The V.I. Waste Management Authority’s proposal to collect trash fees got an airing Tuesday when the Public Services Commission held a hearing at the Legislature Building on St. John. About a half dozen people attended.
The PSC will continue the hearings Wednesday on St. Thomas and Thursday on St. Croix.
The first phase will include fees charged to commercial solid waste haulers and residents who take truckloads of trash to the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas, the Anguilla transfer station on St. Croix and the Susannaberg transfer station on St. John.
V.I. Waste Management calls them tipping fees.
“The tipping fees will be collected at the scale house,” VIWMA Chief Operations Officer Steven Aubin said.
The per-ton rates start at $31.28 for truckloads of soil or sand. Trucks filled with scrap metal will run $39.15 per ton. Household waste and green waste such as trees each will cost $52.13 per ton. Construction waste and trucks filled with mixed waste runs $65.26 per ton.
In response to a question from PSC hearing examiner Lorin Kleeger, Aubin said that the cost for the small pickup trucks carrying household waste would be $26 because they hold about a half-ton. Those trucks are common on St. John.
V.I. Waste Management says it needs to charge tipping fees to fund its operations. According to Aubin, the phase one tipping fees will generate $6.9 million a year.
However, with the need to generate $10.6 million in solid waste disposal fees, Aubin said the next phase will include a charge to residents for getting rid of their garbage. He said that the average residential household has 2.9 tons of garbage a year.
“The residential fee will more than likely be charged to property taxes,” Aubin said.
Mario Leonard, VIWMA’s solid waste director, said after the meeting that the authority is open to suggestions.
“At the end of the day, we want to get to a system that’s fair and equitable,” he said.
For starters, he said VIWMA wants to get rid of the bins now in use around St. John. He said what the agency calls convenience centers will be developed at Susannaberg and in Coral Bay.
Leonard said he’s not ruling out house-to-house pickup but acknowledged that St. John has some challenging roads.
Aubin said that charging fees to customers is part of a partial consent decree VIWMA has with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, he said, the provision that it close the Bovoni and Anguilla landfills will be funded through bonds or loans.
And he said that even when those landfills close, V.I. Waste Management will have to open others so the fees will still be needed.
Jose Penn, whose Penn’s Trucking has a contract with the local government to haul garbage to Bovoni landfill from St. John, called for better enforcement. He said the enforcement officers work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but people who dump off large objects that should go to the transfer station do it in when it’s dark.
Aubin said the tipping fees do not include funding for enforcement because the local government budget pays for it. However, he said that could change in the future.
He said the agency is increasing its enforcement staff in order to increase enforcement activities.
Rick Barksdale, who served on a citizens advisory committee to help VIWMA find solutions, said the proposed fees are not enough to do the job but were “about right” to introduce the concept of fees to the public.
“I think they hit the sweet spot,” he said.
However, he called on V.I. Waste Management to come up with a new way to deal with the territory’s garbage.
“We’re still digging holes and putting trash in it,” he said.
The PSC will continue the hearings Wednesday at the PSC office on St. Thomas and Thursday on the V.I. Port Authority conference room at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix. Both hearings begin at 3 p.m.