AUBURN – Requiring residents to put their trash in special bags might save the city money, but it’s a pretty unpopular idea.
“I really think there are more cons to the idea than pros,” said Councilor Eric Samson.
Even Sid Hazelton, Auburn’s assistant public works director, said he likes the city’s current system.
“I think what we do now works fairly well,” Hazelton said. “But this is just information for you to think about.”
The idea of special bags was suggested by citizen groups during council budget hearings this spring as a possible way to trim the city’s budget. The city would sell special 33 gallon trash bags for about one dollar each. Those would be the only bags collected on trash days.
Residents throw away less when they have to pay for each bag, based on state studies. Hazelton said people usually throw away 17 percent less household waste. They recycle 6 percent more, compost more and purchase household goods with less packing material.
That amounts to about $39,440 less spent to collect the trash and about $24,000 more revenue from more recycling.
But there are downsides – more trash left on the street and more people trying to burn brush and leaves in their yards, for example.
Laurie Smith, acting city manager, said the city can do other things to encourage recycling.
“We favor the carrot approach, not the stick,” she said.
Councilors created a recycling committee Monday to begin looking for ways to bring recycling rates up.
Councilors also heard a report on special fees for fire services. Fire Chief Wayne Werts said his crew wouldn’t charge for most emergency calls but for special services and nuisance calls.
For example, he recommended a charge of $100 for false alarms. That fee would increase $100 each time a false alarm came in within a year.
People caught lighting a fire in their yard illegally would be charged an additional $200 per hour to extinguish the blaze. People with authorized burns that get out of control would also be charged $200 an hour.
Werts said other fees could be passed along to insurance companies. They would charge $200 per hour for vehicle accidents as well as a fee for non-fire related salvage calls. That would include cleaning up water from broken sprinklers and other flooding. The city would charge residents $150 per hour for the service and commercial operations $500 per hour.
Councilors discussed the idea, but didn’t take sides. Councilor Ellen Peter said she had worried the fees might discourage people from calling for help.
Andy Titus of 45 Carson St., said he was concerned the fees would just let the city increase spending.
“Any new fees, you should commit to use them to reduce property taxes,” Titus said.