AUGUSTA — City councilors might throw out a local ordinance requiring stores to charge customers 5 cents per plastic bag, because the use of those bags will be banned statewide starting next year.

In March, councilors voted to send a proposal to require most stores in Augusta to charge customers 5 cents to get a plastic bag with their purchases to residents in a November referendum. The goal, councilors said at the time, was to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags and reduce the number of single-use plastic bags being thrown away or ending up as litter.

Since then, however, the Legislature has approved a bill, which Gov. Janet Mills later signed into law, that bans single-use plastic bags from stores statewide, starting April 22, 2020, which is Earth Day.

In a memo sent to councilors Monday, City Manager William Bridgeo said that with passage of the statewide ban, “it would appear that our pending ordinance is moot. I want to confirm that with you and then determine the most appropriate way to bag it.”

The proposed Augusta ordinance was amended by At-large Councilor Mark O’Brien to state it would not be placed on the ballot if the Legislature passes regulations regarding the use of plastic bags. Councilors then voted 4-2 to approve the proposed bag fee, but that it would be subject to voters’ approval in the planned November referendum. Bridgeo, at Thursday’s Augusta City Council meeting, wants to hear from councilors about what to do with the locally proposed ordinance now.

The local ordinance, allowing stores to provide plastic bags to customers if they pay a 5-cent fee, would appear to conflict with the state ban on plastic bags. The state law would allow stores to provide customers with a bag for 5 cents — but only paper bags, not single-use plastic bags.


The new state law exempts certain types of bags, including bags for produce, prescription drugs, newspapers, laundry and live animals.

A total of 24 municipalities in Maine already have banned single-use plastic bags from stores within their borders. The state law came in part at the request of the Retail Association of Maine and Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, lobbyists which preferred there be a uniform, statewide policy instead of ordinances which could vary from municipality to municipality.

City councilors are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

• Discuss a request from At-large Councilor Corey Wilson, who hopes to open a sales and repair business for all-terrain vehicles at 2459 North Belfast Avenue, which would not be allowed under the city’s zoning rules, to ask the Planning Board to review a proposal to alter the zoning of the parcel to allow that use, and make a recommendation to council;

• Hear a proposal to establish a rowing program or club on the Kennebec River;

• Hear a report from a Maine Department of Transportation official on a pedestrian safety mitigation plan that focused specifically on Cony Circle, Memorial Circle, Bangor Street, Eastern Avenue and Western Avenue, which includes recommendations including making crosswalks in each of those areas more visible; and

• Discuss a proposal to sell a 3-acre lot on Cross Hill Road, acquired by the city after the former owner failed to pay taxes on it, to a buyer who offered $12,500 for the property.

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