W ashington County is getting out of the trash business.
The county Board of Supervisor agreed Friday to hand over control of its five transfer stations to Vermont-based Earth Waste and Metal.
The company, which operates more than a half dozen transfer stations in the Green Mountain State, will the lease the facilities under a five year agreement which comes with a purchase option.
Operation of the transfer stations will in the firm’s hands beginning June 1.
The agreement received the unanimous support of the county’s 17 supervisors although officials met behind closed doors for nearly 45 minutes to review the document, which many had not seen prior to Friday’s meeting.
“We’re voting to approve an agreement with reading it. I’m for divesture but it’s like buying a pig in a poke,” Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff said. “Let’s know what we’re voting on.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Earth Waste and Metal will pay $5,000 a month to operate the transfer stations. Sixty percent of the rent paid to the county will be credited toward the $1.47 million purchase price if the company opts to buys the facilities within the 12 months of taking over operations. The percentage of rent applied to the final purchase price would decrease by ten percent in each subsequent year.
The company will also pay $475,000 at the beginning of the lease to purchase equipment.
Officials said the county will save $29,000 a month when Earth Waste and Metal takes over.
Although the agreement was the board’s full endorsement, at least a few supervisors expressed some trepidation.
“I personally, am opposed to it,” said Argyle Supervisor Bob Henke. “But this is a Republic and most of my constituents support this so I’ll vote for it even though I think it’s a horrible idea.”
Cambridge Supervisor William Watkins asked how the transfer stations would be staffed.
“Do we know what’s going to happen with the employees?” he asked.
County attorney Roger Wickes said the agreement doesn’t include any stipulations that Earth Waste and Metal has to retain any of the stations’ currents employees but Supervisor George Armstrong said the company has indicated it plans to hire many of the employees. He said employees with civil service qualifications may also have opportunities within the county’s Department of Public Works.
The company is expected to continue to honor transfer station tickets.
“The bottom line is citizens of Whitehall and Clemons that use these services will have the same services or more, not less,” Armstrong said.
The divesture of the transfer stations is the latest county-offered service the board has moved to privatize over the past several months as it tried to rein in expenses.
Pleasant Valley Infirmary and most of Public Health are expected to be under private control later this year.
Armstrong said before last week’s agreement, the county was losing between $50,000 and $60,000 a year on the transfer stations.