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Burlington City Council Considers Trash Hauling And Police Retention At Latest Meeting

Burlington sign
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Sign in downtown Burlington

At its meeting this week, the Burlington, Vermont City Council decided whether the city should create a consolidated municipal waste collection system and also considered an officer retention plan from the city police department.

Burlington City Councilors considered a resolution that included plans to implement a city operated consolidated residential trash, recycling and organics pickup system.

Ward 8 Progressive Jane Stromberg attended virtually and sponsored the resolution.

“Municipal consolidated collection is in the public interest. A municipal system keeps the income generated in the public hands. The city already runs a city-wide recycling program and public water. This really proves and shows to me that we are more than capable of running this type of system.”

Trash haulers have been adamantly opposed to the plan:

“My name is Joe Sinagra. I’m here representing Meyer’s Waste and Recycling. Meyer’s Waste and Recycling, like Casella, like Duffy’s, like so many other haulers, these are businesses that have multiple generations. We have the same goals as your resolutions and I think what you’re looking for," says Sinagra. "We’re in the business of extending Vermont’s future. Having clean energy. That’s why we all invest tens of thousands of dollars on energy efficient trucks. We all stand jointly as opposing both of these resolutions.”

“Good evening my name is Liza Casella. Having spent the last decade in our business I’ve gained a deep understanding and a deep appreciation for the ins and outs of this incredibly complex industry. We applaud the city for trying to address these issues. But we are here today with our industry peers to share our disappointment that we were not included to share our perspective and our expertise.”

Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger agreed with the concept and potential benefits of consolidated collection but said he cannot support the current proposal.

“There is a proposal to essentially create two new businesses: to have the city of Burlington get into the waste hauling and the compost hauling business. We should all remember what happened the last time the city started a business. It was a disaster." Weinberger continued, "For us to take this on this would have to become a major new priority. We are living in historically challenging times where we are already fully committed to a huge range of priorities. There is no way to add another major priority to this very long list already. And there’s no need to.”

The resolve clauses to implement consolidated pickup and full municipal operations were split for council votes. Both failed on a tie vote.

A resolution passed last June by the city council required the Police Department to reduce the number of sworn officers by 30 percent. But the number of officers leaving the department is occurring faster and in greater numbers than anticipated. Acting Police Chief Jon Murad presented a plan to the council that would use American Rescue Plan Act COVID relief money to create a retention bonus to keep current officers. He explained it would pay a $2,000 bonus on November 15th and a second $8,000 bonus on September 1, 2022.

“We are losing officers rapidly at a rate that frankly does begin to compromise what we can do. We already cannot provide the services that we have in the past. And anything we can do to minimize the level at which we are falling and to prevent us from falling further I think is worthwhile. And that was the nature of this proposal.”

The retention and recruitment plan passed unanimously.

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