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Garbage collectors from Casella Waste Systems make their rounds in the Lakewood neighborhood of Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD — Some Pittsfield city councilors said Wednesday they aren’t ready to decide whether to support a proposal to reform trash collections. And with that, a majority agreed Wednesday that any such program should not begin before summer 2022.

At a Committee of the Whole meeting, councilors voted 8-3 to set July 1, 2022, as the earliest date on which such a proposal would go into effect.

The council agreed it needs more time weigh the modified “pay-as-you-throw” proposal and hear more from residents.

With the vote, “we let people know that they have over the next year to talk to us,” said At-Large Councilor Pete White, who introduced the proposal with fellow at-large councilors Earl Persip III and Peter Marchetti, also council president. Councilors debated reforms in how the city handles solid waste collection. They then tabled the measure, which Marchetti said would be revisited later.

Earlier in Wednesday’s meeting, councilors Anthony Maffuccio, Chris Connell and Kevin Morandi indicated they remain opposed to discussing the potential of implementing reforms during the pandemic, saying it would add an expense for residents during tough economic times. They also said that the discussion should wait until councilors can meet in person, which would open the debate to feedback to residents who don’t participate in Zoom sessions but attend in-person meetings.

Morandi has proposed capping waste disposal at 64 gallons per weekly collection, a proposal Marchetti said will be on the full City Council’s Tuesday docket. Marchetti said that proposal does not address how residents would dispose of waste above 64 gallons.

Councilors Patrick Kavey and Helen Moon clarified that in voting in favor of the amendment to set a goal for moving to a new waste disposal system, if one is ultimately approved, they were not actually endorsing the modified “pay-as-you-throw” proposal (PAYT) itself.

“I will support the amendment but I’m also not in the position to support the proposal just yet,” said Kavey, echoing Moon and also expressing opposition to the proposal as written, given the cost it could impose on residents. Kavey said constituents have been “very loud in their opposition” to the proposal, which he said needs more time for public comment.

While once supportive of the concept of PAYT, Moon said she now has reservations about it and worries about the economic impact it could have on the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“For some people really living on the margins and hanging on to try to exist and survive … it could be something that pushes them over the edge,” she said.

The idea now recommended for consideration in 2022 would have limited how much trash residents can set out for collection and offer incentives for recycling. Ending the current system would help curb the trend of rising trash collection costs and boost recycling rates, said Marchetti. By partnering with local businesses to offer rewards for recycling, it would also drive traffic to businesses after the pandemic subsides.

Under the proposal, residents would have to place their rubbish in an official bag before it can be removed by haulers. As written, residents would receive at-cost coupons for 104 15-gallon bags annually — and pay full cost after that. White said residents could use the at-cost bags on a schedule that works for them.

“We’re not saying any resident would have to put out one or two bags a week,” said White. “You might use three or four bags that week, and you’ll save the others for a lighter week.”

Marchetti invited the counselors to propose amendments to the measure. For example, councilors could decide to give residents different permutations of the at-cost coupons or bags of another size, or choose to offer some number of official bags for free.

The city would contract with WasteZero on the program, and it would be rolled out with a Rewards for Recycling initiative, which company spokesman Steve Lisauskas said could save individuals $65 a year. Lisauskas described the program as flexible, giving the city control over details and the power to cancel the contract at any time.

The unlimited trash collection forces light users such as many seniors into “footing the bill” for residents who generate much more trash, said Persip. Two communities in Berkshire county have unlimited, curbside garbage collections funded through taxes — Richmond and Pittsfield, said Finance Director and former Richmond Town Administrator Matt Kerwood.

The proposal was meant to kickstart discussion about the problem, said the councilors backing it.

“We know this is not the time to start this program, but it is the time to start this discussion,” Persip said.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.

Amanda Burke covers Pittsfield City Hall for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise. Find her on Twitter at @amandaburkec.