WATERVILLE — Some residents at a forum Wednesday trashed pay-as-you-throw, saying their taxes are too high now and having to buy special bags for garbage is insulting.

“The part I don’t get is, I have to pay over $6,000 in taxes and I have to pay for those bags,” said Barbara Shea, of Johnson Heights. “Why? I think this is totally ridiculous.”

Shea was speaking at a meeting at The Center, where city officials sought to address issues residents had brought up at a similar meeting last month on the city’s new trash collection system, which requires people to buy special purple bags for their trash.

Councilors last year voted 5-2 to approve a $37.2 million budget that includes the pay-as-you-throw system with the stipulation that voters would have a chance to decide June 9 this year whether to keep or repeal the program. Many residents last year said they should have been given the opportunity to decide whether to launch the program in the first place, but instead the council made the decision.

Shea, who said she has lived in her house more than 45 years and has recycled for many years, told those present Wednesday that she is one of the silent majority.

“I will vote to rescind this June 9,” she said. “I will tell all my friends to rescind it.”

She was angry about pay-as-you-throw and said she is sure the price of bags will increase over time.

“I think this whole thing is full of caca,” she said.

Wednesday’s forum was a far cry from last month’s, where most of those who spoke said they liked pay-as-you-throw but not certain aspects of it, including the fact that the trash bags are odd-shaped and tear too easily; that recycling is picked up only the first and third full week of the month and during some months with five weeks, their recyclables sit for two or three weeks and they have little space to store it; and that there has not been enough education about what people may recycle and not recycle. Also, people asked at last month’s forum what they may do with their bulky waste such as sofas and electronics.

City Manager Michael Roy and Public Works Director Mark Turner showed Wednesday’s crowd of more than 50 people some major store brand bags of similar size and capacity that are thinner than the purple bags provided to retailers by WasteZero. Roy said the city could go to a thicker or more durable bag for an increased price.

“We are thinking of ordering stronger bags,” Roy said.

Roy and Mayor Nick Isgro said the city has spoken with Sullivan’s Waste Disposal, the Thorndike company that picks up recyclables at the curb, and it will now pick up recyclables every other week. When Sullivan’s is unable to do so, the city will pick up the recyclables.

Anyone who experiences a problem with a bag may call a toll-free number on the bag and the bag will be replaced, according to officials.

Some people, including resident Todd Martin, said they are happy with pay-as-you-throw. Martin said one of the reasons he moved from Gardiner to Waterville is that the city has the trash program.

“I think that the process the city went through was actually pretty good,” he said.

The program saves the city more than $430,000, and if voters repeal it June 9, they will have to make that amount up in the budget, according to Isgro.

Martin, of Ward 6, said the city has reduced its trash tonnage with pay-as-you-throw.

“You can’t argue with the numbers,” he said.

However, Ward 4 resident Lee Falconer said while she is very much for recycling, she is upset that when she went to City Hall to ask questions about pay-as-you-throw before it was implemented, the staff had no answers for her.

“I will vote against it on the premise that it wasn’t put in front of the people before it was implemented,” Falconer said.

She said her property taxes have increased to $7,000, and she and her husband own a small business in Oakland. She is forcing her husband to stay in Waterville because she grew up here and loves it, but he is ready to move.

“I’m for recycling, but the way the city went about it, I think, was wrong,” she said.

Isgro said $7,000 she pays in taxes is a lot of money.

“And I hear you and I apologize for the treatment,” he said, referring to her City Hall visit last year.

Isgro started attending council meetings last year during discussions about pay-as-you-throw and initially opposed it. He said Wednesday that in looking at the city budget and with the proposed spending, borrowing and increase in salaries and benefits that are tied to contracts, as well as reductions in state revenue sharing, he thinks that pay-as-you-throw should be maintained.

The council is looking at a proposed $39.1 million budget that, if approved, would increase the current tax rate of $27.40 per $1,000 of assessed property value significantly. The finance committee recommends the proposal be cut by $600,000 and city officials are looking at possible ways to cut another $400,000, but Isgro said he does not think it can be done without severely hurting services.

“We can’t cut it all,” he said. “Well, we could. You’d just have no services. You’d have nothing left. We could eliminate trash (pickup), and you could pay for your private haulers.”

But Isgro said he thinks it extremely important that residents talk to the councilors representing them to voice their opinions about pay-as-you-throw and other issues.

“City councilors are real people. They’re your friends. They’re your neighbors,” he said. “They take your calls. They take your emails. Please engage in the process.”

Ecomaine, the Portland company that takes the city’s recyclables, will hold an informational session from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Forum Room at The Center to help educate people about what to recycle and what not to recycle. Another session will be held 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. May 28 at the farmers market on The Concourse downtown.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17