Mid-Coast Solid Waste board approves food composting program

By Susan Mustapich | Nov 14, 2018

ROCKPORT — A contract for a food waste composting program was awarded to Scrap Dogs of Camden at the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corp.'s Nov. 7 board meeting. Food waste collection will begin this month.

The vote was contentious, with half of the board voting in favor of the contract and half  against.

Camden and Rockport board members voted in favor of the food waste composting pilot program. Lincolnville and Hope board members voted against the program. While each town has two votes on the board, the tied vote approved the contract, because each board member's vote is weighted based on town population.

Lincolnville members Keryn Laite and David Barrows objected to awarding the contract to Scrap Dogs, because Davis Saltonstall is an owner of Scrap Dogs, which will benefit financially, and he is employed part-time at the MCSWC transfer station in Rockport. In addition, the corporation did not use a competitive bid process.

At the Nov. 7 meeting, MCSWC Manager Jim Guerra confirmed that the one-year Scrap Dogs contract was reviewed and prepared by the corporation's attorney, Paul Gibbons, who determined that Saltonstall's employment at the transfer station did not create a conflict of interest under Maine law.

Guerra said Nov. 9 that managing food waste has been a board topic for years. The transfer station does not have the space to turn food waste into compost, and Scrap Dogs solves that problem at a lower cost than other composting businesses in the state, he said. Additionally, carbon emissions would be higher in transporting the food waste to another company, because the other companies are in Portland.

People can drop food waste off at the transfer station and obtain compost in the spring. Space will be allocated for residents to deposit the food waste into 35-gallon receptacles, which Saltonstall will oversee. Scrap Dogs will haul the food waste off site to Bo Lait Farm in Washington, where the compost is made.

Residents can choose one of two services. For a $10 monthly fee, they can drop off food waste, pick up a clean Scrap Dogs bucket, and receive about a half-yard of compost in the spring. Saltonstall said a half-yard is the equivalent of about 13 bags of compost sold by retailers. Residents can also drop off compost without paying a fee, using their own buckets, and then choose to purchase compost in the spring at a price set by MCSWC.

Scrap Dogs will be paid $45 per ton to haul the food waste off site, not to exceed $3,656 for the term of the contract. Food waste is about 20 to 25 percent of the trash hauled from Rockport to be incinerated at Ecomaine in Portland, Guerra said. The annual cost to transfer the trash from Rockport to its destination is around $600,000 (at $92 per ton).

Scrap Dogs estimates annual savings from removing 1.25 percent of the food waste at about $1,925. Removing 5 percent of the food waste would save $6,150, and removing 10 percent would save $10,600. Scrap Dogs was launched in June by Davis and Tessa Saltonstall.

Vote and discussion

Laite read a statement in favor of food waste composting, as well as managing MCSWC "professionally in a fair, honest and transparent manner in keeping with good government practices." He took issue with the Scrap Dogs contract's not being put out to bid, and asked members to consider how this squared with their towns' purchasing policies regarding bids or competitive quotes.

The "entire issue has been mismanaged," according to Laite's statement, which noted that there are multiple food waste recyclers available. He listed four companies (two Portland-based), Agri-Cycle and Garbage to Garden; We Compost It! of Auburn and Agri-Energy of Exeter. He called a vote in favor of the contract "mismanagement of this corporation."

Barrows submitted an amendment that before a representative of the MCSWC signs the contract, the facility manager must be instructed to research and report to the board the opportunities available for food waste recycling, explore partnerships with other regional municipalities, prepare a request for proposals, advertise the RFP and publicly open the bids received.

He said his amendment is no reflection on the two owners of Scrap Dogs. Laite agreed that his opposition to the contract is not related to the Scrap Dogs business itself.

Camden board member Alison McKellar said the MCSWC Waste Watch committee has thoroughly researched food waste composting. Scrap Dog co-owners Tessa Rosenberry and Davis Saltonstall have participated. Camden board member Bob Falciani asserted that the vote on the table was on the contract itself, and based on votes in two prior meetings, amendments were out of order.

On Nov. 12, Hope board member Michael Brown said he agreed with Lincolnville's board members, and he voted against the contract because of concerns about conflict of interest and transparency. He supports composting food waste, instead of paying to truck it along with the rest of the solid waste to Ecomaine in South Portland. He said he has nothing against Saltonstall, but questions what he would say if a voter asked about the situation, which he describes as paying an employee twice, as well as liability issues.

Brown took issue with how votes of board members are weighted, and called it a dysfunctional system. A person in Hope, who takes their trash to the transfer station in Rockport, is paying the same as a person in Camden, he said. Yet, if both Camden members vote for something, it only takes one more vote to pass it, he continued. Brown said he has been trying to change this system, which is written into the agreement among the four towns.

Comments (1)
Posted by: TOWN OF LINCOLNVILLE | Nov 14, 2018 21:44

Unfortunately the Corporation didn’t even talk to the food waste recycling vendor that makes twice weekly pickups already in Camden and services other transfer stations throughout Maine.

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