Pay-per-throw trash resurfaces

BAR HARBOR — The Town Council voted down a proposal for a “pay-as-you-throw” (PAYT) system for residential and commercial garbage earlier this year. But last week, it agreed to hear recommendations for other PAYT programs.

Councilors voted 5-2 to add “consider a pay-as-you-throw program and consider fees for commercial waste delivered to the transfer station” to the bylaws of the town’s Recycling Task Force.

Councilors Clark Stivers, Matt Hochman, Gary Friedmann, Anne Greenlee and Burt Barker voted in favor; Paul Paradis and Peter St. Germain opposed the change.

Friedmann personally requested the change, saying the group’s current mandate would only allow for “minor tweaks to our current system.”

The task force was created in May of this year after the council’s decision not to pursue a PAYT trial program.

Creation of the task force was first proposed by residents at the May 3 council meeting in Town Hill, asking for more study of options for reducing waste and associated costs.

Town Manager Cornell Knight drafted bylaws for the task force that did not include PAYT. “I think it is too soon following last month’s council vote … to bring (PAYT) back up for further study,” he said in May. “To me, the community was just not ready to switch from property-tax-based solid waste disposal.”

According to those bylaws, the group’s duties and responsibilities are to “identify ways to improve recycling by residents and businesses, explore ways to compost food waste and other organics and review the master plan for renovation of the transfer station and recycling center and make recommendations to the Town Council.”

Councilors agreed that the last item, input on the plan for rebuilding the transfer station, was the most urgent. “We need to do something about the facility that’s up there. We don’t have a year or two,” council Chair Paul Paradis said.

Councilor Matt Hochman said he was surprised PAYT hadn’t been included. “I thought the suggestion to form a task force was a way to figure out how to make PAYT work,” he said.

Paradis said that while some at the Town Hill meeting supported exploring different PAYT options, “what came out of the meeting before [when the proposal was voted down] was a lot louder. Personally I’m not willing to go back there. While I’m at the transfer station, there’s still a lot of talk about PAYT, and it’s not positive.”

Councilor St. Germain said he opposed charging commercial haulers a tipping fee. “The haulers aren’t creating solid waste, they’re providing a service,” he said. “And the cost is going to drop straight to the bottom line of commercial taxpayers, who shoulder the lion’s share of taxes here.”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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