Selectmen kill pay-per-bag option

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

The pay-per-bag option for recycling died Tuesday night, when the Bridgton Board of Selectmen voted unanimously not to present the Recycling Committee’s recommendation to voters at the annual town meeting in June.

Saying they appreciate the Recycling Committee’s dedicated efforts over the last two years in researching and investigating ways to increase the town’s recycling rate — which stands stagnant at 22% — each of the five selectmen gave their reasons for not sending the pay-per-bag option to referendum in June.

The Recycling Committee stated that, if enacted by voters, the goal of the pay-per-bag method of recycling was to increase recycling by 325 tons, and it would have potentially saved the town $69,000 in the first year.

Yet, Bridgton voters have turned down pay-per-bag or mandated recycling proposals four times over the last eight years.

Selectman Paul Hoyt said he appreciates the Recycling Committee’s work, “But, I still feel strongly it doesn’t have a chance of passing,” he stated. “I’d still like to see two options, A & B — not just one option.” Hoyt also suggested that a third option of “do nothing” could also have been an option to forward to voters at the annual town meeting.

“I agree with Paul — I don’t think this will pass — I wouldn’t vote for it,” Selectman Woody Woodward said. “We’re not going to save a lot of money…I don’t see it passing this way.” Woodward said he does, however, believe something needs to be done to try to increase the rate of recycling, which the State of Maine Planning Office says should be targeted at around 50%.

Selectmen Chairman Arthur Triglione Sr. said he is definitely against the proposal for pay-per-bag.

“After listening to (speakers) at the (March 20) public hearing, I’m opposed to bringing it to the voters, and I say this reluctantly,” Triglione said. “I appreciate the Committee’s hard work. I’m opposed to it, as presented. The public (is saying), ‘Been there — done that — why are you beating us over the head with it?’”

“I’m not in favor of pay-per-bag,” Chairman Triglione stated further. “I’m not in favor of mandatory (recycling)…I really think it’s not going to go — so, why even embarrass ourselves?”

Triglione reiterated a suggestion he made at the public hearing last week to impose the use of clear trash bags at the Bridgton Transfer Station, in order to allow transfer station attendants to practice “passive mandatory recycling”.

“With clear bags, it would give the transfer station attendants the authorization to say, ‘Hey, you’re not recycling,’” Triglione said. “And, we have that jurisdiction,” to authorize the attendants to do that, “or do nothing.”

Selectman Bernie King said a local resident he spoke with suggested the town have people bring their own trash bags, rather than purchase them from the town, as might have been done under pay-per-bag, and “if they put the bag in the trash hopper, that’s a dollar per bag.”

“I really believe strongly that a lot of recycling education should be done at the transfer station by transfer station attendants — and that’s where the buck stops,” Chairman Triglione said. “And, we should consider giving a challenge to the transfer station manager to increase recycling over 12 to 18 months by 5% — and if they don’t — we’re not going to fire them — but we should say, ‘Why didn’t you do it? Did you put effort in to it?’”

Bridgton Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz pointed out that the selectmen could ask the Recycling Committee “to focus on a concept” around recycling responsibility and the “use of clear trash bags.”

Referring to an earlier comment that it is obvious that a person isn’t recycling when glass can be heard breaking as they drop their bag down the trash hopper receptacle slide, Berkowitz said, “The point is, clear bags may be more socially acceptable — (bringing about) a certain peer pressure — I don’t want to be adding staff to administer — maybe that’s (passive clear bag recycling) the next step to making us conscientious in what we’re trying to do.” The town manager said that perhaps an online survey asking townspeople what they would suggest as ways to improve recycling efforts would be the way to go.

Noting that the town’s debt obligations to ecomaine, where the town sends its trash and recyclables, ends in 2014, Selectman Doug Taft recommended asking the Recycling Committee members to investigate other “vendor options” for trash disposal sites “other than ecomaine.”

“I don’t think it’s too early to shop around,” said Taft.

“I think it’s premature,” Chairman Triglione told Selectman Taft.

“In 2014, the last payment to ecomaine is due, so consequently, I feel we should start looking,” Taft stated.

“I agree with you, whatever’s best for Bridgton — but I still think it’s premature,” said Triglione.

Berkowitz suggested the selectmen authorize the Recycling Committee, of which Transfer Station Manager Bob Fitzcharles is a member, “to entertain proposals, not bids” from prospective solid waste and recycling disposal site vendors.

Selectman Bernie King said he and Taft had visited Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine and spoken to him about how solid waste and recycling are handled by that town. King said the Casco-Naples Bulky Waste Facility allows residents to bring a specified amount of bulky waste free of charge.

Selectman Taft suggested that the Recycling Committee may want to “sit down and talk with” Goodine, who Taft said has experience in another town, as well, as to how to process solid waste disposal and recycling.

The possibility of the town returning to selling its own recyclables rather than ship them to ecomaine was mentioned, as well.

The town manager urged local residents to participate by becoming members of the Recycling Committee and/or attending their meetings to offer suggestions.

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