‘Gaming the System’: Town Eyes Change to Fees at Dump


Saying some residents take unfair advantage of a standing rule, municipal officials are considering a change to how the town charges those bringing brush and construction debris to the dump.

As it is, it’s free for those with a Transfer Station sticker to dump the first 300 pounds of material, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann.

Yet “we have people that are gaming the system,” Mann told the Board of Selectmen at their Feb. 25 meeting in Town Hall.

“[They] will come in multiple times a day—290 pounds, 275 pounds, things of that nature, where they are weighing at their house and then coming in and gaming the system,” Mann said. “So we feel that if we got rid of that and just made it fair across the board—you come in, you pay.”

The proposal—to start charging the standard rate of $100 per ton for brush and $125 per ton for construction debris as soon as the material comes in to the Lakeview Avenue facility—would bring in about $30,000 in additional revenue annually, Mann said.

The proposed change is one of several new and increased fees now under consideration by the town. If adopted, they could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue, according to proposed fee schedules obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a public records request.

The fee changes are designed to bring New Canaan in line with surrounding towns such as Darien, Wilton and Ridgefield, officials said. 

Selectman Nick Williams said he was in favor of reviewing fees to ensure that New Canaan is in line with the town’s “peer cohort.”

“But we still want to be in the ballpark,” he said. “We don’t want to be an outlier, whether too [little] or too much.”

Larger items under consdiation include a new “drainage policy review” fee of $500 that could generate $30,000 annually based on 2018 estimates, a $5 per-ton increase to the “tipping fee” that haulers pay to bring solid waste to the dump ($19,000) and a 68% increase to resident sticker fees ($60,000).

The proposed sticker fee increase, from $45 to $75, would mark the first time that fee has changed since 2015, officials said. 

The drainage policy review would be triggered “when someone comes in with a development and we look at it, make sure it follows suit with our policy,” Mann said.

“Some of these reviews take hours of work, multiple visits, things of that nature,” he said.

In addition to Public Works, the Recreation and Building Departments reviewed proposed fee increases. The selectmen did not formally vote on the proposed fee changes, though they must “decide what we are willing to recommend to [the Board of Finance],” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said.

The Building Department is proposing an increase for the first thousand of project value from $75 to $100 because the current fee “does not offset our time investment,” according to a memo from Chief Building Official Brian Platz. “This modest increase will not adversely impact larger projects but will net us approximately $30,000 annually at our present rate of permits issued,” the memo said. Recreation is proposing fee increases to men’s softball to cover field use and to a spring adult tennis clinic. Planning & Zoning is not proposing fee increases.

Not all proposed fee increases won support among the selectmen. For example, Mann said the town currently pays about $80,000 annually for fields lights at Mead Park, Dunning and the Orchard and Water Tower fields. Assessing a new fee to youth sports organizations that make use of the lighted fields could bring in about $34,500 annually, he said.

Moynihan called the collection of such fees “an administrative nightmare” and noted that the town will see savings from solar projects at the Waveny Pool and high school.

“I am not inclined” to introduce the new fees, he said.

9 thoughts on “‘Gaming the System’: Town Eyes Change to Fees at Dump

  1. Our “dump” here in Hilton Head is open 6 days a week, from 7am to 7pm and it is free! New Canaan politicians are sucking the residents dry, and destroying New Canaan’s economy and property values.

  2. Why not limit brush & debris to weekly or twice a month. We don’t want to see people dumping debris on the road side.

  3. Once upon a time the Board of Selectmen were required by ordinance to review ALL fees and charges at the January meeting. Then it was changed to the July meeting and most recently ignored in favor of occasionally making a change like this dump fee suggestion. Time to return to annual review of ALL fees and charges.

  4. As a taxpayer I really appreciate town managers and department heads trying to find ways generate revenue in these budget challenged times but this seems like a classic case of chasing nickels around dollars. I’m seeing about $60,000 in revenue estimates for these new proposals. On the other side of the ledger I’m seeing a planned $$million dollar expenditure resulting from the polarizing new school start time plan. I am hopeful that the Board of Finance agrees and sees fit to strike this unneeded expense. It would be addition by subtraction.

  5. This is just a stealth way of increasing taxes..seems like a leaf out of Hartford’s playbook. Using a select couple of comparators as reasons for raising fees is dangerous and deceptive; for example, Fairfield is mostly free for residents.
    Stop it….

  6. These fees are ridiculous!!!
    I am NOT opposed to an increase of the yearly fee HOWEVER, the additional charges each time you go to the transfer station to bring debris from our yards is outrageous!!
    Our family does ALL our yard maintenance ourselves and keep things tidy after storms and when trees and limbs come down!!!
    We then load our truck and bring them to the transfer station!!
    Sometimes multiple times in one day to clear it up. If you think that homeowners weigh their debris to take advantage of this system you are wildly mistaken!!!
    If on the other hand you want us to lug our debris and bring it to the street to leave then that is what you will get if we are being nickel and dimed every time we go to the TS!!
    Maybe charge Non New Canaan people more fees!! We already pay taxes to this town!! Anyone else outraged by this? This needs to be addressed!

  7. Yesterday July 15 , I went to the dump to drop off the wooden frame – cheap wood -of a full size box spring. I had cut the wood in half- had stripped off the canvas like material and recycled the cardboard layer. This wood was the only thing in my car for disposal . It “weighed” 40lbs. which I can’t believe- and I had to pay $2.00. – no cash only credit card or check.
    I complained how ridiculous this was and was told – talk to the First Selectman.

  8. My husband brought yard clippings in the back of his small VW Rabbit. Probably 25 lbs. He had to stop, park, take out his credit card for a charge of about $1.50. The bank is going to take 3-4% in service charges. Seriously New Canaan? You need to re-think this.

  9. Insane. Why weren’t fees lowered to say x per lb for over y lbs? Would have stopped or reduced alleged “gaming,” while reducing admin costs AND accommodating “normal” household use.

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