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Single-Use Bags Return To City Council Discussion

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The topic of single-use bags, contested between community members and environmentalists, has come back to the Athens City Council.

City Council member Jennifer Cochran again introduced a measure about plastic bag use on Monday night, this time as a resolution to “encourage” residents and business owners to be mindful of how they’re using the bags.

“After much conversation and feedback from citizens as well as business, I’m bringing forward a resolution declaring single-use carryout bags an environmental concern,” Cochran said on Monday.

The resolution, which was read Monday for the first of three readings before approval, “encourages consumers in the city to use reusable products,” and encourages retailers to use “100 percent recycled-content single-use bags.”

The resolution also includes a section asking city administrators to work with environmental groups to collect data on how bags are used and disposed of throughout the city.

“We will revisit the issue in a year’s time,” Cochran said.

The issue was up for approval as an ordinance in June, but concern from the community led to the removal of the proposed ordinance. The ordinance would have added a 10-cent fee to single-use shopping bags.

The ordinance was tabled by Cochran, and she  said she wanted to “revise” the ordinance to reflect public comment she had received on the matter.

This time, though, she wants to focus on helping the city make the choice.

“There are a lot of facts out there about the environmental impact both in our waterways as well as the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the production of these products,” Cochran told the council.

Also at Monday’s meeting, an ordinance to authorize the city auditor to advertise and put out for bid a project that would upgrade the water treatment plant was adopted.

Councilmember Kent Butler introduced the ordinance, saying the 50-year old building had a “severe need” for upgrades to electrical systems, wiring, mechanical motors, switchgears and other systems.

The ordinance authorized City Auditor to borrow an estimated $625,000.

Butler said a second phase to the plant improvements would happen within the next five to 10 years.