Cash and gate tokens will be replaced with plastic at the town’s trash transfer station.
Starting Sept. 1, cash will no longer be accepted by Wheelabrator, the firm that operates the facility for the town, and drivers wanting to get vehicles through to drop off trash will be able to pay using standard bank-issued credit or debit cards.
“Wheelabrator has made a decision there will be no more cash transactions at the scale house,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.
The change follows an instance of a Wheelabrator employee being suspected of manipulating the cash system.
“Recently, an individual was dismissed for abuse of the system,” Mr. Marconi said.
Glenn Lockhart, manager of the Wheelabrator plant in Bridgeport, confirmed that the company had encountered a problem with an employee, but said the change to plastic cards was part of a larger company policy — not a direct result of an incident.
“I can’t get into the details. There’s a personnel case which I have to keep confidential,” he said.
There have been no arrests, Mr. Lockhart said.
Back in 1991, mishandling of cash from the facility led to the arrest of a town employee said to have embezzled some $50,000.
“It’s the best thing for everybody to move forward with the technology. It’ll streamline the process, without cash being present,” Mr. Lockhart said
The new system will be similar to using a card before pumping gas at a self-service gas station, as he described it.
“Just like you get your gas. We’re working with the manufacturer,” he said. “You’d swipe your debit or credit card, and you’d get your $5 charge and the gate would open.”
The town also plans to start charging an annul fee for a permit — now free — that would prove Ridgefield residency and allow use of both transfer station and the recycling center. Permit holders will be able to access the recycling center at no charge beyond what they paid to get the permit each year. But they would continue to pay an additional fee each time they dumped trash at the transfer station.
The timetable on those changes is not yet set.
With the change to plastic cards, operations in Ridgefield will be catching up with longstanding corporate policy, according to Mr. Lockhart.
“The corporate office no longer allows us to do cash transactions, companywide. It’s a policy thing regardless of what happened at the transfer station,” he said.
“They run thousands of transfer stations, and cash transactions are problematic. So we’re just transferring over to what the corporate office has recommended for us to do.”
Among the concerns with taking in cash is the safety of employees who have to make large cash bank deposits, he said.
Wheelabrator’s 25-year-old waste-to-energy plant in Bridgeport serves two dozen towns and cities from Fairfield and New Haven counties. The firm claims the plant can generate 67,000 kilowatts of electricity, enough to supply 83,000 homes.
The plant handles about 740,000 tons of garbage a year, according to Mr. Lockhart.
Of that, about 120,000 tons come from the Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority (HRRA), an 11-town group that includes Ridgefield.
“A lot of towns handle those transactions very differently,” Mr. Lockhart said.
“…Not always is it for every bag of trash you pay a fee. A lot of the bigger towns, they charge permit fees. A lot of them just get household pick-up.”
Wheelabrator’s other large contract is the with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA).
The change from cash to cards is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1, and employees at the transfer station are starting to inform users that things will be different.
In the current system, people cross a scale and pay at the scalehouse, but passenger cars have the option of buying a $5 token and dropping it into a slot, which causes the gate to lift allowing them to enter without crossing the scale.
“You have a token, you put a token in. What’s the difference if you’re using your credit card?” Mr. Lockhart said.
“Tokens, that’s just an old technology.”