LEWISTON – The $107,000 price tag for spring cleanup is making the annual curbside collections catch the eyes of city budget cutters.

At least one city councilor, Public Works Director Chris Branch and a handful of Lewiston landlords said Tuesday night they’d gladly give up the city’s monthlong trash collection program.

“Changing the system would solve a lot of problems for us,” Branch told councilors during their budget workshop.

“I would like to see us eliminate spring cleanup,” City Councilor Mark Paradis said. “The wages and spending could be used somewhere else.”

Councilors opened their 2004 budget discussions with an hour-long public hearing and two-and-half-hour question-and-answer session with city department heads. Councilors will continue budget discussions next Tuesday.

City Administrator Jim Bennett’s proposed trash collections changes were the main topic of discussion Tuesday. Bennett is proposing to cut off trash collection for apartments of four or more units. Landlords with those units could either pay for their own trash collection or pay the city a fee of about $1.35 per unit per week – about $22 per month for a four-unit apartment building. That could save the city $220,000 per year.

Bennett is also proposing to stop spring cleanup for four-unit apartments, replacing it with a punch card. Landlords would be able to take their own trash – including couches and refrigerators – to the dump whenever they needed to, free of charge.

The city spent $106,598 on the 2002 spring cleanup, most of it for wages and vehicle rental. Finance Director Dick Metivier said that money could be used by other city departments.

Landlords said any savings from weekly trash collections would fall on poor tenants and hard-working landlords.

“Basic services should be for all residents,” landlord Edward Toussaint said. “I believe this discriminates against the residents of larger apartments. After all, it’s all residential trash whether it’s from a single-family home or an apartment. Residential trash is residential trash.”

Landlord Don Arel told councilors he spends up to $50 each week hauling materials to the dump. Charging him for regular trash collection is just another cost he’d have to pass along to his tenants.

“I feel betrayed by this community,” said Mike Bernier of 22 Wakefield St. “Trash collection is the one tangible thing we all see from our property taxes.”

Bernier said he would rather see the city cut spring cleanup than charge for weekly collections. Councilors said they’d discuss it at future meetings.

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