'Unexpected' action: City moves to do away with sticker for trash drop-off
Rockland — During the May 29 Rockland budget meeting, city councilors made it clear: They are no longer willing to stick with the flat-fee sticker system that results from residents dropping off trash at the city transfer station.
Instead, they will move ahead with a new city ordinance that would initiate a $2 per bag fee for trash drop-off.
The item is set for discussion at their June 2 agenda-setting meeting preceding the Monday, June 9 City Council meeting.
Currently, single-family residents pay $65 annually, or a bit over $1 per week, for a sticker they purchase each year around May. It allows them to drop off trash and recyclables at the transfer station, located at 400 Limerock St. There are currently 1,371 sticker customers.
City Solid Waste Director David St. Laurent said the cost of accepting, transporting, and disposing trash incinerated in Orrington by the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. actually works out to $143 per year for a single family residence. There is no limit on how many trash bags residents can drop off if they have stickers, he said.
"The City Council wants to move away from subsidizing trash and go to a price-per-unit system," St. Laurent said.
Still, St. Laurent said the council's move was "unexpected." He had brought a schedule of proposed fees that would increase sticker fees anywhere up to $155 per year, as well as increase commercial per-ton tipping fees. Currently set at $110 per ton, the new ordinance will propose increasing commercial fees to $115 per ton.
Sticker fees would have to increase to $143 annually and tipping fees to $132 per ton to break even on the transfer station and generate $165,443 more toward closure of the city's landfill, according to St. Laurent. The landfill, which accepts about 4,000 tons of commercial and demolition materials, is a significant revenue-generator for the Solid Waste Department. But it will reach full capacity by 2018 and may close. The city currently has a Landfill Closure Balance of more than $929,000.
Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said she has heard "concerns from the public" that businesses are abusing the system by hauling their commercial trash to the transfer station along with their residential trash.
"The whole system is bogus," said Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson."We need to go to pay-per-bags." Councilor Frank Isganitis agreed, saying a preferred move to a per-bag system "is what I'm really hearing here."
Judy Robinson, a bookkeeper with Robinson's Waste Service, said commercial trash haulers like hers can handle a $5 per ton tipping fee increase, but also noted that commercial haulers — who serve 75 percent of the city's residents — "pay for every pound of trash we haul in. The ones the city is really subsidizing are those with stickers."
St. Laurent said Rockport, Camden and Hope residents pay $2 per bag, and those in Belfast pay $2.50 per bag to drop off their trash.
More than five years ago, a citizens' referendum in Rockland overturned the City Council's attempt at a "pay-as-you-go" trash drop-off system. City Attorney Kevin Beal said more than five years has now passed as required by law before the council can pursue it again.
Mayor Larry Pritchett said the new solid waste fees will be part of the city's overall fee schedule set for approval Monday, June 30 as part of the 2014-2015 city budget. But the second and final ordinance reading required for passage will likely occur during the Monday, July 14 City Council meeting.
St. Laurent said since most sticker customers have already paid their yearly sticker fees this month, one proposal under consideration is to give them a credit of about $22 in January.
Courier Publications reporter Larry Di Giovanni can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.
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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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