Thursday, December 12, 2013
PITTSTON — Town officials are considering a proposal to end a contract with an Augusta landfill, but the move could cost frequent users more money if they’re forced to dump waste at private facilities instead.
The Board of Selectmen are hosting an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Town Office so residents can ask questions about the potential change.
The town pays $40,000 a year, $15 per capita, for its residents to access Hatch Hill Solid Waste Disposal Facility in east Augusta.
Hatch Hill is operated as a self-sustaining business within the Augusta city government, said Augusta Director of Public Works Lesley Jones. It has its own budget and revenue streams, and Augusta pays the per capita fee like other communities.
Besides Augusta and Pittston, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Randolph and Whitefield also pay to be member communities.
The tipping fees, the amount charged per a ton of waste, make up 78 percent of Hatch Hill’s $2.6 million revenue budget for fiscal year 2014, according to documents provided by Jones.
The membership fees total only 14 percent of the revenues, and this year’s budget projects an approximate $100,000 surplus.
Jones said she doesn’t know yet how losing the $40,000 annual membership fee from Pittston and the tipping fees from its residents could impact the budget.
For Pittston, the $40,000 is an expense that might not be needed, said Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Jane Hubert.
“We’re all trying to find avenues where we can limit our spending,” she said.
The alternative would be for its residents to use private landfills, like Pine Tree Waste in West Bath, Hubert said.
The town doesn’t have to pay anything for residents to bring items to the landfill at Pine Tree Waste, and residents don’t have to pay for a vehicle sticker to access it, like at Hatch Hill.
But people using Pine Tree Waste could end up paying more because of higher tipping fees and a significantly higher minimum fee for drop-offs.
The access sticker at Hatch Hill is valid for two calendar years and costs $25. Hatch Hill then charges $70 per ton for landfill waste with a $6 minimum.
Pine Tree Waste, which is owned by the Casella, a waste management company headquartered in Vermont, charges $103 per ton with a $25 minimum for landfill waste, according to Mark Espeaignette, operations manager at the West Bath facility.
For a cost comparison, 200 pounds of landfill rubbish would cost $6.41 at Hatch Hill and $25 at Pine Tree Waste.
Users, however, still need to pay $25 for the two-year sticker at Hatch Hill. Currently, around 300 Pittston residents have valid Hatch Hill stickers. About half of those will expire at the end of the year, regardless.
Jones said people who purchases stickers this year won’t be refunded if the town switches.
The proposed change wouldn’t affect curbside pickup of trash, Hubert said, because it’s already done by private companies.
She said the select board members will conduct an informal poll at the Wednesday meeting to gauge public support for the switch. The contract with Hatch Hill expires at the end of the year, so the select board will need to decide by the end of November to make the change, Hubert said.
The other difference is the distance from the sites. Hatch Hill is about 10 miles from the north end of Route 27 in Pittston, while Pine Tree Waste is more than 25 miles away.
For the south end of Route 27 in Pittston, Hatch Hill is 16 miles away and the West Bath landfill is 20 miles.
Hubert said she expects some people at the Wednesday meeting will say that Hatch Hill is more convenient, but the key factor for the board will be the $40,000 the town pays each year.
She hadn’t yet heard of the $25 minimum fee at Pine Tree Waste facility on Friday.
When informed of the higher fee, Hubert said that’s another factor the board will consider in its decision.
“That would be expensive,” she said.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663