GOULDSBORO — Escalating volume of bulky waste, building debris and other non-organic material discarded at the transfer station has spurred the town’s Solid Waste Committee to review its related fees, policies, disposal costs and current setup at the site.
In nearly a decade, the volume of bulky waste taken there has nearly doubled from 246 to 429 tons annually. The increase represents a 7.85 percent hike per year.
At the committee’s meeting via Zoom last Wednesday night, transfer station operators Robert and Donna Harmon said that average homeowners are following Gouldsboro’s rules and producing their annual $15 residential pass to dispose of an expected amount of brush, building debris and other material associated with a household. However, the Harmons are seeing more heavy-duty pickups, often towing trailers, use the residential pass frequently and repeatedly to dump far greater loads of landscaping, construction and demolition material as well as household goods including children’s plastic outdoor play equipment.
In town, commercial users are supposed to pay $60 per load of construction debris and $40 per load of clean wood and scrap metal hauled in a pickup or small trailer.
“The disproportional use of things, that’s what throws the scale off,” Harmon said. The Harmons track individuals’ and commercial entities’ visits in a log.
The $15 annual fee, Solid Waste Committee member Gerry Kron says, is being abused by some local residents. While many follow the rules and use the pass strictly for their household’s metal, building and yard waste, others use their inexpensive pass rather than pay the per-trip commercial fee to dispose of their business’s bulky waste.
In 2018, he notes, 370 pass holders made trips to the transfer station while 256 local residents bought the pass, but never actually used it that year.
“All these people, who were not using the transfer station, are paying for it,” Kron said. From an equity standpoint, “it’s terrible unfair.”
Opened off Route 1 on Walters Road in the 1990s, the transfer station was built for and intended as a temporary storage facility for bulky waste that is hauled off nowadays by Winterport-based DM&J Waste to its scrap yard/recycling center in Ellsworth. DM&J charges the town for the roll-off dumpsters’ rental and their contents’ removal and disposal. The town acquired the Walters Road property in return for paving the then dirt logging road and on the condition that no regular household garbage be disposed of there and transfer station usage be limited to local and seasonal residents only.
Separately, Gouldsboro contracts with the Harmons and their enterprise Schoodic Curbside Recycling to collect household trash set out at roadside around town and to transport it once a week to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) in Orrington. Instituted in 2007-08, the town requires residents to buy stickers for $1.25 each and attach one to each garbage bag weighing no more than 40 pounds. Since the tag system’s inception just over a decade ago, the annual volume of disposed domestic waste has dropped nearly in half — from 1,000 to 440 tons. During that same period, $409,166 in savings were reaped in PERC trash disposal costs.
The Harmons see actually weighing pass holders’ bulky waste on scales as the only mechanism to accurately pinpoint how much material is being brought in and prevent the transfer station’s annual fee system from being abused. The type and cost of scales vary widely and would depend on a community’s population size and usage. The installation of scales also would entail possible rerouting of traffic and some construction.
Solid Waste Committee members discussed other potential options such as punch cards before agreeing to further research how other Maine communities of a similar sizes and demographics deal with their bulky waste disposal and related fees. Committee Chairman Ray Jones planned to update selectmen about the issue at the board’s next meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, via Zoom and in person at the Prospect Harbor Women’s Club.
“I see the inevitability of a scale. The problem has been going on for a while and these big trucks have been coming in,” Jones said. “We can only advise and recommend.”