City ponders trash fee increases to cover landfill closure estimate

By Larry Di Giovanni | May 15, 2014
Photo by: Larry Di Giovanni David St. Laurent, left, Rockland's solid waste facility director, discusses trash fee options and landfill closure estimates with CIty Council members during the May 14 city budget meeting.

Rockland — The bulk of Wednesday's city budget meeting involved examining the possibility of raising residential customer trash drop-off fees and commercial trash hauler tipping fees. A raise in fees, of up to $143 per year, is under consideration to continue generating money for the Landfill Reserve Balance.

The city's budget for 2014-15, proposed at $10.5 million in general fund appropriations, is scheduled for approval during either the June 23 or June 25 budget meeting, interim City Manager Thomas Luttrell said. At issue Wednesday was the $1.8 million Municipal Solid Waste budget.

The city landfill on Limerock Street, which accepts about 4,000 tons of construction and demolition materials each year, is estimated to be full by 2018, said David St. Laurent, solid waste facility director. This will require its closure at a cost estimated between $1.5 million and $3 million. The landfill is a major revenue generator, he said, estimated to bring in nearly $842,000 during the upcoming budget year at current fee rates.

Currently, the Landfill Reserve Balance is $929,494. Keeping residential customer trash drop-off rates at $65 per year, and commercial trash hauler rates at $110 per ton for tipping fees, would create a negative impact on landfill closure of just over $21,000, St. Laurent said.

Customers dropping off trash at the city transfer station currently pay slightly more than a dollar per week for their sticker, typically paid for an entire year in May or June. All residential trash is taken from the transfer station to an incinerator in Orrington, the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company.

St. Laurent proposed a balanced budget that would raise the drop-off rate to $143 per year for a sticker, or $2.75 per week, while raising the commercial tipping fee to $132 per ton. St. Laurent said his proposal would balance the solid waste budget while adding an additional $165,443 toward landfill closure costs, keeping it final closure estimate on track for payment. More than 3,400 tons of residential trash are picked up yearly by city's commercial trash haulers, or about 72 percent of its residential trash.

St. Laurent emphasized that any approved sticker fee increases would not be seen by residential customers until May of next year.

City councilors, who said they did not want to significantly increase trash fees, spent time with St. Laurent plugging in different sticker fee and trash tipping fee numbers to lessen the potential increases. One compromise would involve raising sticker fees for drop-off customers to $100 per year, or $1.90 per week, and commercial tipping fees to $130 per ton. That would generate close to $100,000 for the Landfill Reserve Balance.

St. Laurent said the issue basically boils down to one of two options: keep fees the way they are, save less money for the landfill closure and thereby face the prospect of having to issue bonds to cover the final closure total; or increase fees and maintain a higher level of closure funding.

The landfill makes enough revenue to cover $76,000 in losses from the recycling program, which St. Laurent said has resulted from a private firm paying customers for cardboard and scrap metal when it opened. The landfill fees help to cover costs of both recycling and residential trash dropped off from sticker customers, he said.

Still another option the council is considering is to keep the landfill open but to lessen the amount of construction materials received, thus extending its life for decades.

“Functionally, we have three years to make some kind of significant transition,” Mayor Larry Pritchett said.

Comments (5)
Posted by: russell g york | May 17, 2014 09:19

don't the new gardens look nice at the transfer station how much did that cost the rockland tax payers



Posted by: James York | May 15, 2014 19:57

Good Point Ed & Virginia Slawson.  & New taxes from the hotel will sure be welcome!  Hard to believe that the city and a few of its "30-something professionals" would want to turn away $30,000-40,000 in new tax revenue from a new Main St development. SOS our taxes are too high in this city.



Posted by: Douglas E Collins | May 15, 2014 18:53

A private firm pays for cardboard?  Anyone know who they are?  We've been in business a few years now and I haven't heard about them.



Posted by: ED & VIRGINIA SLAWSON | May 15, 2014 17:25

With one of the highest mil rates in the state it should be payed for with our taxes!  Sorry, but enough is enough!  Want to make the landfill last longer? Stop commercial builders from being able to dump construction debris unless they pay taxes in Rockland.

 



Posted by: Susan P Reitman | May 15, 2014 16:18

Are you kidding me?   $143.00 a year for the pleasure of taking your own trash to the, stinky at times, dump!!!!.  The city is going to allow, I am sure, that fiasco 26 room hotel to be built in Rockland.  Let the city take the taxes generated by that hotel and keep our dump fees at the rate they are right now.  I am just waiting for the RSU13 budget to see how they are going to screw the homeowners this year.  And oh by the way, I have asked several time what is the square footage of the rooms in that proposed 26 room hotel and what how much is it going to cost to stay in the hotel?



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Larry Di Giovanni
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Larry Di Giovanni, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, is returning to his daily reporting roots in order to cover the city of Rockland for The Courier-Gazette. Originally from Athens, Ohio, his family includes one son, Tony.

Di Giovanni has covered news beats ranging from the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., to the largest tribal government in the United States — the Navajo Nation. He has also worked as a writer in the public education and higher education fields. He's an animal enthusiast and loves dogs.

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