Pittsfield City Council Wades Back Into Trash Solutions
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — "Trash talk" is back on the agenda at City Council.
President Peter Marchetti and Councilors at Large Pete White and Earl Persip requested that the City Council implement a "pay as you throw" system to solve the ongoing solid waste issue Pittsfield has grappled with for years.
Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio made a motion to file this petition, which failed 3-8, with Maffuccio, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, and Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell voting in favor.
The PAYT trash proposal will be sent to the Committee of the Whole and there will be a presentation and debate on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
The council wants to make sure that the public's voices are heard on this topic and encourage them to call into the February Zoom meeting.
If passed, the city would contract with WasteZero and Rewards for Recycling to assist with the creation of the PAYT system. In order to achieve this, all residents would be provided with 104 15-gallon bags free each year at cost. Any additional bags would be purchased with the cost of $1.50 per 30-gallon bag and $0.80 per 15-gallon bag.
The proposal states that implementation of this program could allow for the estimated savings of $500,000 or cost offsets to be used for other city services.
Seeing this as an important issue and conversation, the councilors requested for the petition to be referred to the Committee of the Whole.
The councilors also requested that the Code of the City of Pittsfield, Chapter 8, is deleted and replaced with a revised chapter including the PAYT program amongst other changes.
Pittsfield is one of the few communities that have unlimited trash, White explained, and the person who is putting out one bag of trash a week is subsidizing the person that puts out 10 bags a week.
In 2018, Mayor Linda Tyer's toter plan was trashed after nearly three years of debate. The concept of the toter program was to provide every household with a 45-gallon toter for trash and a 96-gallon toter for recycling. Any amount of trash over that amount, residents would need to purchase overflow bags. The program was seen as a way to decrease the amount of trash the city pays to dispose of each year by increasing the recycling rate.
In 2019, the idea of a pay-as-you-throw system was again raised but did not follow through.
Marchetti on Tuesday said contracting with both WasteZero and Rewards for Recycling actually could put money back into people's pockets because they have a program that allows residents to establish rewards programs with local businesses, giving businesses and the city an opportunity to collaborate and drive traffic.
Reportedly, this program has put an average of $127 into the pockets of residents in other communities.
Maffuccio was appalled at the proposal, feeling this not the time to hit residents with another fee when they are forced to stay home and accumulate more trash.
"First of all I would like to say, news flash folks, I can't believe during a global pandemic we are going to try to put another fee and burden on city residents when people are forced to stay home and yes, more garbage is being picked up," he said. "Come on folks, have a little compassion, have a heart here."
Maffuccio said unemployment rates are at a record high and people are struggling just to afford day-to-day finances such as rent, mortgages, taxes, insurance, and food costs. He said the city has about $8 million between certified free cash and other funds, meaning the city should use that money to address solid waste issues.
"This is mind-boggling to me," he added. "That we would even think of doing such an act even when the federal government recognizes the needs of Americans, that we are in a recession here folks."
Connell and Morandi concurred with Maffuccio's sentiment. Connell feels that having this debate over the Zoom platform will be limited for public input and questioned why it would be sent to the Committee of the Whole instead of the Ordinances and Rules.
Morandi said he will be submitting a petition at the next council meeting that, before anything comes forward, the Ordinance and Rules Committee to come back with a comprehensive recycling and trash plan that was never returned to the council.
At the 11th hour of passing the ordinance, Morandi said, it was suggested to have the Resource Recovery Commission look it over and make some tweaks, and they never reported back.
"I have a real problem with something else coming forward when we haven't gotten anything back from three years ago," he said. "There was a plan on the table, there was a lot of work put into Ordinance and Rules on solid waste disposing collection program and Councilor Connell and I also put a petition in for a comprehensive recycling plan that we don't have in the city, and the Resource Recovery committee dropped the ball and has never reported anything back."
Connell and Morandi's petition involved running a recycling education program in schools to teach children the importance and details of recycling, which will then help educate their parents. It also aimed to send out mailings to residents outlining the costs and what residents can do to help.
Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon said she is a big fan of WasteZero and pay-as-you-throw. She said the city should be mindful of the financial impact on residents as they move forward with the plan, but when it comes to mitigating the risk to the environment and speaking about global warming they don't have the time to wait.
"Unfortunately for all of us, I don't think that things like climate change and things that affect the environment stop because coronavirus is here," she said.
White explained that the plan is flexible enough that it can be revised and is not binding for years to come. He said it was not meant to be perfect at the time of this meeting, which is why community and council input will be taken into consideration.
Marchetti felt that some were against the program before they had an in-depth education on it.
If any community members have trouble accessing the meeting on Feb. 10, White encouraged them to get in contact with him or their ward councilor for assistance.