YORK, Maine — City officials may form a partnership with business owners to address complaints about a lack of trash pickup at Short Sands Beach.
Garbage collection throughout York Beach ended in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and has not returned. Because of inflation and problems with the previous model, City Manager Peter Joseph said returning to municipal trash collection could cost up to $1.4 million a year.
On Monday, he proposed an alternative solution to Short Sands Beach’s trash problems. A public-private partnership with business owners, he said, could solve the problem without significant cost to taxpayers.
Business owners have complained about the lack of trash cans on the beach since they were removed three years ago for a carry-out, carry-out policy. Enough complaints came to town this year that the Selectboard held a public hearing on its pros and cons.
Joseph said one future model could involve reimbursing business owners for handling trash instead of hiring waste management workers.
“I don’t know what the number is right now,” Joseph said. “It’s not in the million dollar range.”
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A Short Sands Beach business says the carry-over policy is not working
Many people agreed that the carry-on, carry-out policy worked at Long Sands Beach.
But business owners say their stretch of Short Sands Beach across the street from the parking lot has seen its sidewalks littered with trash. They say beachgoers enjoy the business, buy food and then have no trash cans to dispose of their trash.
Jimmy Asprogiannis, who owns the Inn on the Blues in Short Sands Beach, said that leaves the business community to handle it. He said people dump their rubbish in his bins, adding to the amount they leave in their container.
“We’re getting stagnant,” Asprogiannis said.
On Monday, when Joseph told the board it could cost more than $1 million a year to bring back trash pickup for those business owners, Selectboard member Mike Estes pointed out that the cost previously was only about 200,000 dollar. Joseph said inflation is a factor and that the same approach as last time would be double the cost.
However, this previous model had some problems, Joseph said.
The service, he said, was provided by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which hired seasonal workers who were often high school and college students. Earlier in the year, Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ryan Coit explained that his department ended up having a hard time hiring because word got out that York parks workers were mostly moving trash all day.
Joseph also said the equipment used by Parks and Recreation employees was not designed for professional litter removal. He said trash was previously collected by pick-up trucks, while modern garbage vehicles cost between $1.5 million and $2.5 million.
“We could do it in pick-up trucks with stilt bodies with high school and college kids on summer vacation. We can do it for $400,000 to $500,000, you’re absolutely right,” Joseph told Estes. “To do it at the level that a waste management company would do it professionally would probably be double that.”
Joseph said he hopes a future work session with 10 to 20 business owners will lead to a solution. He noted how business owners say the added trash has led to higher trash collection costs because beachgoers dump their waste in their bins outside. Compensating those business owners could be the solution, he said.
“We’ve heard, ‘It’s costing me money,’ to take care of other people’s trash,” Joseph said. “It might be possible for them to pick up some of the inconvenience, but you don’t have to suffer financially.”
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York Beach business owners react to trash proposal
Asprogiannis, who has owned the Inn on the Blues since 2017, said he is open to hearing from city officials about alternative ways to deal with trash. Currently, he said, the lack of trash cans is a problem.
“I’m certainly open to ideas,” Asprogiannis said. “Even a partnership if you will.”
Some business owners say they want the city to look at other options. Kim Pare, who owns Beach Bliss Café, is already helping with trash removal by handing out trash bags to customers. She said she would like to know the city’s cost of strictly picking up trash on streets like Railroad Avenue, where she and others have storefronts. She suspects that would be cheaper than going back to a full beach cleanup.
“I’d just like to know what the budget is for the actual shopping streets versus the beach,” Pare said.
Joseph said city officials are early in their search for a solution and that a model for future garbage disposal has not yet been chosen. He said if residents prefer to have a new sanitation department that costs more than $1 million a year, the city can still choose that path.
However, Selectboard members said they are trying to keep costs down for taxpayers. They are preparing a budget to go before voters in May that they say keeps new spending low and no new positions.
Board members said they were interested in how they could address the problem while saving money, and encouraged Joseph to continue conversations with the business community.
“I think a private partnership is something that should be pursued,” said Selectboard member Marilyn McLaughlin. “We want to help, but we can’t do it alone.”