A group of 13 citizens turned out at the usually empty Owls Head-South Thomaston-Thomaston Solid Waste board meeting Jan. 11 to seek answers about a change being instituted.

Most were present, it seemed, after receiving a letter from a longtime commercial hauler who was upset that the cooperative was putting a halt to his access to the facility after hours.

"If it isn't broken, don't fix it," resident Patricia Snow said, in trying to find out why the change was being implemented.

"The DEP {Department of Environmental Protection} requires the towns to monitor their facility," Jan Gaudio said. "We've been out of regulation for 30 years."

Chairman Bruce Colson explained that someone going into the facility after hours is only part of the problem because of liability concerns. The other part is the unknown weight of loads being trucked out of the facility.

"The goal is to truck between 12 and 14 tons of waste per truck," he said. If loads are allowed to be dumped after hours, there is no way to account for that weight.

Colson said some of the loads have been up to 18 tons, which is against the law.

Member Peter Lammert explained that come April, when the OHSTT transfer station starts trucking its solid waste to ecomaine, the cooperative will be charged for those overages — which, in turn, will trickle down to the taxpayers.

As the OHSTT facility does not have a scale, commercial haulers go to Thomaston Recycling Inc. to be weighed. That weight slip is then to be brought to the transfer station before dumping so as to keep more accurate track of the weight.

"The problem with off-hours dumping is the load is not able to be weighed," board member Dave Matthews said. "We need 100 percent control."

Board member Skip Connell said the board has been working on the issue for more than two years. "We've bent over backwards to try to accommodate the haulers," he said.

Commercial hauler and board member Ronnie Porter said the changes are not the most convenient for him, either, but he has adapted his business practices to what the board has asked, and suggested others do the same.

At the recommendation of adding open hours, Gaudio said if the public is willing to open their pocketbooks, a lot of different approaches could be taken — such as extended hours and adding more personnel.

Matthews explained commercial haulers — no matter what town they live in — pay an annual fee to use the facility. "It doesn't prevent them from picking up in another town and bringing it to our facility," he said.

Matthews also said the haulers are not required to recycle, so if residents are recycling but having their trash picked up by a commercial hauler, it is all going into one place.

"We are the only transfer station in the Midcoast area that has allowed haulers to use the facility after hours," Matthews said.

He said if the facility flow starts getting clogged up with the change, the situation will be re-evaluated.

The transfer station is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Settling up with Maine State Prison

Also at the Jan. 11 meeting, the 30-year relationship between OHSTT transfer station and the Maine State Prison was severed.

For several years, the prison has used the cooperative without a contract for its recycling and disposal of solid waste, with the annual assessment remaining unchanged.

However, the 2017 assessment increased to $126,000, based on the estimated tonnage of 693, which equated to $182 per ton. Matthews said the previous assessment to the prison of $86,000 was unfair, and that the towns were picking up the cost.

"No contract turned out to be a bad decision on our part," Robert Walden, deputy warden of the prison, said. "We can't pay $126,000 when we are budgeted for $70,000."

The prison has paid quarterly for the annual service, and had a balance of $31,000, according to the transfer station.

Thrown into the mix is the transfer station's contract with Thomaston Recycling Inc. for the transfer of the prison's waste to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. — which does not expire until March and would cost the cooperative an additional $8,000 to honor its obligation.

However, TRI proposed earlier in the day "to accept a payment of $4,000 to relieve OHSTT of any further obligation to us on behalf of the MSP and to relieve TRI of any further obligation to haul for MSP."

In the end, Matthews made a motion to settle the MSP balance at $13,013.45 — a reduction of nearly $18,000.

"MSP wanted to cut the ties with OHSTT and vice versa … we were stuck in the middle," Beverly St. Clair of TRI said. "The offer we made gives everyone a clean slate to start the new year with."

The prison had already signed a three-year contract with the Waldoboro Transfer Station Jan. 9 to begin a Shared Service Agreement for solid waste disposal and recycling Jan. 16 — for $120 per gross ton, to be reviewed annually.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.