Pay-per-bag trash proposal gets cool reaction in Freeport

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FREEPORT — A proposal to implement pay-per-bag trash disposal and add an additional silver bullet recycling bin met resistance at a Town Council workshop Tuesday night.

Nearly 30 people attended the workshop with the Recycling and Solid Waste Committee and 10 people spoke against the proposal.

The committee has been working on the proposal since last September, after the Town Council asked it to investigate options for reducing solid waste disposal costs.

The report includes six options, compares the experiences of several other municipalities that have instituted pay-per-bag programs, and outlines the history of Freeport’s municipal solid waste program.

A pay-per-bag system cannot 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.

Marjorie Hall, chairwoman of the committee, said maintaining the current system is not the best option. She highlighted the fact that residents would be able to continue to select their preferred waste collection and hauling service even if a pay-per-bag system is recommended.

But Angela Ingerson of Lunt Road said she would prefer to keep the current system.

“The support for the independent haulers is tremendous,” she said. “The less interference we have from the town, the happier we all are.”

Some residents said the pay-per-bag proposal is really a tax or a user fee and others urged the council to leave the system alone.

Ken Mann of Wolfe’s Neck Road said about 10 years ago the town went to referendum to prevent the single-hauler system and the public voted to change the charter to reflect that desire. He said even though he has heard the current proposal will not harm the livelihoods of the two independent trash haulers in town, he is doubtful.

“I think you’ll find that these guys contribute to the community,” he said. “These fellows feel that this proposal puts them at risk.”

Andrew Arsenault said he helped to circulate the petition to prohibit pay-per-bag. He said the petition gathered enough signatures for a referendum vote, and the public voted against the proposal.

“How do we start down a path to overturn the charter,” he said. “Why can’t we work within the rules we have now?”

Town engineer Al Presgraves said a basic pay-per-bag system would require all residents to purchase garbage bags for their household waste. The committee estimates the total solid waste volume will be reduced and the amount of recycling will increase.

He said the money generated by the bag sales would replace the cost in the municipal budget and would prove to be an incentive for residents to recycle more and create less trash.

Resident Rod Regier participated in the committee work and is a board member at ecomaine, the regional waste management company. He said the proposal is not a single-hauler issue.

If the proposal would harm haulers, Regier said, his name would not be on the report.

“There are two questions to answer as you reflect on the recommendation of the solid waste committee,” he said. “Ask if this makes sense. I think it’s self evident.”

Secondly, he asked the councilors to make sure the money generated by the pay-per-bag proposal does not become a hidden tax system.

Bags are estimated to cost about $1.25, and would shift the cost of waste disposal from the municipal budget to individual households. All residents would see a reduction in property taxes, and savings would be greater for those who recycle more and generate less waste. The proposal estimates total savings of between $43,000 and $96,000 annually.

Both independent haulers – Frank Waterman and Danny Wentworth – also spoke to the council.

Wentworth suggested removing newspapers and magazines from the waste stream in order to save money and Waterman said he would be willing to haul recyclables to the recycling center.

“Let’s try a positive approach instead of a negative way,” Wentworth said.

Chairman Jim Cassida said the council would review the committee’s proposal, ask follow-up questions and talk to the community before making any decisions.

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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