While fewer than two dozen Durham residents showed up Monday night to hear details of a new, 20-year interlocal agreement, one topic was a bit of a "hot potato."
While presenting a draft of the agreement, which, if approved by voters would replace the current 40-year agreement and set the guidelines for the operation of the Transfer and Recycling Center, members of the Durham Middlefield Interlocal Agreement Advisory Board (DMIAAB) task force repeatedly explained their decision to maintain equal representation among the two towns.
Currently, Durham taxpayers are responsible for 65 percent of DMIAAB's budget, while Middlefield pays 35 percent of the costs. Each town, however, is represented by four board members.
The issue was first raised by Durham resident Robert Fulton, who said he felt there was an "inconsistency" within the agreement that calls for proportionate cost sharing based on population, but requires equal representation on the board.
"We discussed that and we decided that it was a hot potato, and we weren't going to go there," Bruce Chaplin, a task force member, responded to Fulton's concerns.
"That's an honest answer," said Durham resident Rick Parmelee, who later told the board he supported the decision.
The issue of whether or not to increase Durham's representation on the board by adding an additional member was discussed at length during the year long process of drafting the new agreement, according to board members.
Chad Spooner, chairman of the task force, went into more detail about why the group decided to maintain the balance.
"I've heard a lot of comments about Middlefield getting most of the runoff, and the waste and the contamination in the soil is running downhill towards Middlefield and that this really should be a fifty-fifty venture," Spooner said.
"We also decided this has been around for forty years, it's been that way for a long time," he added.
Durham resident Donia Viola said she felt DMIAAB should be represented "fairly."
She said she'd like to see the board represented in a similar manner to Regional School District 13, which has six members from Durham and four from Middlefield.
"I don't want to feel we have to carry Middlefield all the time through everything, just because it's a hot potato," she said. "I think you did one heck of a document quite frankly, except for that portion."
Viola suggested the equal representation could easily lead to a deadlock over an issue, a point to which DMIAAB chair and task force member Dom DelVecchio said had never been a problem.
DelVecchio also pointed out that unlike District 13, DMIAAB's budget is subject to approval by each town's board of finance.
Durham resident Francis Willett questioned the fairness of charging residential and commercial customers the same $20 annual rate. He suggested the board consider implementing a moving pay scale.
"I drive in behind a very large truck that pulls up to the hopper and backs in and fills it, fills it actually higher than the fence in and then pulls away for $20. For that same $20 I throw six bags in. To me, it just seems that more people are taking advantage of that opportunity," Willett said.
"It's a difficult issue," responded Chaplain, who said the new agreement was flexible in requiring the towns to pick up additional commerical costs if deemed necessary.
Fulton suggested the board change a provision that would allow either town to opt out of the agreement in as little as six months.
Members of board agreed that the time frame was not long enough given the amount of capitol being invested in the transfer station.
The task force will review comments from both towns (Middlefield held a public hearing on Oct. 18) before making any changes to the draft of the interlocal agreement.
The final agreement will be sent to town meeting in both towns, the dates of which have not been set.
To review the proposed agreement, click on the PDF.