Condo Owners Will Still Pay Twice for Trash Pickup

Selectmen split two to two on proposal for town to pay $17,000 for one third to one half of costs of collecting condo trash.


The Board of Selectmen could not agree on whether it was fair that more than 600 condominium owners should pay both town property taxes and condo fees that includes a fee for private trash collection.

Board Chairman Richard Malagrifa proposed that the town pay $17,656 to collect some of the trash at four condominiums -- Crown Point, Summit Estates, The Glen and Hawthorne's Crossing.

The proposal failed to get a second with Selectman Barry Greenfield joining Malagrifa in support of picking up trash at the condos. Board Vice Chairman David Van Dam and Selectman Glenn Kessler opposed the measure.

Selectman Jill Sullivan recused herself because she owns a condo, but she left it open that she might seek a legal opinion on whether that constituted a conflict.

Van Dam accused Sullivan, who did not indicate how she would vote on the issue, of waiting to see how the vote came out before she asked for the legal opinion.

Suillivan called Van Dam's accusation "cynical" and said she was "offended by the suggestion." 

To a round of applause from a standing-room only crowd of condo owners, Malagrifa said the condo residents, a majority of whom are senior citizens, "just want to be treated fairly."

He said the condominiums take up 1.7 percent of the town land, yet the condominium owners pay more than $2 million in taxes, which is about 5 percent of the total tax base.

Malagrifa said the additional funds for the condo trash pickup could come from the money saved by requiring more recycling and reducing the number of allowed trash barrels for all residents. That program has saved the town $57,000 in its first nine months, Malagrifa said. 

The chairman also said seniors do not have many children in the schools. But Van Dam said seniors use other city services, like police and emergency medical.

Thomas Younger said he would not support changing the law. "There is no bylaw in Swampscott that requires the town to pick up trash," he said.

Younger said he would have to wait to see if the funds saved from the trash program would be needed for other city services.

Much of the debate hinged on the fact that the real estate developers who built the condos had agreed not to have the trash picked up at the condos as a condition for gaining the town's approval for building the condos.

It was suggested that the tax assessor valued the condos lower for property taxes because the town did not pick up trash or remove snow.

Malagrifa said he had never heard the tax assessor valued the condos at a lower value. Younger said he would ask the Board of Assessors if this was its practice.

There was also concern among the Selectmen that the condo owners would not see any savings if the town picked up some of the trash. 

Several condo board presidents said the savings would benefit the owners because the savings would be used to maintain the aging buildings.

"The residents would benefit from the savings," said Patty Ryan, who manages three of the condos.

Several condo owners spoke in favor of Malagrifa's proposal. Alice Griffin, who is on the board of The Glen, said, "The residents of Swampscott would say what's fair is fair. This is the right time for this proposal."

The issue was left to be considered at a future meeting with Malagrifa hoping that either Sullivan will be able to vote or Kessler will change his mind.

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Liz September 06, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Excellent point Kevin...you should run for selectman..instead our current selectman without one bit of research they offer to pay...Rich is way too loose with our money and Jill is running a popularity contest....our town is in a mess and the last thing we need is a loose cannon...hopefully Tom Younger will step up since we pay him very well...
Alex September 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM
The 1st part of what you said is correct: AFAIK, there was such an agreement many years ago. As for the 2nd, part, you are obviously missing the fact that what you consider town's money includes taxes paid by the condo owners who are (a) subsidizing trash removal of the home owners and (b) paying extra for their own trash removal.
Alex September 06, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Condos are not assessed higher or lower in relation to the trash removal. AFAIK, valuation is based upon selling precedents for the units/houses of the similar size and location, on city's/town's general tax rates and some other factors but not this one. Trash removal as an is a result of an old agreement between town and initial condo developers. Current argument is about fairness/legality of taxing people for the services they are not getting based upon agreement made by totally different people. Another argument (judging by the article) is that as a sum total the condos are producing a higher percentage of the town's revenue based on square footage (5% for 1.7% of town's land). Validity of any of these arguments is a matter of a personal opinion. BTW, what you are proposing as a 2nd option of your choice is not quit6e correct: condo fee will be paid in any case. :-)
Sandie Bock September 08, 2012 at 03:50 PM
So Condo owners' assessmenst of their condos' worth is reduced due to no trash removal? They complain they are paying taxes and do not have trash removal or have kids in the schools etc. There are plenty of single family homes owned by people who do not have kids in school and do not have their assessments reduced due to that fact. I know that when Crown Pointe was proposed it was part of the approval process that the town would not do the trash collection and would not plow their PRIVATE roads. Why then would the Selectmen even consider making it different especially in these economic times or any time really? Part of being in a Condo is PRIVATE GATED property and pay for snow plowing, landscaping, and trash removal! The question is why would they have reduced assessments, can those without children in the school system either childless or because they choose to have their kids go to private schools, have reduced assessments? That should be seriously looked into since the precedent was established.
Liz September 08, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Sandie, absolutely agree with all you say........


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