Up for vote Nov. 8

Trash talk continues in Waldoboro

By Beth A. Birmingham | Oct 16, 2016
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Public Works Director John Daigle, right, addresses a concern of Selectman Katie Winchenbach's regarding the proposed pay-as-you-throw program on the Nov. 8 warrant in Waldoboro.

Waldoboro — Following another presentation Oct. 11 on the proposed Pay-As-You-Throw, or PAYT, disposal method, the Board of Selectmen and audience participants engaged in a 90-minute discussion on just how the program would benefit Waldoboro citizens.

The Special Town Meeting Article on the Nov. 8 warrant was unanimously approved by the Waldoboro selectmen at their Aug. 16 meeting.

PAYT is a unit-based pricing system which the Waldoboro Transfer Station Committee requested and prepared, in conjunction with the selectmen from Waldoboro, Cushing and Friendship.

Waldoboro Selectman and Transfer Station Committee member Robert Butler clarified, in a correspondence Oct. 12, why the other two towns -- Cushing and Friendship -- do not have the PAYT article on their warrants.

"It's the Waldoboro Solid Waste and Required Recycling Ordinance that governs the operation of the Waldoboro Transfer Station," Butler said. Under the agreement Cushing and Friendship have with Waldoboro pursuant to that ordinance -- and because Waldoboro owns the transfer station -- it is the Waldoboro voters who make the decision about disposal methods.

"That said, Cushing and Friendship do have an important voice," Butler continued. "Each of those towns holds two seats on the Waldoboro Transfer Station Committee, and their participation and input has been very important, in some cases, absolutely critical."

According to Butler, both towns' representatives on the committee voted in favor of putting the PAYT question to the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen for inclusion on the Waldoboro ballot.

The Transfer Station presented a report with two underlying themes: too much taxpayer money is being spent on trucking and burning garbage and, although many residents recycle, "an economic incentive is missing to help get everyone to recycle."

Butler gave another overview of the proposed program during the meeting, and continually reminded attendees that with this type of solid waste disposal system, residents will pay only for what they throw away -- not for what their friends and neighbors discard.

It will also bring the three towns closer to achieving their shared goal of significantly reducing the Transfer Station budget, according to the report. Transport costs and tipping fees comprise more than 50 percent of the total Transfer Station budget.

The three towns currently transport their solid waste, which includes many recyclables, to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Corp., or PERC, in Orrington. Of the 3,081 tons of trash the Transfer Station handled in 2015, only 625 tons were recycled -- a rate of only 20 percent -- far below the state's goal of 50 percent and much lower than other Maine towns, according to the report.

During the past six years, Cushing, Friendship and Waldoboro have spent approximately $1.8 million to transport and tip 18,000 tons of garbage -- on average, that is 639 pounds per person per year. The report states that towns that have PAYT have seen that amount reduced to as little as 300 pounds.

Projections in the report show a reduction of approximately 36 percent in the Transfer Station budget. PAYT bag sales will cover PERC-related transport and tipping fees, unlike now, when the fees people pay their waste haulers only cover pickup and transport to the Transfer Station.

The cumulative budget impact from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2019 is a projected savings of nearly $1 million, with the combined decreases in tip fees and transport costs and net revenues from bag sales.

A breakdown of the Transfer Station tax support from the three towns is 65.39 percent for Waldoboro, 19.77 percent for Cushing, and 14.84 percent for Friendship. The offset of the savings after implementing PAYT will show a cumulative decrease from $474,055 in 2016 to $156,224 in 2019.

There are more than 7,000 towns around the country -- 135 in Maine -- that have implemented the PAYT program, according to a statement Aug. 16 by Ryan Parker of the Natural Resource Council of Maine, the state's largest environmental advocacy organization.

"Trash disposal is not free," Parker said. "It is one of the top three costs any community has to pay."

At the Oct. 11 meeting, discussion was heavy on whether or not the PAYT program would have an effect on the amount of taxes citizens pay. As the report outlines, PAYT is expected to provide about $332,000 in net benefit to the Transfer Station budget each year -- comprised of approximately $194,000 in bag revenue and a $170,000 reduction in PERC disposal costs.

"This PAYT proposal recommends a reduction in the mil rate based upon a report the Public Works Director is to complete after the first full year of PAYT," the report states.

Also of concern was the affordability of the bags for those on fixed incomes.

The report recommends the establishment of a PAYT Assistance Fund for those in need, similar to the General Assistant Fund, which a certain percentage of PAYT trash bag revenues would support.

Bags will be sold at the Transfer Station and by certain local vendors, such as Hannaford and Bear Hill Hardware in Waldoboro, Broad Cove Market in Cushing, and Wallace's in Friendship, among others.

The price will be set by the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen, upon the recommendation of the Waldoboro Transfer Station Committee, according to the report.

Three sizes will be available for PAYT disposal: 15-gallon, sold at $1.25 each in rolls of five for $6.25; 33-gallon, sold at $2 each in rolls of five for $10; and 45-gallon, sold at $3 each in rolls of five for $15.

And, if a particular item does not fit in one of the bags, the customer will be charged by the pound, as is the practice currently at the Transfer Station.

Selectman Katie Winchenbach brought up the option of single-stream recycling, noting an additional compactor would only cost in the vicinity of $80,000.

Director of Public Works John Daigle addressed Winchenbach's comment, saying he would look into her claim, but to his knowledge it would cost closer to $125,000.

The report says that if the town wanted to adopt single-stream recycling there would be costs -- still having to pay to transport the materials and tipping fees -- in addition to the purchase of at least one compactor and probably the need to hire another person. The estimated first-year cost of $84,000 does not include insurance, maintenance, another employee or other related costs.

Measures taken to increase recycling and reduce solid waste to date include tightening the ordinance to control who uses the Transfer Station; establishing the committee; clarifying the roles of staff in implementing the ordinance; improved traffic flow; the building of day pads for bulky waste disposal to reduce the risk of contamination and increase safety; and the installation of scales to track usage fees by weight.

Since the Aug. 16 meeting, the Transfer Station Committee and others have held several gatherings as a means of disseminating accurate information about PAYT and its positive impact on reducing the Transfer Station budget -- which ultimately will hopefully reduce the town's mil rate.

"I thought last night's meeting was helpful," Butler said of the Oct. 11 meeting. "There were a number of very good questions and comments about PAYT, and the Waldoboro director of public works did a great job responding to them."

"We need to redouble our efforts to get accurate information to the voters about PAYT," he continued. "As described during the presentation, the impact PAYT would have on reducing the transfer station budget -- if it passes -- would be significant."

PAYT will be discussed again at the next Waldoboro Board of Selectmen's meeting Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 6 p.m.

"I would welcome the opportunity to address other groups in Waldoboro to explain PAYT," Butler said.

The report, available on the town's website, outlines specific steps for implementing PAYT and presents answers to a set of frequently asked questions.

If approved, the town hopes to implement the PAYT program by Jan. 31.

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

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