LITTLETON, Maine — Disposal of trash in Littleton will soon cost residents more money.
By a vote of 55-26, residents approved switching to a pay-per-bag system of disposing trash at the transfer station during Monday night’s annual town meeting.
The vote marked the third time in two years that the town has weighed in on this subject. Two years ago, the measure narrowly failed at the March town meeting. That vote followed a similar one held in July 2012, in which the article also failed.
It was back on the table Monday evening when a resident requested it during a budget committee meeting last month.
In total, residents approved a municipal budget of $422,464 at Monday night’s meeting. The budget is down $43,938 from last year thanks to the reduction in the solid waste account. Had voters not approved the change, the town’s budget would have been $472,463, an increase of $6,000 over last year.
That figure does not include the town’s share of the RSU 29 school budget, nor the county tax figure. According to Town Manager Courtney Toby, the tax rate will not be finalized until both the RSU 29 and Aroostook County budgets are finalized. Toby said the school budget will not be available until at least June,
Last year’s mill rate was 17.5.
Littleton was one of the last communities in the area to switch to some form of a pay-per-bag system for its garbage. Houlton, Bridgewater, Amity, Crystal, Dyer Brook, Monticello, Smyrna, Merrill, New Limerick, Island Falls, Moro, Presque Isle and Patten are among the local communities that require residents to pay on a waste-produced basis.
Monday’s vote did not come without considerable discussion. Residents spent nearly an hour debating the pros and cons of making the switch.
According to board chairman Bob Bartlett, who retired from the board after the meeting, concerns over rising tax bills have been the primary reasons for making the change to a pay-per-bag trash system. He surmised it was one way the town could reduce its property tax rate by as much as $1.10, which would result in a savings of $110 for a taxpayer whose home was assessed at $100,000.
“At the budget meeting, there was an individual concerned with us spending $79,550 for garbage, as was the board,” Bartlett said. “A motion was made to go to the bag system and bring it here to town meeting. That’s why we are here.”
Bartlett said Littleton is the only town from Fort Kent south that still does its garbage disposal this way.
Many residents expressed concerns that people simply would not pay to dispose of their garbage, and would instead start dumping their trash in wooded areas or along roads. Some also suggested that many would switch to illegally burning their trash.
Bartlett said the Maine Forestry Service is the agency responsible for investigating illegal dumping of garbage and would continue to do so in Littleton should it become a problem.
The amount of garbage being dumped at Littleton’s transfer station has increased steadily over the past few years. In 2008, the town generated 405.92 tons of garbage, not counting waste collected in Dumpsters around the town. That figure rose to 419.65 tons in 2009 and 431.84 tons in 2010.
Last year, the town generated more than 500 tons.
The cost per ton has also risen dramatically over the past five years.
Exactly when the switch will be made at the town’s transfer station is unclear. The town plans to offer both a 30-gallon bag at a cost of $2 and a 13-gallon bag for $1. Barrels can still be used to dump trash, provided they have a sticker equivalent to the 30-gallon bag.
Flat rate fees for larger items are unchanged. The transfer station charges $1 for tires up to 15 inches; $2 for those 16-20 inches; and $5 for larger than 20 inches; $5 for white goods and bulky items (such as sofas, chairs and mattresses); and $10 per square for shingles. Disposal of metal and clean wood is free.
At the polls earlier in the day, David Bartlett and Barry Campbell were both elected to three-year terms on the town’s Board of Selectmen. Littleton officials do not report the actual votes candidates receive at town elections.
There was one open seat on the RSU 29 school board, with no candidate. Toby said there were several individuals receiving one vote each as write-in candidates, so she was uncertain how the town would fill the empty seat on the school board. Selectmen will discuss the matter at their next regular meeting.