2014-07-04 / Front Page

Town to research bag fees

Question will likely go to voters to gauge interest
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Members of the Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee are dedicated to reducing the town’s carbon footprint by contracting with a private composting service and asking voters on the November ballot if they wish to follow Portland’s path and charge five cents for plastic grocery bags.

In an effort to reduce refuse that does not decompose easily, Committee Chairman Dennis Andersen formally presented the idea to the board of selectmen at the June 24 meeting. Rather than requesting that the measure be voted in to law by the board, however, Andersen, wants the voters to decide.

Andersen, representing the committee, said it wishes to ask a “nonbinding question at the November election for the determination to find a level of interest in the public for a plastic bag fee.”

“This fee would be similar to the one up in Portland,” Andersen said. “It would be five cents and the money would go back to the merchants.”

The Portland City Council voted 6-3 on June 17 to charge five cents for plastic and paper shopping bags and to ban polystyrene containers commonly used at restaurants for food and drink. The measure goes into effect April 15, and will apply to businesses or organizations that primarily sell food.

Plastic bag fees and bans on polystyrene have been popping up in a few towns across New England in the past decade. Portland is the only town in Maine to have adopted both the fee and the ban on polystyrene.

Andersen asked the board how to construct the language of such a question. “We want to be careful in how we use the language because we want plastic bags that are grocery bags, not thin film bags that are used for dry- cleaning or meat products at Hannaford. We just want the shopping bags.”

Al Searles, chairman of the board of selectmen, told Andersen, “When you begin to think about it, it’s a very complicated question, because it can cause a lot of unnecessary consequences that I’m sure you’re not looking for.”

Resident Lionel Menard posed a question that many in Portland asked after the city council approved the measure: “Why does the vendor retain the fee, rather than the town or city?”

Andersen said he did not know, just that the committee was simply following Portland’s terminology.

Searles recommended that the committee draft the question, “And if the board doesn’t like it, you can always send it out as a (citizen’s) petition.”

The board will likely help the committee tweak the question.

Andersen also requested that the town contract with a southern New Hampshire-based composting service, Mr. Fox Composting, for those residents who wish to pay for compost.

The composting company, which serves a handful of towns in southern Maine, Andersen said, would charge $16 to collect bi-weekly or $32 to collect weekly.

Residents will receive, in turn, a composting bin and a complementary bucket of soil every spring.

Town Manager Barry Tibbetts agreed to include the contact information of Mr. Fox Composting in the town newsletter and on the town website.

Want to comment on this story? Visit our website at www.post.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

Return to top