December 13, 2013

University of Maine at Farmington professor donates $288 to town to preserve local compost center

The money will renew the town’s DEP license for the compost center for two years while the town and university research the feasibility of adopting the project.

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON — A local professor donated $288 to the town to preserve the license for a compost center while the town and university study the feasibility of adopting the project.

The compost license belonged to Sandy River Recycling Association, whose future is uncertain after its largest customer, Farmington, dropped its membership with the nonprofit organization to contract with a private company.

Town Manager Richard Davis told the board of selectmen Tuesday that if the association dissolves, the license would be lost unless it was transferred to someone else before the association’s dissolution.

Tom Eastler, a University of Maine at Farmington geology professor, told the board that the compost pile could be a chance for the town and university to collaborate on a project that teaches students about recycling food waste. Sandy River Recycling was substantially subsidizing the compost pile, which costs $10,000 to run and makes about $3,000 per year from selling the compost.

“Composting is not a money making business, but it’s a good business because it’s important,” Eastler said.

Adopting the license is low commitment, Eastler said, because if the town adopted and renewed the license officials would have two years to decide if they wanted to use the license and run a compost center.

Davis said compost can lead to savings indirectly by reselling what would otherwise cost the town to haul as trash.

He also said the project could lead to costs by requiring town manpower to maintain the compost center.

The compost is sold for $15 a bucket load, which fills up a pick up truck bed, or $2 for 5-gallon pail. The majority is sold in bulk, said Jo Josephson, outgoing president of Sandy River Recycling Association.

Chairman Ryan Morgan said his concern is that if the town buys the license it may have invested in a project it doesn’t have the money to run.

“The biggest problem I see is that if we do that $288 licensing fee, then it becomes ours,” he said. “We don’t have the money in the budget.”

Eastler then volunteered to pay the licensing fee so there was no financial risk to the town while the two parties researched funding to run the project.

“I could be here first thing tomorrow morning with a check of $288 that I’d like to donate to the town to pay for that first transfer,” he said.

After further discussion, selectmen unanimously voted to accept Eastler’s offer.

Before to the vote, Selectman Dennis Pike quipped that “all state funding is basically shut down. It would seem to me they would have the decency to waive the fee.”

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252kschroeder@centralmaine.com
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