Pay-Per-Bag hearing Tuesday

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

The Town of Bridgton’s Recycling Committee is recommending enacting pay-per-bag recycling to increase the recycling rate, decrease trash, promote fairness and save money.

Yet, the Bridgton Board of Selectmen offered differing opinions on the Recycling Committee’s proposal at their meeting Tuesday night, with some saying they would entertain different ideas about how to increase recycling, should they be forthcoming.

Currently, it costs Bridgton $158 per ton for trash disposal at ecomaine’s site, as well as $213 per haul to get it there.

Informational meeting March 20

The selectmen will hold a public informational meeting on the Recycling Committee’s recommendation to go to pay-per-bag recycling on March 20 at 6 p.m. in the downstairs meeting room at the Bridgton Municipal Complex.

Recycling Committee Co-Chairman Al Burk and his group have been researching and working for two years on how to promote better recycling in Bridgton, as it seems to have reached a plateau. He said the goal is to achieve an additional 325 tons of recycling for a projected savings of $69,000. The town’s transfer station processed 585 tons of recyclable materials and 2,205 tons of trash in 2011.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said the town’s recycling rate has “capped off at 22%.”

Reasons the Recycling Committee lists for switching to the pay-per-bag recycling system are:

• the more you recycle, the less you have to pay;

• disposal costs increase each year;

• 131 Maine communities use pay-per-bag and saved money;

• recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals;

• recycling protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness.

Burk said that five years ago under 50 communities in Maine were using the pay-per-bag method, and that number now stands at 131.

“There’s a reason for it, obviously,” said Burk.

The Bridgton Recycling Committee’s flyer for the March 20 public informational meeting says of the need for the town to recycle, “This is a civic duty we have to our children and our town to leave this land at least as clean as we found it. More recycling means less trash and the costs that accompany it.”

How the selectmen stand

Selectmen Chairman Arthur Triglione asked his fellow board members March 13, “Are we considering (enacting) mandatory pay-per-bag by this board?” He said he believes the board should answer that question before Tuesday night’s informational meeting.

“I don’t think, as a board, we should mandate pay-per-bag, but I do believe we should bring it to the people,” said Selectman Paul Hoyt.

“I agree,” stated Selectman Doug Taft, who said he would like to have had more options to consider.

“The Recycling Committee came to us with a proposal, and we’re going to get input on it Tuesday night,” Selectman Woody Woodward said. “I would also like to hear from people about other ideas, not just talk about pay-per-bag — give people the chance to express their ideas, and if no one can come up with a better plan,” the pay-per-bag option put forth by the Recycling Committee should be considered.

“I’d like to know from the board how they feel about the (Recycling Committee’s) proposal,” said Burk.

“I have a concern with the proposal,” said Selectman Woodward. “There is a (projected) $60,000 plus savings — but in past years, we’ve heard the argument from citizens that they are being double-taxed. I want to see a little more tweaking on it — the way it is now, $60,000 plus doesn’t seem like a big savings. I like the idea, but I don’t know if, without something being added to it, I could support it.”

“I think it’s a good idea,” Selectman Hoyt stated, but he said there is a need to discuss how businesses and nonprofit organizations would be handled.

“If it goes forward, after that (March 20) meeting, I’m hoping it won’t be pay-per-bag but it will be free bag,” said Hoyt, explaining that those who diligently recycle will likely find themselves not paying for bags, if the town uses an incentive of offering so many free bags.

“If they recycle, it won’t cost them a nickel,” Hoyt said of local residents.

“I’m not locked in, and I would like to hear from the community — I would also like to hear from other vendors (than ecomaine),” Selectman Doug Taft stated. “In 2014, we’re done with them (ecomaine), and I understand there is another company locally that takes more recyclables than ecomaine does.”

“I, for one, am a strong proponent for recycling,” Selectman Bernie King said. “The Committee’s proposal is designed to increase recycling in town…I’m probably more for it than against it — but I’m not 100% for it.”

“Unless someone can come up with a better option, I’m for it,” Chairman Triglione said of the Recycling Committee’s recommendation. “If there’s a better way, I’m open to it. But, the (Recycling) Committee did all the work, and I have to put my faith in the Committee.”

Former longtime selectman Bob McHatton told of how he tried four different times when he was in office to convince townspeople to opt for pay-per-bag recycling.

“Every time, pay-per-bag failed,” McHatton said. “Pay-per-bag never passed.”

“When (pay-per-bag) was out to a final vote (when there was a presidential election and a higher than usual turnout at the polls), out of 3,900 registered voters, over 2,900 came out and voted — 632 voted ‘yes’ and I felt pretty good about that — until I saw that 2,246 voted ‘no,’” McHatton said. “By an almost 4 to 1 ratio, the citizens of the town said ‘no.’ I think you should take the pay-per-bag option and throw it in the trash and not bring it before voters again.”

The town manager pointed out that, unless recycling efforts improve, the cost to dispose of the town’s trash will continue to rise.

Berkowitz told the selectmen, “If we don’t change our behavior, you and I are going to have the same conversation again and again about how to reduce (trash disposal) cost to the taxpayer.”

Noting that the amount of trash tonnage in Bridgton increased from 2010 to 2011, the town manager said, “People are still increasing their solid waste — we are a consumer-oriented society.”

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