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Cumberland to consider raising trash bag fees

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Cumberland to consider raising trash bag fees

CUMBERLAND — The price residents pay per trash bag through the town’s “pay-as-you-throw” program may rise in the fiscal 2011 budget.

At Monday’s Town Council meeting, Town Manager Bill Shane said Cumberland’s 20-gallon bags cost $1 each, while its 33-gallon bags are $1.50. But in Falmouth, Gorham, Windham, Portland and North Yarmouth, he said, town staff determined the average cost of a 20-gallon bag is $1.50, and 33-gallon bags are $2.25.

Shane said he will recommend a price increase, since the cost has remained the same since the pay-per-bag program began in September 2005. There will also be public discussion on a potential increase.

Shane said the town's annual trash tonnage dropped to about 2,300 in fiscal 2006, compared with nearly 3,000 in fiscal 2004 and approximately 2,700 in fiscal 2005. Trash continued to fall to a low of about 1,700 tons in fiscal 2009, although projected tonnage for fiscal 2010 is an increase to 1,800.

Meanwhile, recycling rates were 18 percent and 19 percent in fiscal 2004 and 2005, respectively. Recycling increased to 28 percent in fiscal 2006 and reached a peak of 33 percent in fiscal 2008. It dropped to about 30 percent in fiscal 2009 and 2010.

Residents are not charged per-bag fees to dispose of recyclables.

Shane said there have been about 10 cases in the past two months of residents using a 15-cent Hannaford “Clynk” bag – meant for returnable bottles and cans – for trash disposal instead of the town bags. Both bags are green, and the difference might easily be overlooked when the bags are stored in a plastic trash can and later thrown into a trash truck, he said.

“Pine Tree Waste has been very helpful in trying to catch this, but as you can imagine, if those bags are inside of a plastic container just to keep out of the elements … by the time it’s in the back of the hopper, it’s kind of too late to pull it out,” Shane said.

The town manager added that “We are asking folks to … make sure that they are putting their trash into the town of Cumberland bags, because if they’re (using the Clynk bags) intentionally, it’s really a theft of services.”

Shane said violators will initially be sent letters informing them they must use the town bags. He noted in a memorandum to the council that a repeat offense would lead to suspension of trash pick-up services and the issuance of a police summons for theft of services.

“We’re all paying for these services through this collection fee,” Shane said. “This collection fee pays about a quarter of what the actual cost of solid waste is, and that’s a significant revenue loss when more and more people start using this as a deceptive way of trying to get around using the green Cumberland bags.”

Councilor Steve Moriarty asked about the possibility of changing the color of the town bags to avoid confusion with the Clynk bags. Shane said timing is the issue, since the town placed its order two months ago for new bags, “so it’s probably about a year away before we could change the color. It may not be a bad thing to consider.”

There have also been talks between town and Hannaford staff about keeping the two bags further apart in Hannaford stores to minimize confusion.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.