WMA to hold meeting tonight on proposed fees

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The Waste Management Authority will conduct a second public meeting - on St. Thomas - tonight on a proposed set of fees to cover the cost of disposing of special waste in the territory.

While a fee schedule has not yet been distributed publicly, Waste Management Authority Executive Director May Adams Cornwall did disclose the fees under consideration at Tuesday's meeting on St. Croix.

Cornwall stressed that the fees are still a work in progress and could change ahead of the final fee application, which will be filed with the V.I. Public Services Commission by the end of the month.

"It at least gives a range or idea of what they could be," she said.

Initially on Wednesday, Waste Management spokeswoman Stella Saunders said the fee schedule was not being released to the public.

While it may be unusual to get the public's input on a fee schedule that has not been released, Cornwall said she wanted to get as many concerns addressed before the application was submitted.

A series of sparsely-attended public meetings were conducted in November. The Waste Management Authority also met directly with retailers and businesses that would be affected directly by the fees.

The proposal also was taken to the agency's Citizen Advisory Committee and the V.I. Recycling Partnership for input, Cornwall said.

This latest round of public meetings is designed to get one more chance to gather public input before finalizing the application.

Cornwall said the feedback has been good, and businesses have expressed concern about where the fee would be collected, directly to consumers at the point of sale, or during the import process.

Cornwall said the agency has decided to charge the fees at import, but to address issues of inventory, the Waste Management Authority will offer a grace period during which retailers can charge the fees to consumers and build up a reserve fund to pay the fees once they are implemented.

Businesses also were concerned that by having to pass these fees onto consumers, it will make them less competitive, particularly with online retailers, Cornwall said.

"I think that was a valid comment, and I think we're going to go back and try to put that in," she said.

To address the concern, the Waste Management Authority is looking at how the fees can be assessed and collected at the post office. Cornwall said the Internal Revenue Bureau already has a system in place to collect some excise taxes at the post office, and she is working with them to develop a similar system, or piggyback on the Revenue Bureau's system.

The fees are levied on special waste items, such as appliances, computers, tires, office equipment, televisions and cell phones. Items under the proposed fee schedule cannot be disposed of in the territory's landfills and must be shipped off island.

In some cases, the government must pay to have a mainland facility accept the waste, in addition to the cost of shipping it to the facility, Cornwall said.

The fees, expected to generate about $3 million a year, will help pay for the shipping and disposal of the waste, she said.

The Waste Management Authority also is considering tipping fees on garbage that normally goes into the landfills, and that proposal will come out later this year, Cornwall said.

The second public meeting will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at the Windward Passage Hotel.

A final public meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the St. John Legislative Conference Room in Cruz Bay.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

Proposed fees for special waste are under consideration by the V.I. Waste Management Authority. Officials said the fees may change before the final application is submitted to the Public Services Commission. Once the application is submitted, the Public Services Commission will have public hearings on the proposed fee schedule.

According to Waste Management Authority Executive Director May Adams Cornwall, the proposed fees are:

- $3 for Class 1 tires weighing less than 35 pounds.

- $6 for Class 2 tires weighing greater than 35 pounds.

- 50 cents per foot for linear fluorescent bulbs.

- $15 for televisions.

- $20 for floor-standing fax and copier machines.

- $12.50 for computer servers and notebooks.

- $7.50 for desktop print, fax, copy and scan machines. 

- $3 for telephones and mobile phones.

- $3 for video and audio recording devices.

- $10 for small white goods and appliances with Freon and $20 for large Freon units. A non-Freon appliance, such as a washing machine, would be $10.

- 50 cents per gallon for lubricating oils.

- Vehicles will be assessed an annual fee of 15 percent of the yearly registration renewal.

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