AUGUSTA — A proposal going to city councilors for a vote Thursday would reduce the per capita fees charged to the seven area municipalities that use the Hatch Hill landfill.

City officials expressed concern the city could lose some of the municipalities and the revenues their trash brings to Hatch Hill to competing waste-disposal sites. That could potentially leave city taxpayers with more of the burden of paying off bonds borrowed to construct the portion of the landfill now being used.

The city borrowed $9.7 million in 2000 to expand the landfill. City Manager William Bridgeo said the city has about $3 million of debt to pay off over the next four years. He said the revenues from Augusta residents using the landfill are not enough to pay off those bonds, so if no other municipalities’ residents were using the landfill, the city would likely have to increase property taxes to keep making the bond payments for Hatch Hill.

So in order to help keep the other municipalities, administrators proposed a major reduction in the amount Augusta charges Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Randolph and Whitefield from $15 per resident to $10 per resident.

City councilors expressed support for the change last week with all councilors agreeing to sponsor a proposal to reduce the per capita fees.

It would cost the city about $100,000 a year in lost revenue, but officials say that’s better than potentially losing far more revenue from municipalities pulling out of Hatch Hill altogether to pursue other trash options for their residents.

“It’s a competitive market, and with tight budgets the communities are always looking to save money,” said Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager. Reducing the per capita fees, St. Pierre said, “makes it more difficult for them to walk. That’s what we’re counting on.”

The lower fees could result in significant savings, ranging from $8,860 in Randolph to up to $29,000 in Gardiner.

Scott Morelli, Gardiner’s city manager, said with state revenue sharing declining, Gardiner and other municipalities “are facing enormous financial constraints to maintain services.”

He said he thinks the reduced rates would thus be welcome news to Gardiner taxpayers.

Last year, Augusta officials offered reduced per capita fees at Hatch Hill to area municipalities, but only if they agreed to make a five-year contracted commitment to the facility. No municipalities took Augusta up on that offer, according to Bridgeo.

Now, St. Pierre said, the municipalities would not have to make any time commitment to get the reduced per capita fees.

Morelli said one reason Gardiner officials were reluctant to commit to Hatch Hill for five years was that the city has a signed purchase-and-sale agreement with Troiano Waste Services with the company planning to build a maintenance facility in the city-developed Libby Hill Business Park. Morelli said there is the potential for the company to put a transfer station later on that property, where Gardiner residents could take their trash. He said it will be up to the company whether it does so, but with that possibility out there, city officials didn’t want to commit to Hatch Hill for five years.

St. Pierre told Augusta councilors last week he believes building a transfer station in Gardiner would cost more than what Gardiner would be charged to keep using Hatch Hill.

The town of Pittston previously had designated Hatch Hill as the landfill where its residents’ trash could be taken, but it left the fold in 2013. Instead, the town contracted with Pine Tree Waste in West Bath.

Chelsea Town Manager Scott Tilton said officials there are looking at other trash options, including possibly adding curbside collection of trash and recyclables, and has not yet either ruled out or committed to remaining with Hatch Hill. He doesn’t expect a decision until July or later.

Now, Chelsea pays $40,815 a year so residents’ trash can go to Hatch Hill, and it could save $13,605 under the new fees under consideration in Augusta.

Tilton said not having to make a commitment for five years to get the reduced per capita fees at Hatch Hill would make remaining with Hatch Hill a more attractive option.

St. Pierre said the reduced per capita fees could be used by the municipalities to create their own local recycling programs, such as the one in Augusta in which unsorted recyclables are collected in bins and taken to ecomaine’s sorting facility in Portland.

Total annual revenue at Hatch Hill is roughly $2.7 million. Tipping fees — the fee charged to dump trash at the facility — make up the majority of that revenue.

Jones said the landfill is currently projected to be full around 2030.

Bridgeo said once the bond debt is paid off, the city could consider restricting the landfill’s use to only Augusta residents.

“We’re not in this to make a profit,” he said. “We’ve always been in the landfill business to make sure the residents and businesses of Augusta have a place to deposit their solid waste.”

St. Pierre said one way the city hopes to make up some or all lost revenue is the recent change to have Hatch Hill open on Mondays for charge customers only, a day it hasn’t previously been open for anyone.

He said the city previously was losing revenue by being closed on Mondays because trash haulers still hauled on that day and with Hatch Hill closed took their loads of trash elsewhere. He said being open to them on Mondays should increase revenue and decrease the odds of losing private haulers’ business to other facilities.

Lesley Jones, public works director, said Hatch Hill is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays with minimal staffing, so only charge customers (those with pre-approved accounts that are billed monthly by the city) may come on Mondays. Charge customers include private haulers, businesses, state agencies and county government.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj