Steamboat City Council won’t take action on bag fee proposal until next summer


— The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday delayed any action on a proposed fee for disposable shopping bags.

The City Council, by a 4-3 vote, directed staff to compile information by July 2012 about how bag fee ordinances have worked in other communities, feedback from retailers who would be impacted by charging customers and where revenue from the potential fee would be dedicated.

City Council President Cari Hermacinski and members Kenny Reisman and Scott Myller opposed the motion.

Despite the delay, Yampa Valley Recycles Board of Directors member Catherine Carson, who asked the City Council to consider the possibility of a paper and plastic bag fee at the Sept. 6 meeting, was encouraged by the action.

“The key positive step is that council is committed to continuing the discussion to reduce plastic in our community,” she said. “And they’ve committed staff to continue this discussion.”

Whether the city should approve a bag fee ordinance has been a contentious issue during the past several weeks. About 30 community members attended Tuesday’s meeting to hear a bag fee presentation from city attorney Tony Lettunich.

Of the 30, 15 people spoke about the issue, including 11 who supported a bag fee, three who opposed it and one who asked that nothing be done at this time.

City Council members said they agreed with many of the environmental concerns raised by community members and seemed to be in favor of finding a way to reduce plastic in Steamboat, but they weren’t sure a fee was the way to go.

Hermacinski said she thought voters should decide the issue, even though Lettunich said his research indicated that an ordinance that would require some retailers to charge for disposable bags was a “special fee” and not a tax subject to the provisions of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. By law, all tax issues must go to a vote of the people.

Council member Meg Bentley made a motion suggesting a 20-cent fee on disposable bags, which was amended to ban plastic bags altogether. She referenced a petition signed by more than 200 mostly Steamboat residents and another 20 letters to the City Council supporting a bag fee.

“I think it’s arrogant of our council and out of touch if we don’t support this clear majority of constituents,” Bentley said.

Her motion failed for a lack of a second.

Council member Walter Magill suggested that Steamboat see what takes place in other communities that are considering bag fee ordinances.

Aspen and Carbondale next month will consider second readings of ordinances to ban plastic bags and impose a fee on paper bags. Basalt has approved a first reading of an ordinance that would impose a fee on all disposable bags.

Council members Reisman, Bart Kounovsky and Jon Quinn said that they supported moving the conversation along but that they didn’t think the issue had been vetted with retailers and the community, including whether Steamboat simply should ban plastic bags.

Reisman opposed the motion to review a possible bag fee again in July because he thought it didn’t need to take that long. He suggested the City Council revisit the issue in January.

“The answers are in this community as to whether this is going to work or not,” Reisman said. “It’s within the logistics of this community and the people living in this community. It’s with the businesses; it’s with the locals; it’s feeling out the tourists and getting them educated this winter, which could easily happen if it’s not instituted until May 1.”

In other action

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council:

• Approved, by a 6-0 vote, a resolution to close the city’s defined benefit pension plan for volunteer firefighters. Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Ron Lindroth said the city is looking into a pension plan that is a better fit for volunteer firefighters. He said only future volunteer firefighters would be impacted by the change and those currently receiving benefits from the existing pension wouldn’t be impacted by the decision.

• Heard a presentation about the Seminars at Steamboat speaker series from MIke Forney, a member of the group’s executive board. Forney said the ninth year of the free series included five speakers, a first, and had attendance of 2,750. He said 190 donors contributed $48,000, and with the $1,000 provided by the city, Seminars at Steamboat nearly broke even. It had $51,000 in expenses. Forney said next year’s series would include speakers covering topics like the impact of China on the U.S. and the world, cyberterrorism, the aging of America and the economy and a special dinner and panel discussion about the Washington, D.C., political deadlock.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email


Scott Wedel 5 years, 8 months ago

“I think it’s arrogant of our council and out of touch if we don’t support this clear majority of constituents,” Bentley said.

Hmm, last time I checked 200 signatures was not a clear majority of SB voters. It is clearly arrogant to consider 200 signatures to be a clear majority.

