PORT ALLEN — Some City Council members are entertaining the idea of doing away with the city’s curbside recycling service as a possible alternative to boosting residential trash collection fees.
Mayor Roger Bergeron recently proposed two rate increase options as a way of saving about $300,000 the city otherwise would have to spend on recycling subsidies during the rest of its contract with Progressive Waste Solutions.
The city entered into a five-year contract with the waste management company in August 2011, Bergeron said.
Port Allen charges households $17 a month for trash collection, officials said, but pays the company a $2.49 per month subsidy to provide curbside recycling for each household.
The mayor previously said the company is actually paid $19.49 monthly to provide both services to each household in Port Allen.
To address the issue, the mayor gave the council two options: Implementing an annual increase of 63 cents per year per customer for the next four years, or instituting a $1 increase per customer annually for the next four years.
Bergeron said the 63-cent option would generate an additional $151,700 during the life of the city’s contract with Progressive. The second option would reduce 80 percent of the city’s expected loss by generating $240,000 in additional funds.
Although City Council members indicated they understood the reasons behind the mayor’s proposals, several of them expressed hesitation about going forward with the rate increases.
They argued that rate increases would be unwelcome because most of the city’s residents are senior citizens on fixed incomes.
As an alternative, Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence suggested discontinuing the recycling service, since many residents are not making use of it.
“We have very few people who are recycling,” Lawrence said last week. “I spoke of bins being placed at specific locations around town where (residents) can drop off their materials instead. That might help cut down on the costs.”
Before the curbside service began, Lawrence said, the city offered designated locations where residents could find bins to drop off material and goods for recycling.
“We’ve been trying to educate the public for years — especially the kids — about recycling,” Lawrence said, but “ it never really caught on like it was supposed to.
“If you drive down the avenues, you’ll see all the paper they’re just throwing on the ground,” she said. “It’s just not sinking in.”
Councilman R.J. Loupe said part of the problem lies with the contractor for allegedly failing to properly collect residents’ recyclable goods.
“I’m for recycling, I believe it works,” Loupe said. “But they got to pick it up, and that’s the problem. My wife and I would put ours out on the curb and it would just sit there for days, so I just poured it into the garbage can.”
Loupe said he’s also gotten calls from residents complaining that trash collectors were mixing goods from residential curbside recycling bins with the regular trash aboard the garbage trucks.
“We’re having some problems and I’m a little upset,” Loupe said. “What Mrs. Lawrence said is a good idea because it’s clearly not working right now — not the way it’s supposed to.”
Bergeron said nixing the recycling program makes sense fiscally since it would cushion the city’s shortfall, but he’s hesitant to do away with it because he feels residents would object.
“Are enough people using it where it would make a difference if we decided to eliminate it?” he asked. “Plus, I don’t know how easy it is going to be to go back and amend that contract to stop that service.”
Bergeron said the city’s contract with Progressive is based on serving 2,007 households in Port Allen.
The mayor said the city would probably have to survey those households to determine how many actually use the curbside recycling service.
“Just raising or asking for an increase is not the only alternative,” Bergeron said in regard to possibly doing away with curbside recycling service. “I’m not sure what the council’s wishes are, but it’s certainly worth exploring.”