On Monday night, City Councilors unanimously rejected a plan to provide discount coupons to residents for heavy trash disposal.
Councilors voted 4-0 to shoot down the plan to issue 1,600 coupons good for $12.50 in disposal costs at two area landfills. Councilors Gary Groves, John O’Hara, Suzanne Joyce and Council President Jim Violette cast the votes against the proposal. Councilors Brendan Rielly, Drew Gattine and Ann Peoples were not present at the meeting.
The council’s vote means that there will be no heavy trash disposal program this spring. In previous years, the city held an annual heavy trash pickup program, but the money for that program was removed from the current budget. The administration came up with the coupon proposal in response to councilors who asked if there were any way for some form of the program to be revived this year.
At a meeting of the council’s Finance Committee last week, the administration suggested 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.
The administration told councilors that the city had 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. Based on an average disposal fee of $25 for a pickup truck load, the administration said the coupons would be good for half that average cost.
Because the city has an available balance of $20,000 in the waste disposal budget, the administration said the city would be able to 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.
O’Hara said the limitation on the number of coupons that could be issued by the city was one of the reasons he felt he could not support the proposal. He said he did not want to endorse a program that would not include all residents. “It’s either all or nothing,” he said. “If we cannot accommodate all, then we shouldn’t accommodate any.”
Groves said he was not supporting the program because he thought the $20,000 could be better spent. “Something’s got to give,” said Groves. “I’d love to see that $20,000 go back into tax relief, personally.”
Since this is only the first year that the council removed the heavy trash pickup from the budget, Groves said he wanted to wait and see how that worked. “It’s tough for all of us,” Groves said. “We took this item out of the budget to help curtail the cost to the taxpayers.”
O’Hara shared Grove’s opinion that the city should wait a little bit longer to see how the elimination of heavy trash pickup affects the city before trying to reintroduce it. “We haven’t gone a year without this program, and we’re already trying to piecemeal it back in,” he said. “We cut it out. We should see how that works. If it doesn’t work all that well, we can put the money back in.”