She is not seeking reelection so we won't have the benefits of her superior logic on the city council for much longer.


exduffer 5 years, 8 months ago

Do not start bringing statistics into the argument Scott;)


CONative 5 years, 8 months ago

Hermacinski demonstrated logic and reason last night with her comments on the bag initiative. In summation, she said that, just because it is technically legal for the Council members to put the bag fee in place, that doesn't mean it's the right thing for them to do.

As for Bentley, it was embarrassing to watch her. She couldn't even figure out how to make a motion.


1999 5 years, 8 months ago

if YVR is truly passionate about this issue...I would think these next months would be a great oportunity for them to educate the public and perhaps find a way to give the reusable bags away for free.

perhaps even redouble the efforts to make recycling steamboat a priority.

as scott least we know who on CC thinks 200 people is a majority.


Scott Glynn 5 years, 8 months ago

Am I understanding this correctly? City Council is potentially deciding if they should force a private organization to charge me a fee to give to another private organization regardless if I support their cause or not? How is this different that the youth baseball association asking city council to force a special field use fee to all students attending Routt County schools to subsidize their programs? If their cause is of such a great concern to the majority of the population, their staff/volunteers/board of directors would have enough energy and momentum to fundraise for their programs. Like all of the other worthy causes that are community supported, it takes an internal effort to educate and convince your populace that this is an endeavor worth supporting. Not a mandate by way of a "special fee" imposed on everyone.


mtroach 5 years, 8 months ago

Nice statement scott, don't leave out all the guests to our town that will be stuck with this fee as they will know nothing of it till they are at the register. I think it will be an negitive mark to our guests to have this fee imposed on their grocery purchases.


JustAsking 5 years, 8 months ago

Why are bags the target? Isn't this just an obvious attempt by a group to grab $$$ for their own interests? Might some want to be on a payroll if there was "free" money coming in? ( they have done nothing to earn it but demand another party incur the expense of collecting it and hand it over.)

How about beer and wine bottles? Snow machines? Grazing cattle? Wood burning stoves and fireplaces? Would people think that was nuts?

Isn't this just about a group wanting to grab some "free" money?


Scott Ford 5 years, 8 months ago

I was very encouraged by the comments from Cari, Jon, Bart, and Walter. Is there a problem with plastic bags? - yes! How big is the problem locally? Were the solutions proposed Yampa Valley Recycles the right ones? I do not know. It was absolutely the right decision not to dismiss the topic but instead decide to move forward slowly. Council made the right decision to follow rather than be a trailblazer that could be down a path paved with good intentions but lead to a local implementation quagmire. The vote was surprisingly close.

I know I frustrated several of my Yampa Valley Recycle friends with my (not an urgent problem) position I gave during public comment. I appreciate what YVR is trying to do; I appreciate the passion and community involvement. However, I think we all realized that the devil is in the details with this type of initiative.

There is a lot to learn from other communities that are doing this. I am more than willing to help YVR identify communities that are similar in economic characteristics and population size and social demographics that have done something with plastic bags. I am confident that out of the 3,000+ counties in the United States we have a big enough pool of places to draw from we will find a few places that look enough like us to benefit significantly from their experiences.

Aspen and Telluride do not look a lot like Steamboat Springs. We do some of the same stuff but we are not the same type of communities. In Colorado, we look a lot more like Durango or Gunnison/Crested Butte than Aspen or Telluride. I am confident that as a community we will figure something out. However, it just may not happen as fast as some folks want it to.

It is more important to do this smart than to just do anything so we can say we did something.


A.J. Steiner 5 years, 8 months ago

Just a little clip by Tom Ross Tuesday, September 20, 2011 in the Today.

"Both organizations submitted detailed letters describing their activities, but they did not include enough detail about where the money has been spent to satisfy the commissioners.

“I’d like to see their overall budget,” Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. “When they’re asking for an increase, then I’d like to know why.”

Specifically, she said she did not understand the roles of the Sustainability Council’s four part-time employees. Commissioner Doug Monger observed that funding salaries tends to turn into a long-term obligation.

JustAsking, you nailed it!


