PAYT bag prices may increase

12 years ago

PAYT bag prices may increase

By Kathy McCarty

Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — The Pay-As-You-Throw program and solid waste disposal was once again being discussed Monday night, as councilors met for a workshop on the proposed 2013 municipal budget.

    A few changes are being proposed this year, including an increase in price for the orange bags used by residents. City Manager Jim Bennett also asked councilors to approve discontinuing the recycling dumpsters in the communities of Mapleton and Washburn. Bennett cited the reason for doing so was the increased amount of trash appearing in the units was costing the city of Presque Isle more money and bother. He indicated each community, if they choose, can continue to maintain such dumpsters at their own expense.

    Bennett provided a memo to councilors indicating a $17.50 subsidy would continue for commercial businesses, maintaining the $97.50 per ton fee established in 2011. Council Chair Emily Smith noted the subsidy would be “put back on the residential side and would mean an increase cost of the bags.”

    “We would have to increase bags by 54 cents each — go up $2.70 per package. That would be added on to the existing price,” said Bennett.

    Craig Green, recently elected and sworn in to finish Jessica Chase-Smith’s term, said the average household spends $10-16 per month, based on 1.2 bags used per week and depending on the size used.

    “But it’s apples to oranges, compared to what we used to be able to throw away and what we have for services now. We’re charging them less, but we’re getting a lot less,” said Green, noting a mattress won’t fit in an orange bag.

    Bennett said citizens still have the option of hiring a hauler to pick up larger items.

    “Under the old system, we had a tax subsidy for the program to underwrite what everyone’s contributing towards. The goal was to get out of subsidizing and get them to pay what the program cost,” said Bennett.

    “We took curbside out and had individual communities pay for it. We weren’t getting the amount of trash from the other communities” we anticipated we’d get, said the city manager.

    Councilors continued talking about solid waste issues, including possibly looking more closely at how Tri-Community — which serves Limestone, Caribou, Fort Fairfield and surrounding communities — operates.

    “Efficiency numbers aren’t even close. We’re running similar budget figures for one-quarter of the trash,” said Council Peter Hallowell.

    Smith indicated one of the biggest costs at the landfill was for environmental monitoring, with Presque Isle’s running over $100,000 annually compared to Tri-Community’s nearly $50,000 a year. She noted the difference was based on various factors, including land type and location.

    Councilor Randy Smith said in terms of the program, “We can continue as we are now, scrap the whole thing and have everyone pay $112.50 per ton and everyone’s on their own — that would reduce the mil rate by 1.”

    Dana Fowler, director of public services, which includes solid waste, said recycling has increased slightly this year by about 4 percent, with trash overall down just about the same 4 percent.

    Hallowell suggested going up $5 on the commercial side, with funds going toward paving.

    “We need more money in public works but don’t know where to get it. We’re subsidizing this for a mil. Give them a subsidy for $12.50,” said Hallowell.

    Hallowell also asked what it would involve to have recycling open one Saturday a month. Bennett said the landfill is open and can take everything on Saturdays. The city manager indicated sorting doesn’t take place on Saturdays and so the center is closed on the weekend.

    “Everything that can be taken to recycling can be taken to the landfill,” said Bennett.

    Green questioned closing the landfill one Saturday in exchange for opening the recycling center. Bennett said a dumpster would have to be put in place, since no cashier or internal controls would be present.

    “It would cost more,” said Bennett.

    One other change being considered, proposed by Bennett, is separating the blue and orange bags and charging 80 cents for a package of five blue recycle bags.

    Hallowell asked if increasing the cost of the orange bags would be worse for Presque Isle as a group. Bennett said it would likely have more of an impact with regard to surrounding communities.

    “Because of the way we need to work with smaller communities, we’re more likely to have smaller communities not work with us if the cost of bags go up. They can find other alternatives,” Bennett said. “Wade and Perham have an easier time for trash making its way to Caribou — going to work with them. There’s less opportunity here to do that.”

    Bennett said in taking a look at the numbers, some communities had changed in tonnage from when they first got in the program.

    “Washburn’s down 1-2 percent. They’re at 6.32 (tons) now. At one point they were closer to 8,” said Bennett. Fowler clarified, stating Mapleton and Washburn are currently close to 7 percent.

    “Any time that 1 percent changes, that results in almost a penny to the tax rate,” Bennett said.

    In other discussion, councilors talked about municipal employees’ retirement plan options. Hallowell also suggested going through the capital budget at some point.

    Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Budget workshops will be held on Dec. 3 and 5, with the budget tentatively set to be voted on Dec. 10. For more information, call 760-2785 or visit