Opponents of Rockland bag fees surpass target to force repeal vote

Posted Aug. 04, 2014, at 5:21 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Opponents to a mandatory pay-per-bag trash disposal law collected far more signatures than needed in fewer than two weeks to ask residents at referendum in November to repeal the ordinance approved in City Council.

The petitioners turned in more than 700 signatures Friday and Monday, City Clerk Stuart Sylvester said. The city’s charter required petitioners to collect 476 signatures of registered Rockland residents in order to force a repeal referendum.

The petitioners began gathering signatures July 23, and they had until the first week of September to collect the requisite number of signatures to repeal the ordinance.

The City Council will formally vote Sept. 8 to accept the petitions and set the repeal referendum for Nov. 4.

The council approved the pay-per-bag system in June. Under that ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect May 1, 2015, residents would be required to pay 75 cents for 12-gallon bags, $1.50 for 22-gallon bags and $2.25 for 33-gallon bags.

Until then, people who have purchased dump stickers can continue to dump household trash at no extra charge.

Mayor Larry Pritchett has defended the pay-per-bag law, saying it is the fairest way to distribute the cost of trash disposal. He said residents can still dispose of items such as glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and metals free of charge in recycling areas.

Former City Councilor Adele Faber, an organizer of the repeal effort, has been sharply critical of the ordinance. Faber said in May that instituting a pay-per-bag trash program or greatly increasing annual sticker fees was not the answer for dealing with the bad decisions made by councilors concerning operations at the solid waste facility.

A previous City Council also had approved a mandatory pay-per-pag law in 2006. But a petition drive then too forced a referendum, and residents repealed the law by a 959-479 vote in June 2006.

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