AUGUSTA — City councilors, in an issue decided only by the tie-breaking vote of Mayor David Rollins, voted to scrap the curbside collection of residents’ recyclables, ending the monthly city service as of May 1.

Taking its place will be an expansion of rubbish collection, from the current 40 weeks, to a full 52 weeks a year.

Residents still will be able to recycle, but doing so will require a trip to one of the city’s three and soon to be four single-stream recyclables drop-off locations. Metal containers into which residents can place their single-stream recyclables, which don’t need to be sorted from each other, just from regular trash, are available now in the back parking lot at Augusta City Center, the John Charest Public Works Facility off North Street and the Hatch Hill landfill.

However, curbside pickup will cease May 1, following councilors’ 4-4 tie vote on an order proposing to end the service following extensive debate Thursday. That left the decision in the hands of Rollins who, as mayor, votes on such orders only when there is a tie. He voted in favor of the proposal to halt the service.

Rollins stressed that the city is not doing away with recycling, as residents can still use the drop-off containers and councilors probably still will debate creating a new, curbside single-stream recycling program to replace the outgoing sorted curbside recycling program as part of their budget deliberations for the following year’s budget.

Councilors were split largely on the timing of the question, not the substance, as no councilors expressed support for keeping the curbside sorted recycling collection program going long-term, because doing so would require spending about $50,000 to fix the badly rusted body of the city’s lone recycling truck.

Rather, councilors who voted against dropping the current curbside recycling program said such a major decision, including what to replace the program with, such as with a new, single-stream recycling program, should be made as part of the annual budget deliberations.

“We’ve gotten 24 emails on this matter, which is more than I ever got as a state senator,” At-large Councilor Dale McCormick said. “And the vast majority were asking us to not do this now, to wait until the budget debate period, which is April. To my mind, this motion is premature. We did not have a full discussion of (recycling) options.”

McCormick made a motion to table the issue until April, which was rejected, 5-3.

Rollins said he received considerable public input about the issue, but he said people who emailed councilors about the issue were “encouraged” to do so.

At-large Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau said voting now would give the city staff a better idea of councilors’ wishes so they can better prepare their budget proposal. He said he’ll keep an open mind about creating a new single stream recycling program but said doing so will have to compete against other city needs, such as funding to fight the city’s heroin epidemic and helping to address childhood hunger.

The order sponsored by Rollins and four of the city’s eight councilors proposed to halt the city’s current recyclables collection as of May 1. The once-a-month service collects only a limited variety of materials, fewer than are accepted in the drop-off program, and the curbside recyclables also must be sorted from each other.

The use of curbside service has dropped since the city began offering the single-stream drop-off locations in March. As the volume of materials collected curbside has dropped, the per-ton cost has escalated.

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.

Since the city started the single-stream program in a partnership with ecomaine in March, usage of the curbside collection program has dropped to only 12 or 13 percent of residents, according to Ward 3 City Councilor Patrick Paradis.

As part of the vote to stop collecting recyclables curbside on May 1, councilors also agreed to expand rubbish collection from its current 40 weeks per year to all 52 weeks of the year. Public works employees who, before, would spend 12 weeks picking up recyclables instead will spend all 52 weeks picking up rubbish.

City Manager William Bridgeo said expanding the rubbish pickup into the weeks when recyclables are picked up now would essentially be “a wash, the labor cost will be about the same, and we already have the equipment.”

McCormick and Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant both expressed support for considering, as part of consideration of next year’s city budget, replacing the current program with a single-stream recyclables collection program, which would cost about $100,000 more per year than the current program, according to an analysis by the city staff.

Grant said he has heard from many people who want such a program, but he agreed its costs should be discussed as part of budget deliberations, so the proposal can be considered against other funding needs.

The current recycling program will run until May 1, or as long as the city’s lone recycling collection truck lasts, whichever comes first.

Public Works Director Lesley Jones said the truck is expected to last through May, but has said previously it probably wouldn’t pass another inspection. So the city, to continue the current recycling program longer into the future, would have to spend about $50,000 to replace the truck’s rusted body. The council’s recycling subcommittee recommended the city not replace the truck body.

Councilors, following heated debate on ending the curbside recycling program, voted unanimously to add a fourth single-stream recyclables container for residents in the city, at Buker Community Center on Armory Street. It is estimated to cost an additional $8,400 a year to rent the container and have it hauled to ecomaine in Portland for processing when it is full.

Councilors said they hoped the new drop-off container would help address constituent complaints that the bins at the existing three locations are often full when they go to use them.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj