New system eyed to control bulky waste disposal

GOULDSBORO — In coming weeks, selectmen will consider reinstating windshield stickers, coupled with a five-visit punch card, to better control who is disposing of bulky waste at the transfer station. The proposed system is intended as an interim solution until the town installs drive-on scales in several years to more equitably and efficiently manage waste at the Walter Road facility.

At the Select Board’s Oct. 14 meeting, Solid Waste Committee Chairman Ray Jones recommended that Gouldsboro institute a windshield sticker, which would cost $25, and a five-punch card for another $25. Purchase of the windshield sticker would come with one free five-punch card. Any additional five-punch cards would be bought. The card would be punched once per disposal. The changes would take effect next April.

Conferring with fellow selectmen, the Oct. 14 meeting’s acting chairman, Ernie West, put off a vote until Select Board Chairman Dana Rice and Selectman Wally Moore’s return at the Oct. 28 meeting at 6 p.m. at the Prospect Harbor Women’s Club.

“This is an interim expense until we get the scales…” Jones told selectmen. “…We are trying to remediate some of the losses up there.”

Since 2020, the Solid Waste Committee has grappled with how to reduce the escalating volume and costs of bulky waste, building debris and other nonorganic material discarded at the transfer station. In nearly a decade, the volume of bulky waste has nearly doubled from 246 to 429 tons annually. The increase represents a 7.85 percent hike per year.

At present, property owners pay $15 for an admittance pass to dispose of bulky material at the Walter Road facility. A separate rate scale sets forth the disposal fees for propane tanks, two sizes of tires with and without rims and items containing freon/refrigeration. Contractors and other commercial users, hauling construction debris in pickup trucks or small trailers, pay $60 per load or $40 per load containing clean wood and scrap metal.

At their July 22 meeting, Select Board members voted unanimously to reinstate car windshield stickers after reviewing Solid Waste Committee member Jerry Kron and his wife Jane’s analysis “2020 Transfer Station Deficit Study.” Analyzing the transfer station’s records, and comparing them to their 2018 data, the Krons found the number and frequency of disposals by the current 559 pass holders differ dramatically.

In 2020, a total of 197 households used their passes only once compared to 22 pass holders who made 271 disposals. Some local residents are using the pass rather than pay the per-visit commercial fee to dispose of their business’s bulky waste, whereas other homeowners follow the rules and only dispose of their household’s metal, building and yard waste. In 2018, 370 pass holders made trips to the transfer station while 256 local residents bought the pass but never actually used it that year.

“In one instance (2018), an individual used it over and over — 13 times,” Kron told selectmen. “In 2020, an individual used it 30 times.”

Last year, the transfer station’s operators, Schoodic Curbside Recycling, reported seeing more heavy-duty pickups, often towing trailers, use the 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.

From a taxpayer’s standpoint, the disparity between different households’ usage creates inequity in sharing Gouldsboro’s transfer station costs, which totaled $69,000 in 2020.

“The deficit continues year after year and worsens each year it is left unattended…,” the Krons concluded in their 2020 study.

At the July 22 meeting, the Select Board pledged to review the transfer station’s fee schedule and current $15 fee for an admittance pass. Selectmen also agreed to recommend to the Budget Committee in 2022 that $20,000 be set aside annually for three years to purchase and install drive-on scales to accurately weigh landscaping, construction and demolition material as well as household goods being disposed of.

Opened off Route 1 on the Walter Road in the 1990s, the transfer station was built for and intended as a temporary storage facility for bulky waste that is hauled off 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. Save for scrap metal, the bulky waste is buried in a landfill. DM&J retains scrap metal revenue and deducts it from its transport fees.

From 2018 to 2020, the number of disposals tripled at the transfer station. Consequently, DM&J Waste’s number of roll-off containers removed rose from 66 to 83 annually. Since 2016, the expense also shot up to remove, replace and transport full roll-off containers to DM & J Waste in Ellsworth. DM & J Waste’s per-ton disposal price, previously including transport, has increased from $75 to $85 per ton since 2016. The company also now charges $220 for the round-trip transport.

Separately, for household trash disposal, Gouldsboro requires property owners to buy stickers for $1.25 each and attach one to each garbage bag weighing no more than 40 pounds. Schoodic Curbside Recycling then collects the household trash at roadside and transports it once a week to be burned at Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) in Orrington.

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.

Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]

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