CONative 5 years, 8 months ago

By the way, Scott Ford, you have to be careful about the comments you throw out in jest. I noticed one of the sustainability guys at the meeting said he would support your glazed donut initiative. Yikes!


Scott Wedel 5 years, 8 months ago

I think Cari is clever and I see her call that public needs to vote as an implicit skepticism of City Attorney's claim that it does not need a vote. She doesn't have to argue legal issues with the City Attorney when she can just say it is politically justified.

Scott F or Intrepid Reporter, As a reality check, I'd love to see an analysis of how long a crate of plastic shopping bags lasts and measure the volume of the crate. Then talk to the trash companies or the dump and get a idea of the total volume of trash brought to the dump each week and then calculate what percentage of trash consists of plastic shopping bags.

What so annoys me on this issue is that I know how little of the overall trash is plastic shopping bags. And that plastic in the ocean is not the result of local trash, but of cities that dump their trash into the ocean.

I know YVR doesn't want to hear it, but a local issue of far more impact is the amount of cardboard being put into the trash by local businesses.


Kevin Nerney 5 years, 8 months ago

My mother use to say to us kids "If Johnny jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you jump too?" Why must we always find out what other resort communities are doing? Do you think they (the other resort communities) say "Let's see what Steamboat is doing?" How about we just set the standard for US and the rest be damned. Use your head for something other than a hatrack (as my late father use to say) no bag tax let's move on and stop wasting time now and in the future.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 8 months ago

Hello, funding for Glazed Donut USA Initiative please.

This Initiative would receive wide public support. Tourists and residents both enjoy glazed donuts. Glazed Donuts are a sales tax generating activity.

We need $39,000 so we can strategically place signs directing the public to the nearest sellers of glazed donuts. We will also provide an outreach program to help more merchants stock glazed donuts so shoppers can also be reassured that there are never far from glazed donuts. We also plan on painting a mural honoring glazed donuts. We have had preliminary discussion to put it on the side of the police dept building.

We also proposed modifying the Town logo. The Town boot spurs logo can be replaced with a glazed donut with spurs and placed on all town vehicles.

Oh, Glazed Donuts USA!

Who else is with Scott Ford on this?


1999 5 years, 8 months ago

I think changing it to a glazed donut with spurs riding a bike and you'll have support from everyone in town.

it's truly brilliant.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 8 months ago

The other great advantage of Glazed Donuts Town USA is that the USA is becoming an increasingly obese country. We can try to compete with all of the other resort towns for the last 5 lean citizens looking for a place to vacation or we can set ourselves apart and lead the way in marketing towards the typical citizen that is somewhere between chubby and fat.

We can promote that we have tubing on snow or in rivers. We have golf courses with carts including a links course that is mostly flat. We have the summer Alpine Slide. How often is the word "suffering" used to describe bike racing? Well, geez, it is hard enough to find anyone that wants to work, much less suffer. Who thought it'd be good to market suffering in SB via Bike Town USA? What next? Waterboarding Town USA?

I say "NO" to suffering. I say "YES" to enjoyment and to Glazed Donuts Town USA!


sledneck 5 years, 8 months ago

Kevin, Yes, I do think other communities look at what Steamboat does, and we look at them and thats how multiple communities act in unison; not making WISE decisions but making SIMILAR decisions.

The herd mentality is alive and well in leftists and especially in the green community. Herds/ mobs do things that thinking individuals would NEVER consider. Ever hear of just ONE buffalo stampeding off a cliff?

Gustave Le Bon wrote a great book over a century ago called "The Crowd: A study of the popular mind". He discovered the phenomenon of mass psycology. Hitler studied his work and liklely used it to manipulate the masses during his rise to power.


Rob Douglas 5 years, 8 months ago

Why didn't Catherine Carson tell the City Council about this lawsuit and the associated studies demonstrating the public health dangers associated with cloth bags? And,

From the first link: Activists who have sought to ban or tax plastic bags—and those who seek to profit off of them—have based their arguments on inaccurate data and misleading statements. Repeated over time, many of these points have mistakenly been taken for fact. Unfortunately, this misinformation has led municipalities to consider or pass misguided laws that are anti-fact and anti-science.

