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AZTEC — Crowds overflowed the Aztec City Commission chambers Tuesday evening as the commission discussed increasing trash rates and adding curbside recycling.

The Aztec City Commission approved publishing notices informing residents that their trash rates will increase. The ordinance increasing trash rates will likely be approved in March and, if approved, the rates will increase by $3.47 on March 22. The rates would then go up again by $6.68 in September when the city adds in curbside recycling.

The City Commission voted 3-2 in favor of publishing the notice. Commissioners Austin Randall and Sherri Sipe voted against it. Sipe had concerns with the impact of the utility rate increase on customers. Randall questioned whether items placed in recycling would be recycled or mixed in with trash at the landfill.

Some of the residents entered the commission chambers carrying postcards they received in the mail urging them to oppose the increasing trash rates, which are due to a new trash contract.

The card claimed the new contract would lead to a 43 percent increase in trash rates in the city. City Manager Steve Mueller issued a statement Tuesday countering that claim.

The current trash rate is $10.53 for residents with a single trash receptacle. The new contract will increase that rate to $14 a month, approximately a 33 percent increase.

The cards claimed all the utility rate increases this year will increase residents’ monthly bills by $58 to $68. The city’s statement did not address the other utility rate increases scheduled for this year.

Residents attending the meeting were divided on whether they wanted curbside recycling. The people who spoke in opposition to the recycling were concerned with the increased costs.

“There’s a lot of us who recycle,” said Mary Larue Hunter. “Some of us don’t want to pay the extra for recycling.”

Durango, Colorado, resident Angela Horn spoke on behalf of her mother, who lives in Aztec and is on a fixed income.

“I’ve watched her utility bills go up and up and up here in Aztec,” she said.

Horn said her mother now pays $250 a month in utilities and $225 a month in rent.  Horn said $15 to $20 can pay for a prescription her mother needs.

“I understand the concern about folks having a hard time adjusting to a service increase, but I believe the thing about change is that people adapt,” said Aztec resident Kathryn Pettijohn. “We adapt our processes, our routines and even our finances. For an individual or a family on a budget, $7 might mean one fewer meal out a month, coffee at home or a few generic choices at the store. Instead think of it as it’s only $7 to keep needless waste out of the landfill. It’s only $7 to conveniently collect and transport materials that can be made new again and keep from generating even more waste.”

Residents who spoke in favor of recycling emphasized that communities around the country offer curbside recycling.

“Curbside recycling is something that I’ve never lived without before I moved to Aztec,” said Christa Chapman.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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