(from Maine Townsman, June 1994)
by Jo Josephson, Staff Writer
Regionalization has its limits. That's one thing the failure of the so-called "Gorham project" last year taught those involved in Regional Waste Systems (RWS) plans to develop and operate a 20-acre secure landfill, complete with processing facilities and composting for some 25 member municipalities at a cost of some $18 million. It died aborning last year, falling victim to an unworkable economy of scale.
With RWS members set adrift to seek their own solutions, create their own options to the bulky waste disposal dilemma, it is not surprising that rising from the ashes of Gorham are plans to develop several small, so-called "subregional" bulky waste facilities in the southern part of the state.
Among them is the six-acre Lakes Region Bulky Waste Facility in Casco, serving six of RWS's member municipalities. Start-up costs are set at a mere $300,000. The facility has applied to the DEP to renew and expand the license of its transfer station with the hope of starting up this fall. The project is expected to serve 18,000 permanent residents and 65,000 summer residents.
The proposed project is a potential model for other small regional bulky waste facilities for several reasons, not the least is the fact that it plans to rely heavily, if not exclusively, on the services of the private sector. Those who designed it say they have to go this way in order to maintain the utmost of flexibility in the newly developing bulky waste disposal industry.
It is also a potential model in that the interlocal agreement pulling together the municipalities precludes the use of attorneys and relies exclusively on the use of a third-party arbitrator in resolving disputes.
And last but not least, it is a potential model as it has set 53 percent as its recycling goal. For bulky waste!
The demise of the Gorham project was almost a relief to Dave Morton, Casco's town manager. For, as he told the TOWNSMAN recently, When RWS was planning to develop its large bulky waste facility, we said people would not drive the 25 miles to the facility and we would be faced with a problem of illegal burning and dumping. "
To avoid the drive and dumping, the town had plans to open a mini-bulky waste transfer station. But when the plans for the Gorham facility were put on the back burner, Casco and its neighbor Naples scuttled their plans for the transfer station, went back to the drawing board and came up with plans for a small bulky waste facility.
It made sense. Casco and Naples had already joined efforts and developed a transfer station on land owned by Casco for non-bulky waste headed to the RWS incinerator. There was still plenty of room to add a bulky waste facility.
While Naples and Casco are the joint owners of the proposed facility they have each put in $100,000 and obtained a $94,000 grant from the Maine Waste Management Agency they are being joined in the endeavor with four other "associate members" or "contract communities" (Bridgton, Harrison, Otisfield, and Raymond).
The associate members are being asked to contribute $10,000 apiece for each of four years or a total of $200,000 to reimburse the capitalization costs fronted by Casco and Naples. At the end of that time each of the seven participating communities will own the facility. In the interim, Casco and Naples are the risktakers, says Morton.
Capitalization aside, what about operating expenses? For the first year, each participating municipality, including Casco and Naples, will also contribute $10,000 to cover their tipping fees that year. Overages will be returned at the end of the year.
Each town will be billed monthly depending on its usage. Towns will be identified by stickers on the transporting vehicles. Towns will have the option of paying their bill from the tax base or from user fees. As Morton sees it, this approach gives each town the flexibility needed in such arrangements. He reports that most, but not all towns, have decided to go the route of paying their share from the tax base.
The 25-page interlocal agreement that is the backbone of the proposed facility, among other things, includes provisions for new members and withdrawing members. New members will be asked to contribute to capital costs as deemed necessary; they will also be asked to pay a 12 percent premium for their late admittance. Withdrawing members shall, among other things, forfeit any of their capital contributions as well as their share of any outstanding debts of the bulky waste facility.
PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT
Morton likes to point out the facility being planned is a minimal operation.
"We don't want to be married to it. The plan is such that if a better idea comes along- in a few years, the site can be closed down and the towns can pursue other options.
"The field is a changing one; dealing with bulky waste is a new industry; we're just beginning to scratch the surface," says Morton.
That attitude translates into minimal equipment with a heavy reliance on the private sector. The capital budget is $300,000. Monies the first year are going into a used front end loader at $25,000-$35,000; a used truck scale at $45,000-$60,000; a compost turner at $15,000; and a small metal building.
When it comes to processing wood waste, Morton says they are currently contacting the private sector to see what deals are out there for processing clean wood (brush and untreated lumber) and so-called dirty wood (treated wood). As such the facility has set aside three acres for separating and storing wood waste that is waiting for processing and about 1.5 acres for a composting operation.
As Morton sees it, the private sector is the way to go. "People are contacting me from as far away as Bangor with tub grinders; they want work. We believe the private sector has invested heavily in the new technology and the opportunity for bidding out this service is pretty good," says Morton.
As he sees it: "How can you justify a $150,000 investment for only 6-7 days a month of work?"
Processing aside, Morton says he is even toying with the idea of having the private sector run the facility. Plans are to run the facility with three full-time workers.
Morton notes that the ideology of the new facility is "to recycle as much as possible and to send away as little as possible." He says it is an outgrowth of the original agreement Casco made with RWS for the now defunct Gorham facility. Basically the agreement said: "We'll send everything but what we can recycle."
Towards that end participating communities in the Casco facility are committed to utilizing woodchips and compost for erosion and sediment control on all public roadways and facilities where applicable. As Morton describes it, it's the "if you send it in, you have to take it back approach."
It is expected that 53 percent of the materials or about 2,000 tons of materials (mostly wood wastes) brought to the facility will be recycled in the first year.
A "Twice-Around Store" is planned to dispose of demolition debris that can be salvaged for construction projects (doors, timbers, dimensional lumber, etc.). Other woods (stumps, brush, etc.) will be ground into chips and used for landscaping, erosion control and composting projects by public works departments, participating communities and their residents.
The new bulky waste facility takes advantage of the administrative structure already in place for the Casco-Naples Transfer Station. Essentially, it expands the duties of the existing Casco-Naples Solid Waste Transfer Station Advisory Board to cover the new bulky waste facility.
While the board is the final arbitrator of tipping fees and all else, it is advised by a committee made up of representatives from each of the participating towns. With three-year terms, appointed by the selectmen in their respective towns, the committee members will meet quarterly to make recommendations to the board on issues related to the operation of the facility such as budget, tipping fees, personnel and use matters.
Morton points to a somewhat unique responsibility of the board. Unique in that it requires the board to "select a neutral third person to serve as the arbitrator," at the beginning of each fiscal year.
"We're getting rid of the attorney," says Morton as he smiles, recalling the fact that it was an attorney who drew up the interlocal agreement that in the end does away with his role in the event of a dispute among the participating members.