CSWD picks up dropoff center question

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Todd Dutil greets visitors to the CSWD dropoff center in Essex on Tuesday. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Todd Dutil greets visitors to the CSWD dropoff center in Essex on Tuesday. (Photo by Jason Starr)

The Chittenden Solid Waste District has extended a new opportunity for Colchester to host one of its trash and recycling dropoff centers.

Facilities manager Brian Wright recently requested input from member municipalities about their interest in, and land availability for, a dropoff center.

Colchester lost its part-time dropoff center about 10 years ago, when a new town office building was constructed on Blakely Road. CSWD ran the center behind the old town offices until the new office building elbowed it out.

Since then, town officials have made overtures to CSWD about reconstituting a dropoff, and citizens have occasionally reminded board members to persist.

The issue’s most vocal proponent was Shirley Meier, a volunteer at the Colchester Food Shelf and a sometimes-selectboard candidate.

Meier, who died earlier this year, claimed town staff promised to replace the dropoff center as part of the lead up to the successful bond vote for the new town offices.

Selectboard chairwoman Nadine Scibek said there is no record of a promise, but as a relatively new board member in 2011, she took up Meier’s cause, identifying a parcel near the Burlington city line on Heineberg Drive that could host a dropoff.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation owns the parcel as part of land it acquired to build a now-defunct circumferential highway around Burlington.

“I put my heart and soul into it when I was new on the board,” said Scibek, who frequented the former Colchester dropoff center. “You want to do anything for Shirley, and it would be good for the community.”

Because the VTrans parcel was acquired with federal transportation money, a transportation use was a prerequisite. The town pursued a park-and-ride facility there to satisfy the requirement, submitting a grant application in 2012 to the state Municipal Park and Ride Grant Program. But the application was denied, ending the board’s pursuit.

“We tried to find a spot, but we just couldn’t find anywhere to put it,” Scibek said.

Wright remembers talks on the Heineberg parcel a little differently. VTrans was open to a nominal lease for the facility, but the board resisted, he said.

“They reacted negatively,” Wright recalled, “like we were trying to force it on them.”

The makeup of the board has since changed, and so have VTrans’ plans for the circ property. The agency released a management plan for the land last month that opens the door to non-transportation uses.

“We’ve always wanted a [dropoff center] in Colchester out toward Colchester Point,” Wright said, noting the center on Route 2A in Essex is near the other end of Colchester. “The people who are underserved are the ones on the point.”

CSWD operates seven dropoff centers in Chittenden County, accepting everything from traditional recyclables and trash to electronics, construction waste, compost and yard waste. Some offer a post for donating used clothes and a swap center for free items.

The district’s query to municipalities comes as part of an overall strategic planning effort in the first months of new general manager Sarah Reeves’ tenure.

“We need to plan for the next generation of dropoff center services,” Wright’s Aug. 26 letter to municipal leaders reads. “This study will … allow us to analyze which locations make sense for development as it relates to providing optimal coverage and service to our member communities.”