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Concord, 6 other towns pull out of Wheelabrator trash contract

Concord and six other towns will stop sending their trash to Wheelabrator’s incinerator in Penacook.

A new contract with Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. was approved by 17 of the Concord regional trash cooperative’s 24 members last night. Franklin, Laconia and 15 other towns will send trash to Wheelabrator through 2022.

The seven communities that won’t enter the contract must find somewhere else to send their trash by 2015 – though they’ll remain members of the co-op. Director Jim Presher said all member communities still have a stake in the co-op’s assets and must care for the landfill in Franklin. By allowing some members to opt out of a new contract, Presher said he hopes to avoid negotiating withdrawals from the co-op.

But the Concord City Council took action last week that authorizes City Manager Tom Aspell to withdraw from the co-op. Chip Chesley, the city’s general services director, voted against the contract on behalf of the city last night, but took no further action. Concord remains a member of the cooperative.

Six other towns voted against the contract: Belmont, Bradford, Dunbarton, Gilmanton, Henniker and Pembroke.

Concord is the co-op’s largest member, and its departure was anticipated during contract negotiations. To pass the contract last night without Concord, the remaining members needed to commit to sending just 58.5 percent of the trash it currently delivers to Wheelabrator.

Though last night’s vote fell short of that required amount – members only committed 55.04 percent of the current tonnage – Presher said Wheelabrator had agreed to move forward.

“We have had discussions with them once we knew basically where we were here,” Presher said. “They have indicated that they are comfortable with 55.04 percent.”

Under the new contract, Wheelabrator will lower its tipping fees to $64 per ton. That rate can increase between 1 and 5 percent each year.

The contract will go into effect retroactively to April, and will continue through 2022.

Concord and the towns that voted against the contract can continue paying the current tipping fee of $66.80 per ton until the end of 2014.

In Concord, officials have said they’re reviewing all options for trash disposal. The city has a contract with Bestway Disposal Services, which picks up trash and delivers it to Wheelabrator’s incinerator in Penacook.

Earlier this year, the city issued a request for proposals from trash haulers. That request yielded proposals from all the major trash companies in the area, Chesley said at a May co-op meeting, according to the meeting minutes. But there’s still time for the city to choose an option; its contract with Bestway expires at the end of next year. (Bestway is now owned by Casella Waste Services.)

Ash from Wheelabrator’s incinerator is currently delivered to a landfill in Franklin. But the new contract only requires Wheelabrator to deliver ashes to that landfill until 2014, or until the landfill runs out of space. Wheelabrator can then choose where to take its ash.

Once the landfill closes, co-op members will be responsible for its maintenance. “We need to keep the co-op together as a whole,” Presher said, in order to care for the landfill.

The co-op is trying to avoid a situation similar to Hopkinton and Webster’s withdrawal three years ago, Presher said after last night’s meeting at Bow’s municipal building.

Since it formed in 1985, the Concord Regional Solid Waste/Resource Recovery Cooperative has contracted Wheelabrator to dispose of trash for member towns and cities. Hopkinton and Webster left the group in 2010, and Allenstown has an agreement to withdraw at the end of 2014.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Is it a surprise that the massive democratically controlled Concord City Government again has NO PLAN

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