Malden will retain trash fees

Council votes not to repeal program

By Travis Andersen
Globe Correspondent / November 22, 2009

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The Malden City Council voted, 6 to 5, on Tuesday to reject a measure to study the impact of changing or even repealing the city trash fee, in effect killing debate on the controversial program for at least six months.

Councilors Gary Christenson, Neil Kinnon, and James Nestor sponsored the measure, which would have sent the program to both the ordinance and finance committees for review, with the understanding that no changes would be made to the program before July 1.

All three sponsors cited the vote on Election Day - when about 5,700 residents voted in the majority to repeal the fee, by a roughly 3-to-1 ratio - as the reason for bringing the measure.

“Plus there are two new members coming on that have indicated some openness to at least looking at the issue again,’’ Christenson said, referring to Councilors-elect Deborah Fallon and Barbara Murphy.

Kinnon is more than open; he delivered an impassioned speech in support of the motion on Tuesday, noting that the ballot question failed due to a 59-year-old ordinance that requires one-third of all registered voters - or about 9,500 - to vote in the majority for a question to pass.

“There is no politician sitting at this table or in this City Hall tonight that’s ever gotten more than 9,500 votes,’’ Kinnon said.

But Councilor Paul Condon, a staunch fee backer, warned that public services would suffer if the council repealed or altered the program. He also reminded colleagues that most registered voters - many of whom stayed home - did not cast a vote of any kind on the repeal question.

The fee, known as pay-as-you-throw, began in October 2008. The goal was to raise $2.5 million and save $600,000 in solid-waste disposal costs, officials said. In order to have their trash picked up, residents are required to purchase city of Malden trash bags, at a cost of $20 or $10 per box. In theory, residents pay only for trash they throw away. Weekly recycling also is mandated, according to a city ordinance.