$150 fee for trash gets final approval; Mayor acknowledges voter `hostility'.

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Byline: Danielle M. Williamson

GARDNER - The City Council last night gave final approval to a much-discussed trash ordinance that will establish fees for curbside pickup and disposal, and impose greater penalties for violations.

In his third presentation to the council since May, Mayor Gerald E. St. Hilaire said charging a $150 yearly fee for curbside pickup and increasing the price of city trash bags from $1 to $3.50 are the only viable ways to fill a roughly $1.5 million funding gap caused by the landfill's closing.

Bags have been sold for the higher price since mid-August.

The yearly fee will be split into four billing cycles, and will show up on residents' quarterly water and sewer bills next month.

"This is a logical, well-thought-out program to deal with a situation," said the mayor, acknowledging his frustration with the number of complaints and the amount of "hostility" his office has received since unveiling the plan earlier this summer.

Before a proposed ordinance becomes law, city councils must review and approve it twice. The first approval came last month, when city councilors unanimously supported two votes: one to create a $150 per household yearly fee for curbside pickup, and another that immediately increased the price of city trash bags from $1 to $3.50.

Weekly curbside disposal, in a barrel up to 40 gallons, is included in the yearly fee. Barrels must be labeled with residents' address and unit number. Eventually, stickers will be issued to distinguish paying residents' barrels from those who may try to cheat the system.

Garbage over 40 gallons, or 50 pounds, must be thrown out in yellow city bags, which can be bought in rolls of 10 at City Hall and at local grocery, hardware and convenience stores. City Hall recently started selling the bags individually.

The city has established an enterprise fund - an account comparable to those that hold water and sewer fees - to pay for the increased expenses associated with the landfill closure earlier this year. With the state-ordered closing, the city lost out on revenue from the landfill, and started to pay more to ship trash out of Gardner.

Trash disposal costs increased from $38 to $78 a ton, Mr. St. Hilaire said.

According to city officials...

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