Indicted Massachusetts mayor ends PAYT program ahead of recall election
- After years of discussion, Mayor Jasiel Correia announced on Tuesday the end of a pay-as-you-throw program in Fall River, Massachusetts. Correia called it "a promise fulfilled" and said he informed contractor WasteZero last week, according to the The Herald News.
- As of Jan. 29, the city's PAYT account reportedly had $1.3 million for the current fiscal year. The program is typically budgeted to generate $2 million in annual revenue, which Correia claims will be replaced by new funding in the recently proposed FY20 state budget.
- During a press conference, Correia said this was "not a trick, not a political announcement." NBC10 reports that March recall election campaign signs touting the program's elimination were spotted shortly after the event.
Fall River's PAYT program, which was rolled out by a previous mayor in 2014, has proven unpopular among some residents. Following another mayor's implementation of a $120 trash fee, a significant number of residents reportedly opted out of municipal collection services. Correia canceled the fee after taking office in 2016, and had attempted to cancel the PAYT program multiple times prior to Tuesday's announcement. Most recently, he unsuccessfully sparred with the Fall River City Council over the move during budget negotiations last summer.
PAYT programs have been considered widely successful in Massachusetts, and the system is said to have cut Fall River's disposal tonnage nearly in half. Disposal costs have dropped accordingly. Incoming revenue from purchase of the designated purple bags has also helped provide funding for other city services, leading elected officials to question whether state funding will be a reliable replacement.
But for residents who view waste collection as an unquestionable right, rather than another metered utility, such programs can be unpopular. Most recently, municipalities in neighboring Connecticut have experienced pushback around a spate of pilot programs. Political opposition — largely driven by constituent opinions — has also slowed talk of PAYT in other states recently. Such resistance has led proponents to encourage new terminology, such as "save-as-you-throw" or "save money and reduce trash" (SMART), as a way to shift the conversation.
Given the tumultuous current state of Fall River's politics, it's possible the purple bags may not be gone for good. Correia was hit with 13 counts of wire and tax fraud in an Oct. 2018 federal indictment related to a failed app business, but refused to resign as mayor. His recall election is slated for March 12, with multiple opponents vying for the office.
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