Some say trash cash not enough

In this area, trash has its price.

So much so that the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) is refunding 18 towns, including Westport, a total of $1.6 million. CRRA is an agency that handles solid waste disposal and recycling management throughout 110 towns in the state.

The money arrives in time for budget season, but some say it isn't enough. Westport is slated to receive $76,336.55 of their money back, but Paul Hiller, chief fiscal officer of Fairfield, says it should be more for all the towns.

"They're keeping other fairly significant reserves that I think we feel are beyond what they gave us," said Hiller.

Today, Hiller, along with a representative from Norwalk, will be going to Hartford to meet with the CFO of CRRA on behalf of the 18 towns that received the money.

The refunded money comes from reserves that became available with the closure of landfills in Shelton and Waterbury and the maintenance done afterwards. It's also left over from what towns have paid to have their trash hauled away.

Hiller said he knew that the money would be arriving, but he wasn't sure exactly how much it would be until recently.

Paul Nonnenmacher, director of public affairs for CRRA, said the refunded money that was announced could be the first of two payments, but nothing has been determined just yet. He said that the auditors have "scrubbed the books" and the $1.6 million total is all that's been determined so far.

"This is what we know of now and there may be more," he said.

Westport entered into a 5-year contract with CRRA after their previous contract came to a close. Stephen Edwards, director of Public Works in Westport, was closely involved with the CRRA during that time. More recently, he lobbied so the towns would get at least some of the money before towns go through their budget process. He hopes that this payment will be the first rather than the last.

"Right now, any amount is a good amount," said Edwards. "It was advantageous to get this money returned now rather than waiting."

He added, "If we held off until the final distribution, it would be not taken into account [for the upcoming] budget process."

John Kondub, finance director for Westport, said he expects to regularly hear back from Edwards and Hiller about the ongoing refunds, but in the mean time, the money will be used to make up for any potential shortfalls that Westport experiences.

"We probably won't meet our budgeted goal, and this will help," said Kondub.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff also said that any money received is a good thing.

"This is money we knew we were owed," he said. "We were glad to get it because every bit helps."