ROCKLAND, Maine — A petition drive is expected to be formally launched Wednesday morning to repeal the mandatory pay-per-bag trash disposal law approved earlier this month by the city council.
Former City Councilor Adele Faber is an organizer of the repeal effort. She has been sharply critical of the ordinance. Faber said last month that instituting a pay-per-bag trash program or greatly increasing annual sticker fees was not the answer to deal with the bad decisions made by councilors on operations at the solid waste facility.
This marks the second time a Rockland City Council has adopted a pay-per-bag program and the second time citizens have petitioned to repeal it. In March 2006, a divided Council voted to adopt such a law. Faber was on the council then and voted against the measure.
A petition drive then forced a referendum in June 2006, during which residents repealed the law by a 959-479 vote.
Mayor Larry Pritchett, who supports this year’s pay-per-bag ordinance, responded Tuesday to the new repeal effort.
“Before signing the petition calling for a special election, I would ask every resident to consider, what is the fairest way to pay for trash disposal? ‘Pay as you throw’ means residents would pay based on the amount of trash they generate,” the mayor said.
Pritchett pointed out that disposal of paper, glass, cardboard, most plastics, cans, metals, some yard waste and some demolition debris will remain free to dispose of at the solid waste facility under the pay-per-bag system.
“If this type of waste is separated, residents would pay less using ‘pay as you throw’ and the city would incur lower costs to truck and dispose of waste at the PERC incinerator,” the mayor said.
Faber said many citizens wish to voice their opposition to the new ordinance.
“In fact, everyone should have a say in this plan that was presented without warning, just before preliminary adoption of the budget. Thus, several citizens are joining to start a citizen referendum drive to repeal pay per bag, which places a significant burden on those that can least afford to pay,” she said.
The petitioners have 30 business days — until Aug. 22 — to collect 476 signatures of Rockland registered voters in order to force the council to schedule a referendum.
City Attorney Kevin Beal said he expects the council would time a referendum for the Nov. 4 election if the petitioners collect sufficient signatures.
The pay-per-bag ordinance approved earlier this month does not take effect until May 1, 2015. Until then, people who purchased dump stickers can continue to dump household trash at no extra charge.
The price of the dump stickers jumped from $65 a year to $135 as of July 1. People who bought stickers before July 1, however, can dump through May 1.
The council also has given residents the option of paying per bag to dispose of their trash for the past four years, and Pritchett said those people have saved money. The fees under the new ordinance will be 75 cents for 12-gallon bags, $1.50 for 22-gallon bags, and $2.25 for 33-gallon bags.
Pritchett said thousands of municipalities across the country use a pay-per-bag system.