City looks at restoring heavy trash pickup

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On Monday night, City Councilors voted to consider adopting a heavy trash disposal program this spring, after the city cut it from the budget last year.

Meeting as the Committee of the Whole, councilors voted 3-1 to recommend to the full City Council that the city establish a discount coupon system that would allow residents to bring heavy items to two nearby landfills for disposal.

Councilors Brendan Reilly, Drew Gattine and Council President Jim Violette voted for the proposal while Councilor John O’Hara cast the sole dissenting vote. Councilors Ann Peoples, Suzanne Joyce and Gary Groves were not present at the meeting.

Prior to this year, the city provided an annual spring heavy trash pickup program for residents. That program, which cost the city between $70,000 and $80,000, was eliminated from the city budget last year.

In response to a referral from Gattine, who wanted to know if there would be any way to restore the program in some form this spring, the administration looked into how to provide such a service, said City Administrator Jerre Bryant.

Simply restoring the old program was not an option, Bryant told councilors, because even if money were available, the Public Services Department no longer has the time or personnel available to undertake the spring cleanup.

Bryant said the administration learned that most municipalities have stopped heavy trash pickup, while still providing a way for residents to dispose of heavy items like large appliances, furniture and tires. “Fewer and fewer communities are providing actual collection and are moving toward a system where the resident is responsible for getting the items to the transfer facility,” Bryant said.

The administration suggested that the city follow the lead of other communities where residents are supplied with either a punch card or coupon that allows the resident free or discounted disposal of heavy items. Bryant said the administration has made an arrangement with two area transfer stations, Plan-It Recycling and Transfer in Gorham and L.R. Higgins, which operates the Riverside Transfer Facility in Portland, to accept coupons from the city.

If the plan were to be adopted by the City Council, the city would issue coupons to residents, Bryant said. Based on an average disposal fee of $25 for a pickup truck load, Bryant said the coupons would be good for $12.50.

Because the city has an available balance of $20,000 in the waste disposal budget, Bryant said the city could distribute 1,600 $12.50 coupons to residents on a first-come-first-served basis, and the coupons would be limited to one per household. When the coupons were redeemed at the transfer facilities, Bryant said the operators would submit the coupons back to the city, and the city would reimburse the company for the face value of the coupons.

Rielly, who said he was against cutting the heavy trash pickup program from the budget last year, was in favor of providing some way for residents to dispose of heavy items. “I think we need to do what we can for this spring,” he said.

In contrast to Rielly, O’Hara said he didn’t believe the city should be spending money to subsidize heavy trash disposal for residents. “I don’t believe we should be in the business of heavy trash pickup anymore,” O’Hara said. “We’re strapped as it is. I don’t believe we should venture down that road again.”

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