Town officials and Citizens for Improved Recycling work toward a user-friendly recycle facility.
VICTOR — When Ed Van Schaick began remodeling his 1830 farmhouse in Victor, he said the town’s Transfer Station/Recycle Center became his “best friend.” He visited often and found everyone to be very accommodating and friendly.
It was a free service then, provided by the town. And when fees went up to $20 a year in 2012, Van Schaick was still more than happy to pay the price for a resource he valued highly. But in January 2015 when annual fees suddenly jumped by 500 percent to $120 — and hours of operation were cut 58 percent — he took the news hard. So did a handful of friends, who formed a small but vocal group called Citizens for Improved Recycling in Victor (CIRV).
Van Schaick and three other CIRV members stood outside the facility in subzero temperatures for about three weeks, talking with facility patrons, collecting 890 signatures and gathering comments about the changes. They took their findings to the Town Board in on March 9 in hopes of seeing a return to more accessible hours and affordable service.
“The outcome that we would like to see is that the recycle center become more user-friendly, financially as well as operationally,” said Van Schaick.
At that time Supervisor Jack Marren announced additional hours of operation, but the $120 fee stuck. Town officials planned to mailed out a survey and fact sheet to every household in order to help shape their next steps.
But even that process presented sticking points for the seven-member CIRV group, who took issue with Transfer Station/Recycle Center statistics provided on the town’s fact sheet. Facility use was reported by number of households using it, not frequency of use, they said. Van Schaick also criticized the board’s means of communicating changes prior to the survey, calling it “severely flawed.”
“The other thing was that we were asked to collaborate (on creating the survey and fact sheet), and not only weren’t we included, but the Victor Sustainability Advisory Committee was never included,” said Van Schaick. “It was all done behind closed doors. That’s kind of sad. They’ve got a committee that should be a big part of that, and wasn’t.”
The fact sheet was tweaked to reflect CIRV suggestions before it went out to residents, Van Schaick said.
And the survey provided good feedback and creative problem-solving ideas, Marren said.
“It did exactly what it should have done,” said Marren. “I was looking for an assortment of feedback. The next step is for me to meet with Highway Superintendent and his staff to work out things like permit checking, hours, signage, stickers...”
Marren said town officials hope to provide an opportunity for residents with a private hauler to come in once a year by using a coupon, or village residents to visit periodically. They also need to work out a plan for accepting and properly disposing of tires, which is costly to the town. And they’d like to be able to accommodate senior citizens who have limited income.
After meeting with staff and devising a plan, Marren said he’ll look for a thumbs up or down from the Town Board.
“The bottom line is, there are certain functions that government does that we need to do, and there are others that are expected,” said Marren. The Transfer Station/Recycle Center falls into the “expected” category, he said.
“I know the service is valuable,” Marren said. “We have to find a way to keep the service going, and how to cover the cost.”
Some of the changes will be made within the next couple of months, and others will take shape over time, he said.
According to Van Schaick, time is of the essence.
“Any time you limit use of a facility like this, it ratchets up damage to the environment,” said Van Schaick, citing a likelihood for more littering, and accumulation of “stuff” in yards and on private property because there’s nowhere to dispose of it.
Van Schaick admits he’s heard at least one person say they’d rather bury their refuse than pay the recycle fee. He fears there may be more.
“Our goal is to make sure that it’s user-friendly enough that people don’t dispose of things in inappropriate ways,” said Van Schaick. “Our goal is that we can have everybody using it that wants to use it.”
Going forward, CIRV members expect to actively participate in the budget process.
“It’s been recommended that we get a full line item budget and go through it so we can give a little more educated guidance to the town,” said Van Schaick.
The other action item, he said, will be to start education in the community for people who don’t understand what the Recycle Center really adds in terms of the environment and the pristine look that Victor has.
“There are many more options that could make this attractive, both functionally and financially,” said Van Schaick. “I think it’s a matter of citizen input, and the board realizing that the citizens are the customer here, and what the citizens want is where the Board should be going.”
As a result of CIRV action, he hopes other residents will step up and take action about other issues that are near and dear to them.
“He’s passionate,” said Marren of Van Schaick. “It’s great. That’s democracy.”