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Plastic-bag fee opponents near goal

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Those opposed to a 10-cent fee on disposable plastic and paper bags at Durango supermarkets have moved closer to their goal of getting the issue before the voters.

As of Friday, they had collected more than 314 signatures, and 242 have been verified by the city, said Kristen Smith, a member of the anti-fee group and a failed candidate for Durango City Council earlier this year.

Smith said they are averaging about a 25 percent rejection rate on the signatures they have collected to date.

The group must collect a minimum of 344 signatures, or 10 percent of those who voted in the last election, to qualify for the ballot.

Their 30-day deadline is Sept. 6, but city officials have said they would prefer them to return the ballots by Friday, to have time to get the issue on the November ballot. Otherwise, the city might have to pay for another election in December, said City Clerk Amy Phillips.

The City Council voted 4-1 earlier this month to implement the fee beginning March 1, 2014, but a ballot initiative would affirm or nullify the ordinance.

The fee would be imposed only at the city’s largest supermarkets: Walmart, the two City Markets and Albertsons.

Fee opponents have given several reasons for opposing it.

It has been called a “feel-good” ordinance that would not do much for sustainability or reducing litter.

Fee opponents have argued that reusable bags are not sanitary and E. coli could result from mixing vegetables and meat in the same dirty bags through time.

Foes also have said tourists would be turned off by the fees, which some see as a tax.

City Councilor Dick White said at a council meeting in July that the fee can’t be considered a tax because it would apply only to those who choose to purchase the plastic or paper disposable bags. Consumers would be paying a fee to use disposable bags.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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