PITTSTON — The Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday night to drop its contract with an Augusta waste disposal facility shared by eight other communities and use a private company with a facility in West Bath instead.
The three-member board’s unanimous decision not to renew its contract with Hatch Hill Solid Waste Disposal Facility will save the town about $40,000 a year, but residents no longer will be able to use the Augusta site to drop off recyclables, old TVs or landfill waste.
Instead, the town will ask for a letter of intent from Pine Tree Waste, a company with a waste disposal facility in West Bath, to arrange for its residents to drop off waste there, said Jane Hubert, board chairwoman. Anyone is able to use the Pine Tree Waste facility, which offers the same services as Hatch Hill; but the town plans to send the letter to comply with the state law requiring municipalities to designate a waste disposal facility, Hubert said.
The change won’t affect curbside pickup of household trash, because that’s done by private contractors. The town also already ran its own recycling program. Hatch Hill charges users who drop off recyclables.
Aside from a few residents at the Wednesday meeting who objected to switching because of the greater distance to West Bath, Hubert said, most of the public has supported the decision. At a board meeting in October, about 20 residents supported dropping Hatch Hill and only one advocated sticking with it. The vote among residents was informal and wasn’t necessary for the decision, but Hubert said it indicated to the board members what residents think about the issue.
The main difference between Pine Tree Waste and Hatch Hill, besides the longer distance to West Bath, is the pricing structure. Hatch Hill charges a minimum fee of $6 for landfill waste but requires residents to pay $15 for an access sticker good for two years, according to Augusta Director of Public Works Lesley Jones. Pine Tree Waste, owned by Casella Waste Systems, a waste management company headquartered in Vermont, usually charges a minimum fee of $25 for rubbish. A representative from the company at the October meeting, however, told residents they would be charged a minimum fee of only $20.
The Augusta facility also charges less per ton for landfill waste — $72, compared to $103 at Pine Tree Waste. Pine Tree Waste, however, has agreed to charge commercial haulers providing contract services in Pittston, like curbside pickup, $76 per ton, according to Karen McNaughton, who works in municipal sales for Casella. McNaughton said other commercial businesses in Pittston expected to bring large quantities of waste regularly will also be able to negotiate a lower rate.
Around 300 Pittston residents have valid Hatch Hill stickers, according to documents from the city of Augusta. About half of those will expire at the end of the year, regardless of what action the town takes.
Hatch Hill is operated as a self-sustaining business within the Augusta city government. Augusta, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Randolph and Whitefield also pay to be member communities.
Jones said besides Pittston, Randolph and Chelsea also requested information about usage in their towns. She said she doesn’t yet know how Pittston leaving will affect the other communities or the budget.
“I will be in touch with my city manager, and then we’ll go from there,” Jones said.
Hatch Hill charges communities $15 per resident for the annual fee, according to Jones. For Randolph, that equals around $26,000; and for Chelsea, $40,000, based on U.S. Census figures.
Bob Henderson, chairman of the Randolph Board of Selectmen, said the board looked into the possibility of dropping Hatch Hill after hearing about Pittston, but decided to stick with the Augusta facility.
Chelsea Town Manager Scott Tilton said the town is considering different options for a place to drop off waste and recyclables. He said town officials have visited other facilities in the last month, but a change isn’t expected soon. The Board of Selectmen plans to form a recycling committee within a year to look at the issue, Tilton said.
“We need to find a better way of getting more local control over what people are throwing away. I think there’s a lot of stuff that people aren’t recycling that they could be recycling,” he said.
The city of Gardiner also is looking into the possibility of not renewing its contract with Hatch Hill, but City Manager Scott Morelli said it will be a few months before the committee researching the issue is prepared to make a recommendation.