With their contracts running out, area towns consider new options for dumping their trash
By Daniel D’Ambrosio
May 25, 2010
fter more than 20 years, the contracts 70 towns have with Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority to handle their trash are expiring late in 2012.
It’s a watershed moment for CRRA, which has processed more than $1 billion worth of trash in those 20-plus years, burning waste to create electricity, according to Lyle Wray, executive director of the Capital Region Council of Governments.
Because trash disposal is such a big item in every town’s budget, they owe it to themselves to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible, says Wray. In legal terms, that’s known as due diligence, and part of that due diligence has been the creation of an entirely new trash authority called the Central Connecticut Solid Waste Authority. So far, the towns of Bolton, Granby, Manchester, and Simsbury have signed on.
Another dozen or so towns are holding hearings to consider joining the new authority, including Bloomfield, Canton, Wethersfield, South Windsor, East Granby and Avon. The Hartford City Council referred the matter to its management and budget committee. If enough towns sign up, it could spell real trouble for CRRA.
“There is a belief that municipalities can do better price-wise than under the current arrangement [with CRRA],” says Hartford City Councilman Matt Ritter. “This is the initial stage of what might be new regional arrangements.”
Wray says CRCOG has already issued a Request for Information to find out what other options are out there. There were six responses from both inside and outside the state, but CRRA was not among them. That’s because CRRA is already giving its 70 member towns the best deal it can, according to CRRA spokesman Paul Nonnemacher.
“We operate at net cost of operations, that’s the price we charge,” says Nonnemacher. “The price we’re going to offer our customers is determined by what it’s going to cost us to run our facilities.”
Those facilities include the trash-to-energy and recycling plants in Hartford and six transfer stations around the state.
CRRA’s prices will be coming down, says Nonnemacher, but the authority won’t know how much until after 2012 when it retires its debt and begins selling the electricity it generates from trash under new contracts, presumably at much higher prices. Wray complains CRRA is currently selling electricity at a fraction of even wholesale rates.
Nonnemacher doesn’t dispute that, but says they’re locked into long-term deals that end in 2012. After that, more income from electricity will mean lower “tipping fees” — the amount towns are charged to process their garbage — for CRRA’s 70 towns.
“One could reasonably expect as much as [a] 10 percent [reduction],” says Nonnemacher.
Nonnemacher stresses that CRRA is not promising such a reduction, but it does expect to see “a lot of downward movement” in its pricing.
That would be just fine with the new Central Connecticut Solid Waste Authority, which would consider continuing to contract with CRRA as long as the price is right.
“This is a fork in the road,” says Wray. “The towns want to assume the responsibility of at least checking to see if they’re getting a good price.”