Pay per bag could solve disposal issues?

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Could pay per bag be back on the table?

Maybe.

Selectmen recently asked Bridgton Transfer Station Manager Robert Fitzcharles to develop a fee schedule for commercial haulers.

Officials felt the town was potentially losing out on some revenue since customers of haulers were not paying for the $5 sticker that others purchase.

The sticker was also seen as a way for transfer station attendants to identify if those using the facility were local residents and/or taxpayers.

Another selectmen’s concern was the lack of incentive for residents using commercial haulers to recycle. The town has consistently hovered in the low 20% range in its recycling efforts, and would like to see that figure rise — and thus lower overall waste disposal expenses.

So, Fitzcharles unveiled three recommendations at Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting:

  1. Charge a flat rate fee to commercial haulers, with selectmen setting the rate as stipulated under the town’s Solid Waste Flow Control Ordinance.
  2. Commercial haulers would charge every house, business, cottage and campsite $5 — the same yearly charge other transfer station users pay.
  3. Eliminate the sticker system and shift to pay-per-bag. The specific color bag would be for trash only (thus encouraging recycling), and would identify to station attendants that trash being disposed of was from Bridgton residents/taxpayers.

“This would be the easiest and fairest to all,” Fitzcharles wrote in his recommendation. “Keep in mind that this could decrease taxes due to revenue from the sale of bags. Recycling would have no cost (recyclables would not be specially bagged. The bags are only for trash.”

Currently, seven “regular” commercial haulers are working the Bridgton area, while four others appear to be more seasonal — working for camps/campgrounds. Fitzcharles added that there have been few problems of “outsiders” trying to dispose of waste at the transfer station.

While Selectman Bob McHatton pointed out that commercial haulers — who likely serve about 700 customers — do prevent congestion at the transfer station, Board Chairman Greg Watkins countered, “We don’t charge for traffic flow, but we do get charged for the tonnage 700 people produce.”

Having been part of past pay-per-bag debates, McHatton tossed out the following percentages — 20% of people will never recycle, 60% you can get to recycle, and 20% are diehard recyclers.

McHatton believes if the town really wants to get serious about upping its recycling efforts, pay-per-bag will be the impetus.

Officials tossed around a couple ideas, including Selectman Bear Zaidman who suggested a “usage fee” that could be included in tax bills.

Selectmen admitted they had no idea what an appropriate “flat rate” amount should be, so they decided to table the item to their next meeting (Aug. 23) to allow time to survey other communities as to what they charge commercial haulers.

In other selectmen’s meeting notes:

Want to be a selectman? — It’s official. Paul Hoyt will resign as a selectman effective Oct. 1, leaving a year left on his term.

In his letter of resignation, Hoyt noted that while he will still be a resident of Bridgton, “life changes” led him to resign.

Rather than leave the seat vacant and creating a four-member board — which fellow selectmen felt could become a problem especially in budget season with the possibility of 2-2 deadlock votes — Hoyt suggested that a special election be held in November.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for people who haven’t done this before and who voice an opinion of what we should do. It’s an opportunity to be up here for six months. It’s not a three-year commitment. It’s a great opportunity to get involved,” he said.

Selectmen agreed. Nomination papers will be available Monday, Aug. 15 from the town clerk. Deadline to file nomination papers is Saturday, Sept. 24.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Change of mind on fireworks — The more Selectman Bernie King thought about his vote to place a referendum question on the November ballot regarding prohibiting consumer fireworks, the more he felt his action was an overreaction.

King had supported a request by Ken and Christine Barthelette to seek an amendment to the town’s fireworks ordinance, which would require approval of the State Fire Marshal for any display.

The board voted 3–2 in favor of the request with Board Chairman Greg Watkins and Selectman Paul Hoyt opposed.

Tuesday, King asked selectmen to reconsider their previous action, feeling one letter should not prompt a referendum question.

McHatton disagreed on two fronts. One, he has heard from several people complaining about fireworks use. Secondly, he feels Bridgton voters did not have a chance to decide whether they want to allow consumer fireworks in their town, and simply had adopted a statewide measure. By placing the question on the November ballot, a local decision could be made — either yes or no.

Like King, Selectman Hoyt had not heard complaints about fireworks, but noted that a citizen can petition for a referendum question to be placed on the ballot by collecting the required number of resident signatures. The citizen petition would require a minimum of 239 valid signatures, and be filed with the town office by Monday, Sept. 26.

The board rejected placing the referendum question on the November ballot by a 4–1 margin (McHatton voting to place the item on the ballot).

Tight parking on Church Street — With cars parked on both sides of Church Street, Scott Finlayson could see an accident waiting to happen.

Finlayson, who lives on Church Street, sent a letter to selectmen asking them to look into the situation.

Selectmen looked over several photographs sent to them, which showed heavy vehicle congestion near the Bridgton Public Library and Rufus Porter Museum. A “No Parking at Any Time” sign is posted near the entrance to the library’s parking lot.

The museum has a very small dirt section near the building’s side entrance, where a couple of vehicles can park safely off the roadway.

Chairman Watkins pointed out that the town’s ordinance does not allow parking 15 feet from an intersection.

Selectmen agreed to ask Chief of Police Richard Stillman to take a look at the situation and make a recommendation.

Citing a job well done — Being a municipal officer can be a thankless job at times, so when one receives a pat on the back, it is worth noting.

Michael Hyman, a managing member of Moose Crossing Realty, sent a letter to be read into the selectmen’s minutes regarding Economic and Community Development Director Anne Krieg and others’ work on the proposed Land Use Ordinance.

“While I understand that this is a work in progress, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Planning and Zoning Committee, as well as you and your team members, for the enormous effort that you all have put forth to bring this ordinance to this point,” Hyman wrote. “Personally, as a landowner, a potential developer in Bridgton, and a member of a nearby community, I am excited to see the forward thinking that is taking place here in Bridgton.”

Hyman added that “Without this type of a planning effort, I believe that predictable, meaningful and economically vibrant development might likely pass Bridgton by.”

Easement request tabled — Needing some clarification, selectmen tabled a request to grant a new easement and entertain a purchase proposal for the former Main Street Variety site.

Since new owners Joan Wilson and Jimmy Burke plan to demolish the building, new easements are needed because the property encroaches on the town’s parking lot and for the installation of a septic tank and grease trap.

The new owners also propose to purchase 252 square feet from the town, at a price of $1,500.

Beach off limits to animals — While law enforcement thought a K-9 demonstration would get more attention by holding it at Highland Lake Beach, one tiny detail was overlooked.

By town ordinance, no animals are allowed at the beach area. Selectman King was informed about dogs being in the water there, and suggested that the town’s Park Ranger take a stronger stance on pointing out town regulations.

Selectman Hoyt suggested that if law enforcement does future demonstrations, they “might want to rethink” where it is held.

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