Freeport council cans proposal for pay-per-bag trash disposal

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FREEPORT — Residents will not have to purchase specific bags to dispose of trash after the Town Council on Tuesday night ended discussions about pay-per-bag pick-up.

The Solid Waste and Recycling Committee has been working on a proposal since last September, after the council asked it to investigate options for reducing solid waste disposal costs.

The committee’s report recommended adding one more silver bullet recycling bin and instituting a pay-per-bag trash disposal system.

But after considering the proposal in a workshop, receiving public input and discussing the cost, the Town Council did not support the plan and sent it back to the committee without a vote.

Councilor Sara Gideon said the cost didn’t make sense. Even if taxpayers saved $15, they would have to pay $1.25 a bag and still pay for someone to haul their trash or take it to the transfer station themselves.

“This doesn’t work for Freeport, but I still think there can be an increase in recycling,” she said.

Councilor Charlotte Bishop said the pay-per-bag proposal is not a good fit for the town, but said an additional silver bullet recycling container would be advisable. Other councilors agreed that an additional silver bullet would reduce trash hauled to ecomaine and increase recycling.

Residents Marie Gunning and Ken Mann both said the pay-per-bag proposal would result in a considerable tax shift from businesses to residents.

“If we are going to make that move, let’s look at the numbers more carefully,” Gunning said.

Regardless of public or council sentiment, the pay-per-bag system could not be implemented until a provision prohibiting user fees or other new taxes for waste disposal – and specifically pay-per-bag programs – is removed from the Town Charter. And councilors did not indicate support for a charter change.

Town Engineer Al Presgraves said he does not feel bad about the outcome of the meeting, but said he will work with the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee to find alternate ways to increase recycling.

“There are some things we can do to keep recycling a priority in people’s minds,” he said. “We will not see a big jump that the pay-per-bag system would have provided, but we can work to increase the rate. We already have a good rate and trend and can work on activities to make that even better.”

The Solid Waste and Recycling Committee will meet Wednesday, July 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the Freeport Community Center to discuss its next steps.

In other business, after a lengthy and heated discussion, the council tabled financial policy updates until September.

Councilors have discussed amendments to the town’s fund balance and investment policies since last December, held public hearings, two workshops and council meetings. But some members of the public and councilors said they still do not have all the information they need.

Councilor Eric Pandora said he does not have a lot of confidence in the town’s legal opinion or with the ability of the council to make policy changes without receiving answers to additional questions.

In the meantime, councilors were advised to create a complete list of questions and concerns about the proposed financial policy amendments. Town Manager Dale Olmstead said the town auditor, the town attorney and the financial adviser will answer those questions in September.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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