Trash cash refunded, more wanted

In this area, trash has its price.

So much so that the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) is refunding 18 southwest Connecticut towns, including Fairfield, a total of $1.6 million.

CRRA is a quasi-public agency that handles solid waste disposal and recycling management throughout 110 municipalities in the state.

The money will arrive in time for budget season, but some feel it isn't enough. Fairfield is slated to receive $185,555.74 of its money back, but Paul Hiller, the town's chief fiscal officer, said it should be more.

"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 chief fiscal officer of CRRA on behalf of the 18 towns that will receive the money.

The refunded money also comes from reserves that became available with the closure of landfills in Shelton and Waterbury and the maintenance performed at those sites afterward.

Some of the money originates from what towns have paid to have their trash hauled away from transfer stations -- like the town's on One Rod Highway.

Hiller noted that the rates that Fairfield had to pay went up in the past year, and a lot of the returned money comes from that increase.

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 announced could be the first of two payments, but additional refunds have not yet been decided upon.

He said 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.

Steve Edwards, director of Public Works in Westport, has been closely involved with the CRRA and lobbied so that 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," Edwards said. "It was advantageous to get this money returned now rather than waiting."

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