Town Board looks at highway fees and new products

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Town Board authorized the purchase of a mulch-making machine at yesterday’s work session.

Fees were on the minds of Town Board members again at the work session Wednesday. As in raising them and creating new ones.

With a 2-percent cap on real estate taxes mandated by the state, Shelter Island — like many other municipalities — is looking for revenue, and raising fees or creating new ones is one solution.

Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr.  reported to the board on current fees at the Recycling Center and said the majority of them would stay the same. But he was looking into creating some new “contamination fees.”

Mr. Card gave an example of people bringing in a load of leaves that also included a lunch bag they’d tossed in with the pile. As of now, the highway department has no way of addressing that infraction, plus the town can be on the hook later for depositing contaminated material in landfills. Adding a contamination fee to the load will bring in revenue, but more importantly, it will make the public aware of the problem of improper recycling, Mr. Card said.

Councilman Paul Shepherd wanted to know the mechanics of enforcing the proposed new fees. Mr. Card responded that the department wasn’t looking to have “a sneak attack” on residents or contractors, but that a public information campaign would be in place before any new fees were imposed. Also, his department will often cut people slack the first time around if they’re unaware of regulations.

But repeat offenders might be directed to the scale house and asked to settle up. If not, the police department might have to be called in. Mr. Card reiterated, the new fee was not to trap people, but to “get cooperation” on proper recycling from the public. The board said it would consider the idea.

Another way to create revenue is to purchase a machine that will screen vegetative material at the Recycling Center and turn it into mulch and topsoil that the department can then sell.

Last year the department rented a machine for $15,000 for 30 days. It was a rousing success, Mr. Card said, selling out everything the machine produced.

Bids were sent out last month to Atomic Truck and Equipment Corp. of Nelliston, New York, which makes the machine the department had rented, called a CEC Screening Plant. Another bid went out to Wright Equipment Corp., a Rhode Island company that makes a similar screening plant.

Although the CEC machine’s price is higher, at about $246,500, compared to the Wright Equipment machine, which comes in at $214.950, for Mr. Card it’s a no-brainer to choose the more expensive model.

No new equipment would be needed and infrastructure built for the CEC machine, as would be the case for the less expensive machine, plus the CEC came with more features, a better deal on spare parts and a generous warranty.

“There’s no doubt, this is the machine we should have,” Mr. Card said.

The board agreed and voted on a resolution to authorize funds from the highway capital reserve account and the general town fund to buy the CEC.

A bonus is the New York State Departmetn of Conservation, through a recycling grant, will refund half the money the town will spend.