Bridgton staying with ecomaine

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The town of Bridgton is withdrawing its letter of intent to leave ecomaine and is looking into doing its own hauling of solid waste instead of contracting it out.

The actions follow recommendations by the Recycyling Committee, which spent a year researching options to reduce operating costs at the transfer station. The committee also recommended the following:

• Allowing the town’s current metal contract to expire and then look at selling metals on the open market.

• Including wood and demolition debris in the solid waste hauled to ecomaine, so that it can be incinerated instead of landfilled.

• Continuing the composting of biodegradable materials but increasing the cost of compost from one cent to four cents per pound, starting April 1, thereby increasing revenues from $960 to $3,840 a year. As an incentive, residents who bring in a bucket or tote of recyclables around Earth Day (April 22) will be allowed to fill that same bucket or tote with compost for free.

Selectmen approved the recommendations at their March 11 meeting after Recycling Committee member Nancy Donovan summarized findings of a 41-page report begun by the committee in May of 2013.

Much of the report focused on analyzing the costs and benefits of withdrawing from ecomaine, the 21-member quasi-municipal waste-to-energy organization Bridgton belongs to. As a member community, Bridgton currently has around a $650,000 liability for closing costs for the ecomaine ash landfill, but those costs will decrease over time.

“When we were charged with our task, it seemed daunting,” Donovan said. But earlier this year, ecomaine’s Board of Directors voted to eliminate the assessment charge for all member communities. In Bridgton’s case, that will result in a savings of around $108,000 a year effective July 1. Ecomaine also voted to reduce its tipping fees.

The committee’s report clearly favored the option of incinerating the town’s waste instead of landfilling it, saying the burning of waste generates electricity and the landfilling of leftover ash reduces waste volume by 90%, “thereby saving precious landfill space.”

The report states, “While landfills may appear to be less expensive to the town in the short term, the cost does not reflect the true cost of being responsible for the long-term care of our waste. In the long term, landfills are a significant environmental and financial burden.” Switching to landfilling would also be counter to the values of Bridgton residents, the report stated, and the town should not “push off our responsibilites and liabilities for our children to handle.”

Hauling contract

The town’s current hauling contract is with Pine Tree, and a representative told the committee that the per haul cost will increase significantly over the current $215 per-haul cost, “and could be as high as $335 per haul.”

Therefore, the committee recommended “that Bridgton immediately explore the truck market to determine the cost of leasing or purchasing the necessary truck and containers if we were to provide our own hauling.” At the same time, the town should put out a bid proposal for a one-year hauling contract to see how those costs compare. “A true cost estimate can only be made if the town goes out to bid and then compares those with the town hauling option,” the report said.

Recycling

The report recommended staying with ecomaine as its main recycling vendor. It doesn’t make sense to go back to baling, the committee said, since the town’s current low recycling rate of 21% would likely drop even further. But it does make sense to recycle metals in-house, since the price for metals more than compensates for the labor involved in separating them out. Under the town’s current metal contract that expires June 30, Bridgton receives 45% of market rate and does not pay any hauling or container rental fee.

“The committee recommends that the town sell the (metal) materials on its own. The transfer station manager would call around for the spot market rate and choose the highest rate.”

 

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