May 28, 2018
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Bangor council trashes pay-as-you-throw program

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — After months of evaluation, the City Council’s infrastructure committee has decided to trash its exploratory pay-as-you-throw/single-stream waste and recycling program.

After reviewing a cost analysis memo from city finance director Debbie Cyr, committee members compared the costs to projected disposal savings and increased recycling capacity and voted not to amend the city’s solid waste ordinance.

“It’s not scrapping the plan. Council was very interested in PAYT and asked us to go find out how to make that happen,” said City Manager Cathy Conlow. “We hit a snag with the financial penalties with PERC and didn’t think we should offset those penalties by increasing costs to the consumer.”

Penobscot Energy Recovery Co.’s contract with the city, which runs through 2018, calls for significant financial penalties if the city falls short of its annual trash tonnage estimate.

Bangor city staff members, working with the Municipal Review Committee, projected total trash and recycling program costs both under Bangor’s current system and the proposed pay-as-you-throw/single-stream system. The total price includes the cost of the services to the city (including penalties), cost to residents, net revenues from the programs, recycling revenue and trash bag sales.

The following estimated costs were computed:

• Fiscal year 2013, $763,290 for the current program and $929,220 for proposed.

• Fiscal year 2014, $909,049 and $1,066.979.

• Fiscal year 2015, $1,024,269 and $1,184,068.

• Fiscal year 2016, $1,117,836 and $1,268,151.

• Fiscal year 2017, $1,190,334 and $1,318,566.

Cyr noted that while the costs to the city under a pay-as-you-throw option do decrease, the cost to city residents in the form of bag purchases exceeds city savings.

“The formula is $0 to $65 per ton or something like that for every ton you fall short of the GAT [guaranteed annual tonnage],” said City Councilor Charlie Longo, who along with Councilor David Nealley voted against referring the pay-as-you-throw/single-stream proposal to committee nearly three months ago. “That meant something like an average of $300,000 to $400,000 a year in penalties.”

Greg Lounder, executive director of PERC’s municipal review committee, attended an Aug. 16 infrastructure committee and stated that the PERC penalty in a single year could be as high as $630,215.96 if the city went with the proposed single stream/pay per bag program and fell significantly under its guaranteed annual tonnage estimate included in the contract.

“We haven’t found a financial alternative as it is for pay as you throw,” said Conlow. “We haven’t shelved it permanently and eventually we’ll have to look at alternatives, but it’s on the shelf for a couple years.”

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