BOUNTIFUL — Bountiful residents who are unhappy with the city's decision to impose a citywide mandatory recycling program are skeptical they'll be able to get enough signatures to force a public vote on the issue.

Utah law states the group has 45 days from the date an ordinance is passed to file enough valid signatures with the city, and that deadline is today.

The Bountiful City Council voted in May to begin an optional recycling program in the city, but it then opted in a 3-2 vote on July 22 to make the program mandatory.

The formal ordinance was adopted Aug. 12, says Jeff Novak, chairman of Coalition for Ethics and Accountability in Government.

As of Thursday, Novak said his group had collected just a few hundred of the 2,644 valid signatures needed to put the recycling issue on the ballot. He said it will strive to get as many as possible today.

Novak said his group is pursuing a referendum vote for November 2009 because he and others disagree with the city's choice to make recycling mandatory.

In November, Bountiful surveyed residents to get their opinions on the recycling question, and 58 percent of those who responded were against a mandatory program while 42 percent were for it.

The council's decision to implement an opt-in program was met with applause. But less than two months later, some residents were chagrined to learn the council had changed its mind.

City officials, in working out a contract with Allied Waste, whose bid to provide the service was accepted in May by the council, learned Allied Waste wanted the city to guarantee a certain revenue level over four years to make it worth the company's efforts to pick up recycling.

If 10 percent of city homes had joined the program, they would have paid $8.13 a month for pickup from Allied every other week.

That's cheaper than the $10 monthly fee paid by about 150 homes that subscribe to a service provided by Mountain West Recycling.

The city needed at least 1,250 households to sign up for the optional program to ensure the city wouldn't have to make up the difference in missing revenue, said city manager Tom Hardy. About $8,000 a month was the worst-case projection.

As part of the July 22 vote, the council opted to go with Waste Management for the mandatory program.

Novak said that almost immediately he began receiving calls asking what could be done.

"The bottom line is I knew a lot of people whose voices were not heard," Novak said.

Novak said he wished the City Council had tried to involve the public more in its decision-making process, perhaps through holding open houses, but he and members of the coalition didn't hit on the idea of a referendum vote until recently, probably too late to succeed.

Starting sometime in December, Waste Management will begin delivering special cans so the company can begin collecting recyclable materials.

And in January, residential bills will begin reflecting an increase of $3.03 for recycling.

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