Basalt to hold hearing Tuesday on bag fee |

Basalt to hold hearing Tuesday on bag fee

Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesA shopper pushes a cart, laden with grocery-filled plastic bags, through the City Market parking lot in Basalt on Monday. A proposed fee on plastic and paper bags will be the topic of a hearing Tuesday.

BASALT – Residents will get their chance Tuesday to sound off about Basalt’s proposed 20-cent-per-bag fee on both plastic and paper.

The Basalt Town Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and first reading of a proposed ordinance on the grocery bag fee at 6:50 p.m. If the Basalt council approves a first and second reading, the bag fee would affect shoppers at the City Market and Clark’s Market in Basalt.

The bag fee is part of a coordinated waste-reduction approach with Aspen and Carbondale called Waste Free Roaring Fork.

The Aspen City Council considered the bag fee at its meeting Monday night and Carbondale’s trustees will take up the issue in September.

The majority of the Basalt Town Council expressed informal support for a bag fee during a June 28 work session with the Basalt Green Team, a committee of residents who advise the council on environmental issues. The Green Team wants the council to implement the bag fee as soon as possible.

“The Basalt Green Team feels that voluntary approaches to bags have not been sufficient to drastically reduce the use of disposable bags over time,” Basalt planning director Susan Philp wrote in a memo to the council. “The Green Team is advocating a fee on single-use bags, not a ban.”

The issue hasn’t been subject to public scrutiny yet in Basalt. Town Hall has received a handful of letters from people on both sides of the issue, according to copies included in a packet for Tuesday’s meeting. Woody Creek resident River Morgan urged the council to charge the fee.

“I am surprised Aspen and Basalt have not already adopted an ordinance years ago, but I am pleased to see that it is seriously being considered,” Morgan wrote.

But Basalt business owner Richard Stumpf said instituting the bag fee is shortsighted for several reasons. Many people re-use plastic bags for trash, and to transport items and pick up after dogs, he said. Eliminating plastic bags could result in leaving more trash out in the community because people won’t have a convenient bag to put the trash in, he said.

Stumpf also questioned the net environmental benefit of using reusable bags rather than single-use bags. Coal and oil is still used, in the form of electricity and fuel, to manufacture reuseable cotton bags, Stumpf wrote. He predicted that many people will shop elsewhere if Basalt institutes the bag fee.

“The economical impact of posing this tax will be disastrous to Basalt, unless you are hoping the revenue generated from this tax will make up for the lost revenue of sales as a result of people shopping elsewhere,” Stumpf wrote.

If a fee is approved, Basalt will consider returning 5 cents per bag to the grocers to offset their costs of administering the program. The town’s share of revenues will be plowed back into education about the program and other efforts to reduce waste, according to Philp’s memo. The town would provide reusable bags to residents and visitors, organize community cleanup events, create a website that shares information about waste reduction and pay for administration of the program.

The council will debate all aspects of the proposed fee, including when to implement it. The meeting is at Town Hall.

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