WATERVILLE — City residents decided overwhelmingly Tuesday to keep the pay-as-you-throw trash collection and single-stream recycling program in a 1,338-688 vote.

A steady stream of voters turned out at the polls Tuesday to decide whether to keep or toss the program.

“It’s the best thing for our city,” City Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, said late Tuesday at the polls. “It’s the best thing for our residents. I’m ecstatic.”

Residents interviewed Tuesday as they left the polling place at the American Legion hall on College Avenue were split on the program, in which residents pay for garbage bags required by the city, but also includes curbside recycling.

“I just think it’s a pain in the butt,” voter Lila Hallowell said. “Let them go up on taxes. I don’t care. It’s not a money thing.”

Allen McCausland, 35, also voted to repeal.

“I just feel like it’s an added tax that we don’t really need,” he said.

Meanwhile, Michelle Holmes, 60, said she likes pay-as-you-throw.

“The reason why I like it is my mother lives in Camden, Maine, and they have to pay for trash bags and they have no curbside pickup,” Holmes said. “They do have recycling, and their taxes are a lot more than ours. I feel like I’ve got the best of all the worlds.”

About 1,200 of 11,447 registered city voters had cast ballots by 4:45 p.m., according to election warden Roland Hallee. “It exceeded our expectations,” he said. In the end, 2,026 voters cast ballots.

Residents voting yes wanted to repeal the pay-as-you-throw program, launched in September, and single-stream recycling, which started in July.

City officials say the city has reduced the trash it picks up by about 55 percent since the programs started. They had expected to reduce it by only 40 or 45 percent.

As part of the program, residents must buy designated trash bags for curbside pickup. The city picks up the bags at the curb and takes them to the Oakland transfer station to be hauled to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington, where it is burned.

City Manager Michael Roy said that the city’s contract with PERC expires in 2018 when the city’s fee to dispose of waste is expected to increase from $60 a ton to about $120. He said the city is saving about $430,000 by using pay-as-you throw. Had voters repealed it, officials would have had to find $430,000 in the municipal budget to make up for that loss.

Meanwhile, residents toss all of their recyclables into one bin to be picked up every other week by Sullivan’s Waste Disposal, of Thorndike. The city pays Sullivan’s $72,000 a year for that service. The recyclables are taken to Ecomaine, in Portland, where they are sorted and sent to market.

Residents pay $10 for a roll of eight 15-gallon bags or $10 for a roll of five 30-gallon bags. The bags are supplied to retailers by WasteZero, of Portland, which gets 32 cents for each $2 bag sold and 22 cents for each $1.25 bag. The city gets $1.68 for each $2 bag and $1.03 for each $1.25 bag. Retailers get no cut of the profits. The city has garnered $215,000 on bag sale revenue in the first eight months of the program.

City officials said the idea behind the trash and recycling program is to reduce the waste stream. Also, they said, it forces people to be conscious about what they throw away.

The City Council last year voted 5-2 to approve a proposed $37.2 million municipal and school budget for 2014-15 that included pay-as-you-throw and recycling, with the stipulation that voters be given the opportunity to decide whether to repeal it this year. Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, and Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, voted against that budget, saying residents should have been able to decide the issue.

A lot of residents were angry that councilors didn’t allow residents the opportunity to vote on pay-as-you-throw before it was implemented. They said that while they recycle anyway or like recycling, they don’t like having to buy special garbage bags.

Many of those people hired private haulers to take their trash. At least one company, Gregory’s Disposal, of Fairfield, has picked up about 300 residential customers in Waterville, according to owner Gregory Rabe.

Former City Clerk Arlene Strahan was working at the polls Tuesday.

“It’s a very good turnout for a June election,” she said.

Some voters, including Wanda L’Heureux, 58, said they were afraid that if pay-as-you-throw were repealed, the recycling program also would go away, and they want to keep recycling. City officials had said, however, that the city could decide to re-institute the recycling program if pay-as-you-throw were repealed, as long as residents wanted the city to pay for that recycling. Shredding-on-Site on Armory Road also takes recyclables.

“I voted no because I want to keep the recycling, and one goes with the other, because if we chuck it, there goes the recycling,” L’Heureux said. “It is responsible to recycle.”

Former city councilor Charlie Kellenberger, 64, and his wife, Jackie, 66, who are apartment building owners, said they voted to repeal it.

Jackie Kellenberger said so many people are dumping trash into their apartment trash receptacles that they must have the haulers come twice a week instead of the usual once.

“I’m ticked off, I’ll tell you,” she said. “We have seven dumpsters. Everyone in the world that does not want to buy a purple bag is using them.”

Charlie Kellenberger said, “I personally believe that the real truth isn’t told about recycling — that we can’t have recycling without pay-as-you-throw. We used to. The city of Waterville did recycle, and the only reason we stopped recycling was because of the town manager of Winslow, who decided to sell the recycling center to Ken-A-Set, and Waterville had to go along.”

He served on the Waterville-Winslow Solid Waste Committee many years ago when the city and Winslow owned the recycling site on Industrial Road that later was bought by Ken-A-Set.

“It was a joint venture between Waterville and Winslow,” he said. “Obviously, back then we separated our recyclables. The city picked them up every week. Ken-A-Set managed the Industrial Road site. Waterville did recycle, and it worked.”

Jeff Jolin, 60, also said he voted to repeal.

“I pay my taxes. Why should I have to pay for bags?” he asked. “I have two dogs. They eat all the table scraps. I recycle everything and take paper trash to camp to burn.”

John Black, 71, said the required bags are not very strong, and they rip when people pick them up. He also said residents should have had a chance to vote on the program last year before it was put in place.

“I just wasn’t happy with the way it was implemented,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17