Basalt group wants bag fee |

Basalt group wants bag fee

Proposed ordinance could go before City Council by May

— Basalt’s “Green Team” hopes to convince the Town Council to approve a fee on paper and plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores as soon as this spring, the members of the volunteer board decided Wednesday.

The Green Team, which takes the lead on environmental projects and advises the council, hopes to hammer out a proposed ordinance April 13, then discuss the cause with the council later in the month. In theory, the council could vote on the bag fee as early as May if the issue doesn’t hit a “hiccup” either legally or politically, town planner Susan Philp told the environmental group.

The Aspen City Council also is pondering a fee on single-use plastic bags as well as paper bags. It is uncertain whether the issue will be voted on in spring or later in summer, Ashley Cantrell, environmental health specialist for the city of Aspen, told Basalt’s Green Team. Aspen’s municipal elections are in May so that could influence consideration of the political hot potato.

In practical terms, Aspen also must find a way to get travelers staying in hotels and condominiums to embrace the program.

Basalt Green Team members said they see value in coordinating a bag fee with Aspen and other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley, but they want to forge ahead with their own ordinance.

“I don’t want Basalt to get caught up in Aspen’s political issues,” said Katie Schwoerer, a Basalt councilwoman and member of the Green Team.

Green Team member Tripp Adams agreed. “Why not be the leaders?” he asked.

Virtually all the details need to be worked out in Basalt, though Aspen’s draft ordinance will be used as a template. As the Green Team sees it, a fee of an undetermined amount — potentially 10 to 25 cents — would be charged per bag to shoppers at the El Jebel City Market, Clark’s Market and 7-Eleven. The goal is to reduce the use of plastic bags and promote use of reusable bags. People who bring their own bags wouldn’t pay the fee.

Adams said he doesn’t detect much controversy in Basalt about the proposal. Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane assured him it will come once an actual ordinance is proposed.

“The mud is out there. We haven’t discovered it yet,” Kane said.

Cantrell said the proposal has spurred a considerable amount of controversy in Aspen. Critics don’t want the government infringing in another aspect of their lives. Supporters want the government to lead environmentally-friendly action.

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