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Compost support is 50-50 - until rate increase

A recent poll found Forest Grove residents split over whether to implement a new compost and recycling program for Waste Management customers.

Since August 2015, the city's staff and its Sustainability Commission have been working with representatives from Waste Management, Nature's Needs in North Plains, and Washington County to devise a way for Forest Grove residents to begin throwing their food waste into their yard debris bins..

At an Oct. 12 city council work session, Community Development Director Jon Holan announced the compost and recycling program would come with an estimated $1.48 per month increase to garbage service rates.

During a Dec. 9 public forum on the program and the rate increase, a survey of the eight residents present found that six were in favor of the change.

Afterward, officials determined a broader survey would be necessary, leading to an online poll of 101 citizens.

At Monday's city council meeting, city Administrative Services Director Paul Downey revealed the results of that survey.

Question: Should Forest Grove implement the composting program?

Response: Yes — 50 percent; No — 50 percent

Question: What if the new program were to add $1.48

per month to your garbage bill?

Response: Yes — 43 percent; No — 57 percent

Additionally, Holan has received five phone calls opposing the program from callers who say they are on fixed incomes and would not be able to afford the extra cost — which has since been re-estimated to $1.45.

At Monday's meeting, Councilor Victoria Lowe praised the city's continued commitment to sustainable initiatives before the council voted 5 to 1 to approve continued study of the program.

Councilor Elena Uhing was an excused absentee, and only Council President Tom Johnston voted no.

The next steps for city staff will be:

Bring a rate increase proposal before the council for a vote.

Inform the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that the city will pursue the program, thus qualifying for a $27,256 grant that would provide 5,000 residents with new kitchen pails for collecting food refuse.

Begin working with Washington County on educational materials to help residents for the program's May 1 rollout.

UPDATE (Jan. 14): Original story misidentified some of the organizations involved with this process. The News-Times regrets the error.