ChicoBag, a maker of reusable bags, was knowingly using falsified promotional materials to advance its profits. In fact, ChicoBag's willingness to disseminate deceptive information went so far as sharing falsified NOAA documents with schoolchildren. Because ChicoBag carried this deception in ideas into schools and the commercial marketplace, Hilex Poly pursued a civil action against them.

With the recent settlement regarding ChicoBag's falsified documents and misleading commercial advertising, the extreme ideology of ban and tax proponents and the misinformation they've spread has been exposed. Untrue marketing claims—including falsified government documents and websites—have been discredited, and the foundational basis for bans and taxes has been exposed as a fraud.


Rob Douglas 5 years, 8 months ago

From the second link in the above post, repeated here:

"The purpose of this study was to assess the potential for cross-contamination of food products by reusable bags used to carry groceries. Reusable bags were collected at random from consumers as they entered grocery stores in California and Arizona. In interviews, it was found that reusable bags are seldom if ever washed and often used for multiple purposes. Large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and coliform bacteria in half. Escherichia coli were identified in 8% of the bags, as well as a wide range of enteric bacteria, including several opportunistic pathogens. When meat juices were added to bags and stored in the trunks of cars for two hours, the number of bacteria increased 10-fold, indicating the potential for bacterial growth in the bags. Hand or machine washing was found to reduce the bacteria in bags by > 99.9%. These results indicate that reusable bags, if not properly washed on a regular basis, can play a role in the cross-contamination of foods. It is recommended that the public be educated about the proper care of reusable bags by means of printed instructions on the bags or through public service announcements."


JustAsking 5 years, 8 months ago

Given the evidence that Rob presented maybe the city should ban cloth bags? I certainly don't want someone's disease infested cloth bag on the register belt next to my fresh produce do you?

Has their cat been tromping all over the bag after being in the cat box? Was the dog sitting on it in the back seat of the Subaru after the poop walk on the core trail?

Maybe in the best interest of public health we should have stiff fines for anyone bringing a cloth bag into any public place? Wonder how much "free" money that would generate that could be used to promote another misguided cause?


Rob Douglas 5 years, 8 months ago

The study concludes: 1) Consumers almost never wash reusable bags 2) Large numbers of bacteria were found in every reusable bag, but none in new bags or plastic bags 3) Coliform bacteria including E. coli were found in half of the bags tested 4) Bacteria were capable of growth when stored in the trunks of cars 5) A potential significant risk of bacterial cross contamination exists from using reusable bags to carry groceries 6) Hand or machine washing reduced the numbers of bacteria in reusable bags by >99.9% (Unfortunately, almost no one interviewed ever washed their reusable bags. Public unawareness of the potential risks seems almost universal.) 7) Requiring printed instructions on reusable bags that they be washed between uses or the need to separate raw foods from other food products

Based on this one study - and because my feelings tell me it's true - the City Of Steamboat Springs should ban the use of reusable bags. After all, it has been demonstarted that people using reusable bags are too stupid to decide for themselves to either wash their reusable bags or use non-reusable bags. As these reusable bag people are too stupid to make the individual choice to protect the environment and stop spreading deadly bacteria in our grocery stores, it is of utmost importance that our City Council protect us from these people that are too stupid to make the choice to stop using bags that are a threat to the public health of this community. Finally, children are at the most risk of being poisoned by these reusable bags felons because their parents are too stupid to make the choice between an infected reusable bag and a clean store provided plastic bag that will end up on Mt. Everest or in the Atlantic Ocean by sunset of the day of use. Therefore, if this community loves children it will ban reusable bags and by decree mandate that we all share a group hug.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 8 months ago

Rob, Well, obviously if your reusable shopping has not been recently cleaned then it should not be allowed in the stores. And thus, we should have a government mandated reusable shopping bag cleaning service.

Once you've decided that government makes your decisions for you then it is easy to determine what else is required to prevent individuals from making incorrect decisions.


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