Norwich Will Accept Returnables Again
Redeemable bottles and cans will once again be collected at the Norwich transfer station, according to a new policy set in place by Town Manager Herb Durfee. The move follows a public hubbub over Durfee's decision to end transfer station employees' practice of collecting and redeeming the bottles and cans, then using the proceeds for incidental expenses.
Once new collection bins are in place, redeemables will be handled by employees of the Department of Public Works, who will haul the cans and bottles to redemption centers. The money collected will go first to the Norwich Cadet program run by the police department; once $500 has been reached in any given fiscal year, the remainder will go into the Norwich Citizen Assistance Fund, which is used by the town service officer to help residents in need.
For years, returnables were collected by Barney Hoisington, who then redeemed them and gave most of the proceeds to the Upper Valley Haven--though he did charge the town for his mileage. Hoisington retired a few years back. More recently, Durfee hoped to find a service organization that could take on the task, but none was willing. When that failed, transfer station employees pulled cans and bottles, took them to the redemption centers in White River Junction or in Bradford, then used the $25-$40 they collected each time for dog biscuits, gloves and sometimes personal needs.
After hearing complaints from townspeople, Durfee brought the question up with the Selectboard. Incidentals are included in the transfer station's budget, he pointed out. Moreover, he says, returnables "are a form of currency when they're ultimately turned in. We're a government, we're not allowed to take gifts or take tips." Putting the money toward town needs, he believes, makes sense.
Meanwhile, at the transfer station, the staff is more bemused by the furor than anything else. "We're amazed it took so long for someone to have a problem with it," says Paul Albee, the lead attendant. "So we weren't surprised." Using dollars from the budget for small expenses is fine with him. "Wherever I've worked, if I could find ways to save them money, I would, and that's what we were doing here," he says. "But we're employees of the town. Whatever they want us to do."