottles and recyclable items on a continuous basis. We also would suggest that some of the revenue be earmarked as 'seed money' for entrepreneurs to set up recycling businesses on St. Croix, thereby re-investing this revenue in the local economy and reducing the amount of solid waste that must be disposed of at the landfill.”
The Chamber is also concerned the fee schedule is excessively complicated and bureaucratically cumbersome.
“A fee of 12-cents per pound, for example, is proposed for items in Category 68, which is described as “toys, games and sporting goods,” he said. “However, a lower fee of 7.6 cents per pound is proposed for Category 68 (1), which is described as ‘toys, games, sporting goods, firearms and binoculars.” There also is a Category 68 (2), which is described as “toys, games, sporting goods, cameras, excluding digital and cinematography.” The proposed fee for this category is 9.7 cents per pound. … Given the complexity of the proposed rate schedule, how long will it take to process a container of loose cargo on a per pound basis when it arrives in port and before the business owner can take possession?”
Dembeck urged the WMA to look into burning waste to generate electricity and to look into less expensive waste management systems used stateside.
Danny Coughlin of Frederiksted said he was bothered there were no members of the PSC present.
“I know they serve on a volunteer basis,” he said. “But this is an astronomical program being proposed. I would like to hear firsthand what the PSC is thinking, not thirdhand.”
Kleeger, the hearing examiner, said there would be public hearings before the PSC, but that he had been tasked with getting public input as part of his report to the PSC.
Coughlin said the WMA had become a wasteful bureaucracy and that the fees were “draconian,” and urged Kleeger to advise the PSC to turn down the fee plan.
“I recommend you put the plan in the garbage,” he said. “As an engineer, that’s why we use pencils; so we can go back and make changes.”
Donald Diddams of the St. Croix Environmental Association said he was concerned that the fees were regressive, suggesting some income-based adjustment or refund.
Eusebio Christian of ECTAB Paving and Construction said the fees could hurt his business.
“As a heavy equipment company, our equipment is heavy,” he quipped. “Sometimes a part that weighs two or three hundred pounds may only cost $200, so I end up paying more in fees than for the part … If I am paying $200 in taxes for each ton of asphalt, I carry 20 tons in my truck. That’s $4,000 before I pay for the asphalt.”
Half a dozen more individuals expressed similar concerns. After everyone who wished to speak had done so, WMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall responded briefly, saying there would be town meetings to gather more input as well.
“Being completely transparent, at the town meeting you will see our budget and where our money goes,” she said. Cornwall said the plan was not final, and the comments and concerns would be taken into account before a final plan is implemented.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.