Former Rockland city attorney blasts 'pay as you throw' trash proposalTAKE OUR ONLINE POLL ON PAY-PER-BAG
Rockland — Barry Faber of Willow Street in Rockland, a former Rockland city attorney, read a one-page letter to the City Council June 2, criticizing councilors for proposing a pay-per-bag, "pay as you throw" trash system. His comments were made during the council's agenda-setting meeting.
Faber said waiting until the May 29 City budget meeting to propose a major change to the trash system is unacceptable. City residents who haul their own trash to the city transfer station, about 1,371 of them, have already paid their yearly $65 sticker fees from this May to May 2015. A change at this late date to an entirely new system is something the public should challenge, he said.
"The whole process lacked transparency and was irresponsible," Faber read from his letter. "If pay-per-bag was the wish of the council, why wasn't this started last January, instead of days before preliminary adoption of the budget?"
About 25 percent of the city's residents haul their own trash, according to city Solid Waste Facility Director David St. Laurent. The rest have their trash picked up by commercial haulers. The per-ton tipping fee is scheduled to increase from the current $110 per ton to $125 per ton under the proposed ordinance.
Currently, there is no real limit to the amount of trash single-family residents can haul to the transfer station, St. Laurent has said. Under the proposed ordinance, starting May 2, 2015, city residents would start paying 75 cents for each 12-gallon trash bag of trash, $1.50 for a 22-gallon bag, and $2.25 for each 33-gallon bag.
Faber said the May 29 budget meeting included proposals by councilors to start the pay-per-bag system as early as July 1, while another councilor proposed it to start in January.
"Another [councilor] said, 'Let's call it 'pay-as-you-throw,' as it sounds better,'" Faber said. "Who are you trying to fool? You are supposed to represent us, not yourselves."
St. Laurent has said the city would have to charge stickers of about $143 per year and tipping fees of $132 per year to break even and stop the practice of subsidizing sticker customers.
"We recommend the roll out of the 'Pay As You Throw' should coincide with the expiration of the current residential stickers," acting City Manager Thomas Luttrell wrote in a May 30 memo discussing the ordinance amendment. "The current sticker that is now on sale the transfer station expires May 1, 2015; therefore, the ['pay as you throw'] program is proposed to start on May 2, 2015."
St. Laurent said about 300 to 400 of the 1,371 who purchase stickers have yet to pay their sticker yearly fee. The ordinance proposes that they would have to pay $135 per year for their sticker after July 1, until tickers are completely phased out in May 2015.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said she agreed with much of what Faber said, and expressed sympathy "for the 300 hapless souls who have not bought their sticker yet."
Councilor Frank Isganitis said the city cannot continue to subsidize trash drop-off service. The city has not done anything out of line to come to the conclusions it has, he added.
Mayor Larry Pritchett said the city is moving toward a system that charges based on volume, and finding the fairest way to do that.
"These stickers are Achilles' heels," Councilor Eric Hebert said. He offered that locking in $65 fees for the next year has put the city in a difficult position.
Luttrell said city leaders have expressed concerns that if the sticker price effectively doubles as of July 1, "We will find trash all over the road."
City Councilors expressed concerns May 29 that the system must change in part to stop abuse of the system — caused by businesses that haul in their business trash along with their residential trash.
The city's trash is incinerated at the Penobscot Bay Recovery Co. in Orrington. The city covers losses from the cost of its sticker and recycling programs through its revenue-generating landfill, which accepts construction and demolition materials.
St. Laurent has proposed that the commercial tipping fee be raised from $110 to $120 on July 1, and then increase again to $125 in May 2015.
The council will consider the ordinance for first reading during its Monday, June 9 regular meeting.
Courier Publications reporter Larry Di Giovanni can be reached at 594-4401 x. 117, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
207 594-4401 ext. 117
Larry Di Giovanni, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, is returning to his daily reporting roots in order to cover the city of Rockland for The Courier-Gazette. Originally from Athens, Ohio, his family includes one son, Tony.
Di Giovanni has covered news beats ranging from the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., to the largest tribal government in the United States — the Navajo Nation. He has also worked as a writer in the public education and higher education fields. He's an animal enthusiast and loves dogs.
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