AUGUSTA — The city could impose a penalty soon for misuse of its recycling bins.

City councilors will vote Thursday on creating a fine for nonresidents who dump items — and Augusta residents who knowingly toss nonrecyclables — into the recycling collection bins at the John Charest Public Works Facility off North Street and the Hatch Hill landfill.

At-large Councilor Corey Wilson, the prime proponent of the proposal to levy fines, said last week — after some councilors expressed concern that the $500 fine he proposed initially was too high — that he would be agreeable to reducing the fine to around $250.

At-large Councilor Jennifer Day expressed concern about fining residents for putting nonrecyclable items into the bins. She said some residents have told her they won’t recycle because they think if they make a mistake, they could get in trouble.

Wilson said he’d like to make it a fine for residents only if they intentionally or knowingly put nonrecyclable items into the bins. Police Chief Jared Mills said, however, that could make enforcing the rule difficult, as intent would have to be proved.

The fine proposal comes on the heels of a December 2018 council vote to eliminate two of the city’s four sites where residents can drop recyclable items into bins. The locations, both of which were available 24 hours a day, were in the back parking lot at Augusta City Center and outside the police station.

That measure was taken after city officials found people were placing nonrecyclables into the bins, as well as piling items around the outside them once they became full. Both of those sites were not monitored.

The remaining recycling bin locations — the ones at the public works and Hatch Hill facilities — are monitored and are accessible only when those complexes are open. Hatch Hill is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Public Works Department is open to the public 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Last week, City Manager William Bridgeo and Public Works Director Lesley Jones proposed extending the hours at the public works facility, keeping it open until 6 p.m. Wednesday and making it available from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Bridgeo said the extra staff time for those operating hours would be about $14,000 a year.

At-large Councilor Marci Alexander said she was supportive of the elimination of the two 24-hour-a-day sites only if the city extended the hours the bins would be accessible at the public works and Hatch Hill locations. She and other councilors said the change isn’t meant to make it more difficult for residents to recycle, but to help Augusta reduce the contamination and other abuse that had taken place at the unmonitored locations.

“We’re not getting rid of the number of bins we have. We’re just moving them to a different location,” Alexander said.

The proposal also would impose a fine on residents for removing anything from the recycling bins, which Wilson wanted to omit, because preventing items from being hauled off is a form of recycling itself.

Bridgeo and Jones expressed concern, however, saying that residents could be injured getting into or out of the bins if they were allowed to remove items.

Councilors are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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