City recyclables may be burned

ELLSWORTH — Residents should look for changes to the recycling program coming soon, said City Councilor Steve Beathem at the council’s meeting on Monday evening.

“It’s just not sustainable the way it is,” Beathem said.

Beathem told the audience that much of what is taken at the center “is not recyclable, it does not have a marketplace out there.”

“It’s better to take some of the things we have and burn them because they’re Class A fuels,” said Beathem, “rather than putting them in a landfill, which is the alternative.”

Non-metal solid materials such as wood, paper, cloth, trash and plastics are considered to be Class A fuels. Details on the changes will likely come in the next month, Beathem said.

Falling prices, prompted by lower international demand in recent years and a recently enacted Chinese ban on importing plastic waste, have led many towns and cities to look for other places to send recyclables.

Ellsworth has already been looking for alternative solutions. For several years, the city has had an agreement with the town of Penobscot in which Penobscot’s recyclables are sent to Ellsworth and Ellsworth’s glass is sent to Penobscot, where it is landfilled.

In other business, councilors voted to apply for a grant to extend the trail at Harbor Park Marina and to commit just over $30,000 for the city’s share of the project. Funding would have to be approved by the City Council if the city receives the grant.

The proposed trail would be paved and extend north from the larger gazebo past the smaller gazebo installed last year to the broadband hub station and paved area by the pump station.

The project is expected to cost around $80,000, with grant funding from the Bureau of Parks and Lands covering $50,000 if the city is successful in its bid.

Extending the walking path at Ellsworth Harbor Park is expected to cost about $80,000.

“You would have two bites at the apple on this project,” City Manager David Cole told councilors. “This isn’t your last say in the matter. But to be competitive you really need to show a commitment on the city’s part to go forward.”

“I support the concept,” said Councilor Dale Hamilton, but, he continued, “$30,000 here, $30,000 there, it adds up … we need to take a look at priorities.”

Committing the funds at this stage in the process helps during the application process, said Councilor Gary Fortier.

Municipalities that have committed funding receive more points. Cole told councilors that funding could possibly come from two projects that came in under budget, paving the Water Street parking lot and repairs of the pier.

Also on Monday, councilors introduced potential changes to the health insurance plan for non-union City Hall employees.

“Affordability of health insurance is an issue facing the whole country,” Beathem said. “And Ellsworth is not exempt.”

The current plan, Beathem said, is expensive because there are no deductibles and the “vast majority” of premiums are paid by the city.

Since there’s no deductible, Beathem said, “the city is essentially paying for all kinds of services that are never used by the employees.”

Discussions about changes are preliminary, said Beathem, who urged staff to ask questions.

“Ask questions. Don’t just clam up and say ‘Oh, it’s going to cost me more money.’ Find out for sure. I think that there’s a lot of stuff that’s flying around that’s not true.”

Also on Monday evening, the council voted to re-establish a historic 10-foot easement between two buildings owned by The Ellsworth American on property that was transferred from The American to the city last summer to facilitate parking lot improvements.

The council also conducted its usual business, issuing liquor licenses and awarding bids for several projects, including for the Green Lake boat launch extension and masonry work at City Hall.

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Digital Media Strategist
Kate is the paper's Digital Media Strategist, responsible for all things social, and the occasional story too! She's a former reporter for the paper and can be reached at: [email protected]
Kate Cough

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