AUGUSTA — City councilors are considering significantly reducing the per capita fees charged to other area municipalities for their residents to be able to send their trash to the Hatch Hill landfill.

Councilors want to keep the trash and revenue it brings coming in.

City officials anticipate reducing the fees charged to the surrounding municipalities would help keep them from defecting to other, competing waste-disposal options. 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.

“The idea is to keep the communities and keep a consistent flow” of waste and the revenue it brings to the city-owned landfill, said Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager. “So the contracting communities would continue to have Hatch Hill as the designated facility for their residents. We’re still in a competitive business. And (the other municipalities) have the option of designating someplace else.”

The lower fees could result in significant savings, ranging from $8,860 to 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.”

“So I appreciate the city of Augusta looking at ways for the communities that use Hatch Hill to save money,” Morelli said. The $29,000 fee reduction for Gardiner is “almost 10 cents’ savings on our tax rate. That’s something that would be tangible, I think, that would be welcome news to taxpayers.”

Last year Augusta officials dangled 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 City Manager William Bridgeo.

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

The proposal is up for discussion Thursday by the Augusta City Council.

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.

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 stand to 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.

St. Pierre said one way the city hopes to make up some or all lost revenue is the recent change of Hatch Hill being 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.

Councilors meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

• Discuss whether to spend an additional $500,000 on top of the $3.6 million approved by voters to build a new fire station in north Augusta. The additional money would pay for steel pilings to be driven into the ground to stabilize soil at the site to make sure it can support the weight of the new station and trucks it would hold;

• Discuss a Friends of Lithgow Library donation;

• Discuss amending the recently passed Vacant and Abandoned Property Ordinance to convert the fees, now charged once every six months, to one-time fees;

• Discuss amending solid waste disposal rules to set a weight limit on trash left curbside for pickup by the city.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]entralmaine.com

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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