About 300 people showed up at the Weston Board of Selectmen's meeting on Tuesday night to vent their feelings about a proposal to implement in Weston.
The selectmen seemed slightly taken aback at not only the passion and emotion displayed by many of those who spoke, but also at the sheer number of people who showed up.
"For some reason, people are very passionate about trash, on both sides," said Board Chairman Doug Gillespie as he opened up the meeting.
Most of those who spoke about the proposal echoed a similar theme: They wanted the selectmen to postpone any decision about the issue until a vote could be made at Town Meeting in November.
In the end, selectmen agreed to delay the decision until after Town Meeting. A vote at Town Meeting would be non-binding, as the trash disposal issue is a policy decision, but the board said they wanted to hear what voters thought before making a final decision.
Why change the system?
Selectman Michael Harrity spoke for the board and explained to the audience the board's rationale for moving to a PAYT system.
The decision, said Harrity, was motivated by a desire to cut costs for residents, to better enforce rules about who may or may not use the transfer station and to increase recycling rates.
Under the old system, residents pay $215 annually for a transfer station sticker; or $132 if they are a senior citizen. This comes with unlimited trash disposal and there is no charge for recycling.
The PAYT system would charge $75 annually for a sticker ($25 for seniors) and $2 per 33-gallon bag and $1 per 15-gallon bag. Bags will be available at , , and .
There would also be no charge for recycling and residents would be allowed a "reasonable" number of oversized items, like couches, to throw away for no extra charge.
Harrity said that, for the average household in Weston, such a system would likely result in lower costs overall.
But it's not something the board is taking lightly, he said.
"This system is an experiment," he said. The goal of the program is for it to be revenue-neutral; if it ends up costing residents too much or ends up as a boon for the town's coffers, then the board would take another look at it.
Harrity likened the PAYT system to water usage—users pay for what they use, and nothing more.
Most of the people who spoke out about the proposal were against it, though a handful did speak in favor.
A common theme among those who spoke was a simple desire to get more information about the issue and to bring it before Town Meeting in November.
Susan Smick said she wanted the issue to be brought before Town Meeting, "as the democratic way," as many in the crowd cheered and applauded.
Others were concerned that making the bags available for purchase at local stores was suspect.
Lila Baghdady called it "the darndest scheme" and said it was a "sweet deal" for local merchants.
"Ladies and gentlemen, read your constitution. The Massachusetts Constitution, Article 7, says, government is instituted for the common good and not for the profit, honor or private interest of any one person, family, class people or business. This is an outrage," said Baghdady, to applause.
But not everybody was against the proposal.
Margie Monroe said she was totally in favor of PAYT and said she liked Harrity's comparison of PAYT to water usage.
But, she said, she thought most of the anger present was because the town hadn't solicited more opinions.
"I think everyone is upset that we weren't asked," she said.