Trash program vote postponed in New London

New London — The trash talk ended late Monday without a vote by the City Council.

The council decided to table a decision on implementation of a new pay-as-you-throw trash-removal program until July 16. It had faced an onslaught of opposition from residents at a packed meeting on Monday and raised more questions of their own.

Councilor Don Venditto said he was prepared to vote and was leaning in favor of the program but did have a question about the city's contract for lease of five new public works vehicles.

“I asked if there was a way to get out of the lease at the end of one year if we decided the program wasn’t meeting projections and expectations,” Venditto said.

The city has budgeted $250,000 a year for the next five years to lease new trash-removal vehicles. Public Works Director Brian Sear has said the trucks were needed to replace the aging fleet.

The city is poised to vote on revisions to a city ordinance mandating the use of special 30-, 15- and 8-gallon yellow bags by residents and on a one-year agreement with WasteZero Inc. for purchase of the bags. WasteZero, as part of a state grant awarded to the city for the program, also is expected to begin an educational campaign.

The goal of the system is to curb future tax increases associated with the cost of disposing of municipal waste by increasing recycling. The 90-gallon bins now used for garbage would instead be used for recyclables.

The new program also is pitched as a way to more evenly spread the cost of trash removal to everyone, including nonprofits and other tax-exempt entities.

Some residents remained skeptical, arguing it feels like a new tax and predicting an explosion of trash throughout the city from bags torn open by animals and illegal dumping to avoid the $1 bag fees.

“It’s going to be a big mess,” resident George Hager said. “One of the big things you have to consider is people in the downtown area will find other areas to dispose of their trash.”

"I think you’re hearing loud and clear from the citizenry they’re not in favor of this,” said Tim Wheeler, president of the Neighborhood Alliance. “I think your intentions were good in getting nonprofits to pay their fair share. That being said, we’re getting caught in the net, too.”

“We just ask the City Council to dump this trash plan and do research on other trash plans,” Beverly Steinman said.

Kat Goulart said that at a public forum describing the program, residents were presented a choice of a pay-as-you-throw program or a tax increase.

“It seems like we got both,” Goulart said.

Councilor Martin Olsen, the lone Republican on the council, was the only councilor to vote against tabling the vote. He is opposed to the plan and said the city has not done enough research into alternatives.

“I wanted to vote last night. To me it was a punt — kicking the can down the road,” Olsen said. “I have not supported this program since it was initially proposed. I have severe reservation of this program being successful in New London.”

g.smith@theday.com

Other council action

The council also:

- Voted 7-0 on an ordinance that provides stricter penalties and fines for illegal operation of dirt bikes, minibikes and all-terrain vehicles on city streets. The ordinance would impose between $1,000 and $2,000 in fines for offenses and allow police to seize and keep the ATVs or bikes.

- Voted 6-1 to approve an ordinance creating a municipal stormwater management authority with the power to charge a fee to residents, commercial enterprises and nonprofit operations alike based on the amount of impervious surface. The city expects $1.3 million annual revenue toward a dedicated stormwater enterprise fund to help the city comply with a federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, or MS2, permit. Councilor John Satti voted against it. The proposed fee structure is $7.50 per 1,000 square feet of impervious surface, with costs to residents ranging from $30 to $150 a year, depending on the size of the property. The large share of the projected revenues, or 39 percent, will be borne by commercial properties. Tax-exempt properties would pay about $212,359, or about 16 percent, of the total.

- Voted 7-0 to amend an ordinance to create a licensing process and define and identify sober houses, which opens the homes up for annual inspections. The unregulated homes for recovering addicts would have to apply and be inspected in the same way that hotels, rooming houses and convalescent homes are.

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