Basalt board approves 20-cent fee on bags
BASALT – The Basalt Town Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to approve a fee of 20 cents on each plastic and paper bag used at grocery stores starting in May.
One contingent of the board wanted to delay a decision until the Aspen City Council and Carbondale Board of Trustees debate in October if they want to enact a bag fee or go for a ban on plastic bags. Another Basalt contingent wanted to approve a ban on plastic and fee on paper bags.
After 90 minutes of debate, the fee won out despite objections by Mayor Leroy Duroux. He said Basalt should wait until Aspen and Carbondale chart their courses. A bag fee or ban must be a regional effort, he said, or Basalt could pay economic consequences.
“You can pooh-pooh me and say that will never happen, but can you be certain?” Duroux asked.
Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer objected to delaying action. Representatives from Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale agreed earlier this year on loose guidelines for a fee, she noted, then the Aspen council changed course at a recent meeting. The majority of the Aspen council has expressed support for a ban on plastic grocery bags and a fee on paper bags. Basalt “more or less got thrown under the bus by Aspen a few weeks ago,” Schwoerer said.
She said it was time for Basalt to move forward and let Aspen do what it wants to do.
Councilman Pete McBride said he talked to some of Aspen’s elected officials after they tabled a fee and talked about a ban a couple of weeks ago. “I came away with the impression they’re not very serious about a ban,” McBride said.
He wanted to move forward with the fee with flexibility to adopt a ban on plastic bags in the future.
Councilwomen Jacque Whitsitt and Karin Teague expressed support for approving a ban now rather than starting with a fee. Whitsitt said she has heard from midvalley constituents who oppose the fee.
“A lot of people have expressed [that] this is a government money grab on the fee,” Whitsitt said. She later added: “This fee thing has gotten crosswise in my craw.”
Before the end of the meeting she dislodged her distaste of the fee. When it became apparent that only she and Teague supported the plastic bag ban and paper bag fee, Whitsitt made a motion to approve the 20-cent charge.
Councilwoman Anne Freedman expressed strong support for the fee rather than the ban. She also didn’t want to wait to see how Aspen and Carbondale vote.
“If they go further, we can go there too,” Freedman said. “They’re going to follow with something.”
Councilman Glenn Rappaport wanted to delay a vote until the regional approach is clear: “I don’t see the urgency to tell you truth,” he said.
McBride responded that something needs to trigger Aspen’s action: “They will talk about it forever if we don’t do something,” he said.
Teague said, “I want to send a clear message we’re behind this.”
Rappaport acknowledged at another point in the meeting that “right now I’m kind of mixed up on this.” He voted with the majority.
The majority of the council members indicated that they would be willing to consider a ban in the future, if that’s the direction Aspen and Carbondale go. But the majority also said they won’t necessarily back off a single-use grocery fee bag is Aspen and Carbondale avoid both a ban and a fee.
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