Saturday, December 7, 2013
PITTSTON — A strong show of support from residents at a town meeting Wednesday night increased the likelihood the town will drop its waste disposal contract with an Augusta facility shared by several other communities.
The town pays $40,000 — $15 per resident— to allow its residents to use Hatch Hill Solid Waste Disposal Facility in east Augusta. In an effort to cut costs, however, town officials are considering not renewing the contract at the end of the year.
Around 20 residents at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Wednesday at the Town Office voted in support of leaving Hatch Hill. The vote was an informal poll to gauge public support, but only one resident voted to keep the contract.
Instead of Hatch Hill, which is used for waste disposal by eight area communities, Pittston could sign an agreement with Pine Tree Waste, a private company with a waste disposal facility in West Bath, said Jane Hubert, board chairwoman.
The change would affect only where residents can bring rubbish such as used mattresses or old tires, because curbside pickup of household trash is done by private contractors, Hubert said.
She said the trash hauling services that operate in Pittston were alerted of the potential change and told the town it won’t be a problem, because they already take trash to different facilities.
A drawback of the West Bath service, besides the distance, would be higher minimum and disposal fees for residents to dump rubbish.
However, a company representative told residents Wednesday night that the company would lower its minimum fee from $25 to $20 and work out ways for frequent users such as construction businesses to save money.
Pine Tree Waste is owned by Casella, a waste management company headquartered in Vermont.
Hatch Hill, which charges a minimum fee of $6 for rubbish, is operated as a self-sustaining business within the Augusta city government, with its own budget and revenue streams.
Besides Augusta and Pittston, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Randolph and Whitefield also pay to be member communities.
Individual users of Hatch Hill have to pay $25 for an access sticker good for two years. Pine Tree Waste doesn’t charge a membership fee, but its fee for dumping rubbish is $103 per ton, compared to $70 per ton for landfill waste in Augusta.
Pittston isn’t the only community considering dumping Hatch Hill.
The city of Gardiner has a committee researching alternatives to the Augusta facility and the nearly $90,000 the city pays each year for the service.
City Manager Scott Morelli said it will be a few months before the committee is ready to present a recommendation to the City Council. The committee may recommend sticking with Hatch Hill, but the contract has been identified as a possible avenue to cost cutting.
Morelli presented a sobering projection of the city’s fiscal budget for next year at a City Council meeting Wednesday. The city is expected to face a $540,000 shortfall next year, nearly $100,000 more than previously predicted.
“With a large deficit looming next year and nothing left to cut that doesn’t affect the services we provide, we owe it to our residents to look at every cost to see if there is a better and cheaper way,” Morelli said in an email Thursday.
Ann Pistell, a member of the Randolph Recycling Committee who recommended dropping Hatch Hill, said at the meeting Wednesday night that both Gardiner and Hallowell also were considering not renewing their contracts.
Hallowell City Manager Michael Starn, however, said that’s not the case.
“We have not been looking into that issue at all,” he said Thursday. “We don’t really have any realistic options to Hatch Hill.”
Starn said the city could set up a regional transfer station to meet the state requirement of providing waste service, but it’s not a high priority.
Maine law requires municipalities to provide waste disposal services for residential and commercial solid waste generated within the municipalities.
But how they provide that service can vary, said George MacDonald from the sustainability division of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Some, such as Brunswick, operate their own landfill; others, such as Readfield and Wayne, run joint transfer stations, MacDonald said.
Municipalities also can contract with private waste management facilities, which is what Pittston could do to meet the state requirement. MacDonald said he doesn’t know of any municipality that doesn’t have some type of contract or agreement for its waste disposal.
Karen McNaughton, the Pine Tree Waste representative at the meeting Wednesday, said the town could sign a contract if it will ease the town officials’ minds that they’ll be in compliance with state law.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663