AUGUSTA — City councilors meet Thursday to discuss whether the city should scrap its limited curbside recycling program or spend $50,000 to keep a city truck and the recycling program going.

Participation in the curbside recyclables collection program, which picks up a limited variety of residents’ sorted recyclable materials once a month, has dwindled since the city started a drop-off single-stream recycling program at three sites across the city. The bins are located at Augusta City Center, Augusta Public Works off North Street and the Hatch Hill landfill.

Last year the curbside recycling program collected 120 tons at a cost of $879 per ton, compared to 160 tons at a cost of $113 a ton collected in the single-stream drop-off recycling program through ecomaine.

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said with such a low participation rate, it may not be worth the cost of picking up that small of an amount of recyclables, which includes the cost of fuel and two public works employees.

“Do you continue to pick up curbside when the amount of volume keeps plummeting down?” St. Pierre said Tuesday.

However, some city councilors, including at-large Councilor Dale McCormick, have said some residents, particularly those who are elderly, have said they can’t use the drop-off recycling program either because they can’t transport their recyclables to any of the drop-off locations, or they can’t lift their items up into the collection bins.

To continue offering the curbside limited recyclables collection, the city will need to spend about $50,000 to replace the body of the city’s existing recycling truck.

Lesley Jones, public works director, said the truck passed its most recent inspection in August, but just barely, and it’s not likely to pass another inspection.

Some councilors have expressed interest in offering residents more recycling options to encourage more people to recycle more items.

The lowest-cost recycling option, aside from not changing anything in the current program, would be adding an additional drop-off single-stream recycling bin for residents to use outside Buker Community Center at an additional cost of about $8,400 a year to rent the container and have it hauled to ecomaine in Portland for processing when it is full.

City Manager William Bridgeo said adding another recyclables drop-off container at Buker would be “a good step forward” because it would give residents of that part of the city another drop-off location that could be accessible on weekends and at night. Currently, he said, many of those residents probably use the bin at Augusta City Center, which McCormick said constituents have complained frequently fills up on weekends.

Other recycling options include replacing the curbside unsorted recycling collection with curbside single-stream recycling pickup. That, however, would require a new, roughly $200,000 truck to collect the unsorted recyclables, compact them and transport them to ecomaine’s Portland processing facility.

The city’s current collection system of 40 weeks of curbside rubbish pickup and 12 weeks of curbside pickup of limited types of sorted recyclables combined with the relatively new single-stream recyclables drop-off program costs $823,000 a year.

Under that system, the city’s recycling rate is 5.4 percent, collecting 280 tons of recyclables a year.

Councilor Darek Grant and McCormick said at a Nov. 23 recycling subcommittee meeting they could support adding a recycling bin at Buker to give residents another drop-off location for single-stream recyclables.

They also expressed interest in considering adding monthly curbside single-stream recyclables collection at an additional cost of $100,000 a year. That addition is expected to increase the city’s recycling rate to 10 percent. It would bring the city’s overall rubbish and recycling budget up to about $920,000 a year. But they said that probably should be considered as part of the council’s consideration of the annual city budget, not as a stand-alone item.

The current year’s city budget is $54.9 million.

The recycling subcommittee meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Conference Room C at Augusta City Center to discuss the issue in preparation for making a recommendation for councilors to discuss at their meeting Thursday.

Councilors meet at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers, also at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to discuss a proposed Property Maintenance Ordinance.

When the first draft of the sweeping new maintenance rules was first presented Nov. 12, councilors expressed some support for the concept of setting minimum standards requiring property owners to prevent their properties from falling into disrepair, but expressed concern that the proposal went too far.

The draft ordinance recommended by a council subcommittee would institute sweeping regulations requiring the owners of buildings and land in the city to maintain their property in a clean, safe and sanitary manner. It also would require building occupants, including apartment tenants, to maintain the units and areas they occupy and control to those same standards.

The ordinance was written in large part in response to residents’ complaints over the last couple of years about neighboring properties being allowed to deteriorate or accumulate trash and other debris with little recourse available to the complainants or the city.

Some councilors favored such an ordinance but expressed concern about the proposal, which, as written, would make it a violation to have a house with peeling paint, an inoperable car kept outside, weeds taller than 10 inches, or windows that are meant to open but no longer do so.

On Thursday councilors are expected to receive a report from the city staff addressing their questions about the proposal and how similar ordinances in other communities have been implemented.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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