Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Ability to Look Forward

I live in a small town in Maine.  I'm not overly happy here.  Maine is a great place to visit but living here is another matter all together.

The town I live in started this program called PAYT - Pay As You Throw.  Basically it was a tool designed to have more people recycle thus lowering our dumping fee at the facility in another town that takes our trash.  PAYT meant we had to purchase special trash bags to put our trash in or it wouldn't be picked up.  It passed the Town Council who saw it as a way to save money.  A lot of citizen's liked the idea of recycling more and tossing less.  This town has it pretty easy in the recycling area.  We toss all of our recyclables in the same bin - no sorting and the town picks it up curbside weekly.

So the plan sounds great right?  Oh but not so fast.  First people complained because they had to buy special bags.  The plan was to recycle more so yes we had to pay for bags but we'd use less bags if we actually did recycle.  Most people understood the concept and started recycling like crazy.  Our town sent less and less to the "dump" and more to the recycling center saving the town money.  Hooray!

Well it would have been hooray if some people could have just gone with the flow.  But no, we had those who just refused to do it calling it another tax snuck in by the Town Council.  Even though we were saving money, they felt paying for the bags was a tax.  The Council started to cave in.  Those people who didn't like it started a petition drive to have a question on our Novermber ballot to try and repeal the law.  They stated we didn't actually vote to do this so we shouldn't have to do it. 

November rolled around - they won.  Not by a lot but they still won.  Hooray for them!  No more bags to buy and the town even offered to buy back bags if we wanted to get rid of them.  I looked around my neighborhood and the trash that came out the next week was astronomical. Seems some people just stored the trash in their garages all summer.  I started seeing less and less recycling.  One person in my general area now puts out 5 trash barrels a week but no recycling.  During the PAYT days they had two barrels of trash and one recycling....back to old habits.

Now we're in March.  Our town has a shortfall in revenue caused by this lack of ability to look forward at the big picture.  Our Town Manager was forced to lay off the Town Clerk - 39 years with the town, Public Works Maintenance Supervisor - 31 years with the town.  At the end of the fiscal year he will eliminate a fire training officer, a unfilled position as a mechanic, 4 equipment operators for Public Works, a police officer (position currently vacant), a police records clerk, 2 part time custodians, and a grant writer.  Two people will see their positions cut from forty hours a week to thirty hours a week.  Funding for the town libraries, both of which are considered private and raise a lot of their own funds, will be cut as well as other outside services ranging from mental health related to food pantries.  Our Town Manager even looked into closing one of our fire stations, near the airport and industrial area to try to come up with the cuts necessary to appease some members of the Town Council.

The Town Manager is in a no win situation.  He's done his job and looked for ways to cut.  The Town Council's good ol' boy network is again running strong with them voting NOT to accept the budget which had cuts equaling $1.7 million.  They say it's not acceptable as they promised no increase in taxes.

I see this man taking the fall for their inability to do anything except swagger around town like they own the place.  We have three very wonderful Town Council reps who are trying hard but the vote on just about everything is 4-3 with the win going to the good ol' buy network.

All this because we were too lazy and too cheap to recycle and purchase special garbage bags.  That might not be the whole problem in a nutshell but it sure started there.  These council members were to afraid to stand up to those who wouldn't or couldn't understand how much money we could save and how much nicer our environment was going to be with less trash going into a landfill.  Even if the town had given away thousands of bags for free I still believe we'd be in the same situation.  It's sad to thing some people freak out over being told to use special trash bags.  The more you recycle the less bags you use.

All this because of some purple trash bags.


Unknown said...

What a wonderful story. It is amazing the effect trash is having at this time in the world. Pretty soon we are going to run out of placed to put it all and the sad part is 70% could be composted and returned right back into the ground.
There is a town here in Colorado that has required all businesses as well as every residential home to recycle & compost. Of course people hate change, but it is worth it in the long run and the money & space it will save in the long run. Sometimes change is good and if they would try a little it would really make them feel good. Thank you for taking the time to write this and making us think. I hope you sent it in to your local paper

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