CHINA — The town is holding a public information session Saturday to explain a mandatory pay-per-bag trash system that will begin July 1.

The pay-per-bag system will continue on a trial basis until townspeople decide in a November referendum whether to keep the program. The transfer station won’t accept bags that are not part of the program after July 1.

The public information session is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at China Middle School. It will be followed by a session in February and another in March.

Selectmen voted last month to implement the program, which will require residents to buy specific bags for their garbage.

Town officials have proposed a rebate system that would return a portion of town revenue from bag sales to China property taxpayers who consider the town their primary residence, according to Selectman Neil Farrington.

Farrington said the program will help reduce the cost the town pays annually to get rid of its garbage. Pay-per-bag programs are designed to encourage recycling.

Selectmen originally intended to send the pay-as-you-throw proposal to voters in a March referendum, but the Select Board, on the recommendation of the Transfer Station Committee, decided on the trial period to give people a chance to try out the system before voting on it, Farrington said.

“It is such an untested program, we thought we’d give them a chance to try, and if they didn’t like it in November, it could be voted out,” Farrington said.

At the September meeting where selectmen initially agreed to the March referendum, the board also unanimously authorized a contract with WasteZero, which produces bags and runs pay-per-bag programs for about 800 towns and cities across the U.S., including Waterville. As part of its contract, WasteZero will host Saturday’s session and coordinate the town’s public information campaign.

In a letter sent to residents Jan. 18, the Select Board and Transfer Station Committee said solid waste is one of the few town budget items municipal leaders can influence directly.

Solid waste volume and cost have been increasing, and the town projects the cost to process and transport the waste will increase by close to $30,000 a year through 2018.

The pay-per-bag system could help keep costs in line instead of forcing the town to increase property tax rates to offset rising waste costs, the Select Board said in the letter.

“This plan places the cost of trash onto the users and not directly to property owners,” it reads.

According to the town, the plan would reduce China’s solid waste by 30 percent and increase its recycling by 200 tons annually.

The bags will come in three sizes. A 30-gallon bag will cost $2, 15-gallon bags will cost $1.75 and 8-gallon bags will cost 75 cents. Bags will be available for purchase in grocery and convenience stores in China.

To offset the effect on residents, the selectmen are proposing a rebate plan that would return bag sale revenue to taxpayers, Farrington said. The revenue would be divided up evenly, so all residents would receive the same amount regardless of how many bags they bought during the year, he said.

Only residents who are eligible for the state homestead property tax exemption — those who list China as their primary residence — would be able to get a rebate, Farrington said. That excludes seasonal residents but also tenants and owners of rental property.

The pay-per-bag system is expected to generate considerable discussion. Selectmen say residents have complained to them about the proposal, and some are concerned that it could lead to illegal dumping by people who do not want to pay the bag fees.

Selectmen voted 3-2 on Dec. 28 to implement the program.

Ron Breton, who was elected to the board in November and voted against the proposal, said Tuesday that he is worried the system will hurt seniors who live on fixed incomes and will exclude some residents from the rebate program.

“I think it is just going to be an extra burden on taxpayers, especially the elderly,” Breton said. “I don’t think the town needs it. We have a pretty good recycling program already.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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