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Trumbullite: Keep the Recycling Coordinator

The position would be eliminated in 2013-2014 budget, which still needs Town Council approval.

To the Editor:

The Town of Trumbull made a grave mistake last week when our elected leaders stepped back from their commitment to “zero waste” and eliminated the Director of Solid Waste and Recycling position from the Public Works Department.  To fill the void, the Board of Finance voted to add $25,000 to the department’s budget to enable the promotion of our Town Engineer to Associate Director of Public Works and take on the additional responsibilities of recycling coordinator.  Neither of these moves aligned with the Public Works Director’s testimony during his Board of Finance Budget Hearing.

The label of “recycling coordinator” is a misnomer for this role which includes managing the tri-town transfer station and its staff, managing the contracts with processors, establishing policy and regulations, reporting progress to the State Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, as well as community relations and education.  Coordinating the town’s single stream program is but one bullet point in the position description.  Attaining zero waste will require a comprehensive and coordinated effort with clear accountability.

Materials management is one of the few areas that our town can impact our non-tax revenues in a direct way by shifting material from our waste stream which costs $66/ton to incinerate in a Bridgeport plant, to the materials commodity stream which currently pays $35/ton for us to deliver product to them.

Interestingly, Trumbull recently hired a Chief of Emergency Medical Services with a goal to increase revenue by responding to more EMS calls, and making the organization more financially independent.  Why then wouldn’t the town also maintain a position responsible for increasing the amount of recyclable material we can sell on the open market, thereby generating revenue, which offsets the cost of disposing our waste?  Although this comparison may seem incongruous to some, the ultimate goals are similar:  redeploy our resources to generate more revenue for the town, while simultaneously increasing the health, safety and welfare of our residents.  Win-win.

Putting the lost revenue aside, it is a great disappointment to see our town lack the courage of our convictions, deciding to eliminate a position a mere 10 months after having created it.  One Board of Finance member referred to the role as a “failed experiment”, yet the Director of Public Works had presented a two-page long list of accomplishments and testified that the position was already self-funded.  As a manager, I would be ecstatic with such results from a new hire in their first year.

Lastly, the individual that Town Hall is releasing on June 30th, Robin Bennett, is uniquely qualified to fill the broad responsibilities of the position, being equally at home 1) meeting with hauler and processor representatives; 2) teaching children in our schools; and 3) working alongside her staff at the transfer station. I wish her luck in finding a position with a town that values her versatility; and I wish Trumbull Town Hall luck filling this critical role by adding duties to existing staff, regardless of how they change titles and increase compensation levels.

Scot Kerr

Lynnbrook Road

FLresident March 20, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Thanks for the clarification Scot! It is a shame the local government doesn't understand the economic impact of recycling and its importance in the supply chain. Too often recycling is thought of as an environmental issue and thus pushed aside and underfunded. But the reality is recycling is a big business that creates jobs, saves energy, and helps stabilize the materials market. I wish your recycling program the best of luck, as it will be difficult to optimize the program without a dedicated coordinator. (BTW, yes I live in Florida and I got to your opinion piece from my Google News page where I have added a search for recycling news)
Thomas Tesoro March 21, 2013 at 02:15 AM
Excellent article Scot!!! This makes no sense whatsoever. The rationale for this makes no sense. We heard platitudes ("a failed experiment") without any factual support for the statement or outright fantasy ( we need to change because we "evolved"). One thing needs to be clear, the supporters of this bad idea are the Republicans. The Democrats oppose this action (see Aaron's story on this topic). Democrats oppose treating employees like dirt. Democrats support the effort to increase recycling and the need for a full time dedicated person to lead the effort. This action is a travesty.
Joshua Katz March 21, 2013 at 02:53 PM
It is a shame that we are working so hard to teach or children to do the right thing like recycle, but the powers that be are using the term wrong and recycling their staff. The program that our tri-town transfer station has evolved to in the past year has been remarkable. Not only has the system been streamlined but the process of getting through the facility has greatly improved. We need to continue to be forward thinking as a town, and this "change" has put an extreme wrench in the works.
Archie Bunker March 22, 2013 at 01:36 AM
Hey Tom - looks like the only thing you like to recycle is your tired political agenda. No surprise that you are the first one here to try and turn this into a political issue. Pathetic.
tom March 26, 2013 at 01:04 PM
I'M not trying to teach any children. I'M not part of your WE.

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