Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014
By Amy Kronenberger
St. Marys officials undecided over trash collection system
  ST. MARYS - The tag or bag controversy continues.
City officials remain divided over whether to keep trash collection as a tagging system or change to a bagging system. Council's solid waste committee members on Monday decided to defer discussion to full council after failing to reach an agreement.
Residents are paying a $9.95 base fee on their utility bill for trash pick-up and must purchase $1 tags for each bag or trash can weighing 33 pounds or less that they place at the curb.
Some residents create counterfeit tags, overstuff containers or do not properly tag items, officials said.
Committee members Robin Willoughby and Todd Fleagle said many of their constituents have complained to them about the possible switch, saying they prefer the tagging system. Committee member Greg Freewalt, however, said those people don't understand the need behind the change.
Doug Metz, superintendent of solid waste operations, asked the committee to consider the change as a way to stop abuse and prevent the city from losing money. Switching to a specific bag with a city sanitation logo stamped on it will eliminate the abuse, he said. If a resident does not use the appropriate bag, the trash will not be collected, he added.
Willoughby said residents have told her the tag system is fine and doesn't need changed. She added they also voiced concerns about animals ripping into the bags.
"They feel that right now this is the best way, to keep the tags," she said.
Fleagle said he's heard the same thing.
"I couldn't believe after our last meeting people said ... we just need to enforce it and keep what we already have," he said. "If you do away with the cans, you have the varmint problem ... I think that could be an issue because you don't have the cans to protect the bags."
Freewalt said residents could still put the bags in cans as long as they are properly tied with no loose refuse and are the appropriate weight. Collectors would remove the bags from the cans when collected, he said. Metz said he didn't see a problem with that.
Fleagle said the bagging system might be doable if residents can still use cans but noted he's never heard a resident say he or she understands why the change is needed. He and Willoughby said they would vote against the change. Fleagle added that Metz should concentrate on enforcing the current rules.
Council president Dan Hoelscher, mayor Pat McGowan and safety service director Greg Foxhoven also attended the meeting and expressed a preference to a bagging system. Hoelscher said enforcing the tagging system is not as easy as Fleagle suggests.
"That's an easy statement to say, but how do you get people like that? How do you go after them without spending a lot more man-hours?" he asked.
Metz has said the counterfeiters usually can't be enforced. McGowan said the change would give the city better control.
Freewalt suggested trying the bagging system to see how it works, noting the $1 cost per bag would be the same as the cost of the tags. Metz said all area grocers that sold the tags agreed to carry the bags.
"If they want to put them in the cans, that's fine ... they were worried about that, but the prices should not change for them, so why should they worry if it's a bag or a tag?" Freewalt asked. "Sometimes you gotta make a little tough decision, and I don't think we're hurting anyone. ... Why would it make any difference if he (Metz) can solve a problem?"
Metz noted the city has about four months of tags left and suggested establishing a switchover period from October to January, during which residents can use either tags or bags.
The committee will raise the issue with full council during their next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the municipal building.
In other business, committee members discussed working with area companies to possibly use the city's sanitation services instead of contracting their own.
Metz also said this year's spring clean-up was a success with 106.62 tons collected on May 10 and May 17. Last year's spring clean-up collected 112.32 tons. He noted that many people continue to violate the rules of the annual special collection and many items go uncollected.
The committee in the past has discussed changing the clean-up event to a central drop-off location as a way to stop violators. They opted, however, to keep the practice unchanged, noting many residents don't have the means to transport items.
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