Rockland voters begin petition to defeat pay-per-bag ordinance
Rockland — Eleven Rockland voters began a petition the morning of July 22 at City Hall, intending to defeat the pay-per-bag fee a divided City Council adopted earlier this month.
The council voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance amendment establishing a pay-per-bag system for disposal of municipal solid waste. Councilors Louise MacLellan-Ruf and Elizabeth Dickerson opposed the ordinance.
Dickerson previously said she has always promoted recycling, taking care of the environment and limiting trash, but said she opposed this because the citizens of Rockland feel pushed up against a wall with property taxes and other rising costs for services.
Michael Lane, a citizen at City Hall July 22, echoed Dickerson's reasoning, saying young families are especially affected unfairly by the ordinance, considering the disposal of diapers and other waste associated with raising young children.
The group will need to collect 476 signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot and has 30 days to collect the necessary signatures, he said.
Lane said he recycles as much as he can, but with four adults living in his home, the household generates about two bags of trash per week. He said the pay-per-bag model does not consider a person's ability to pay.
He said the dump is a city service, which should be considered in the same way the public library is. He said residents should not be paying for a town service, and believes the council is attempting to take the dump off the budget and create a new revenue stream which could be abused in the future.
The pay-per-bag model was defeated by citizens once before, in 2006, he said.
Mayor Larry Pritchett said the pay-as-you throw model means residents would pay based on the amount of trash they generate, which is the fairest way to deal with trash disposal.
The disposal at the solid waste facility of paper, glass, cardboard, most plastics, cans, metals, some yard waste and some demolition debris is free. If this type of waste is separated, residents would pay less and the city would incur lower costs to truck and dispose of waste, Pritchett said, adding thousands of other towns and cities use the same system and have lowered their solid waste disposal cost by more than $250,000 annually.
As of May 2, 2015, residents will have to buy special bags from the city to dispose of household trash or pay by the ton, rather than buying dump sticker for their vehicles.
The City Council voted 3-2 June 30 to change the fees effective July 1. However, most residents had already purchased their resident permit stickers for the year.
The stickers, which go on resident vehicles and allow them to dump as much bagged household trash as they like in the transfer station over the year, have been issued May 1 to April 30 of the following year. Solid Waste Director David St. Laurent said most residents had already paid the $65 to buy their sticker for the year by the time the council voted on the new schedule.
The city will honor the $65 stickers until May 1, 2015.
If a resident did not buy a sticker before July 1, he or she can still purchase a sticker for $135, which will cover throwing trash bags in the transfer station until May 1, 2015.
"This is a bridge to get us to May of next year," St. Laurent said.
After that, the residents will have to use a pay-per-bag system or pay per ton to dump their own household trash, or hire a commercial hauler to take their trash.
The pay-per-bag fees are set at $2.25 per 33-gallon bag, $1.50 per 22-gallon bag and $0.75 for 12-gallon bags.
The per ton fee will be $115 until May 1, 2015. After that, it will go to $125 per ton.
Other fees apply to demolition and construction waste, furniture and certain specific items such as tires, batteries and fluorescent lamps.
As the city goes to pay-per-bag next year, residents should be more motivated to recycle cardboard, cans, periodicals, certain plastics. St. Laurent said the city hopes to create better, simpler recycling system to go along with the pay-as-you-throw model.
The city's trash is incinerated at Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington. The increase in fees is needed for the transfer station to pay for itself, according to city officials.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.