AUGUSTA — City councilors voted unanimously Thursday night to buy 45 acres next to the Hatch Hill landfill.

Officials said the $36,000 purchase could provide a buffer between the regional landfill and its neighbors.

City Manager William Bridgeo said a landfill is “an environmentally sensitive operation” and owning the land could provide a buffer and prevent the property from being developed. He said a residential development so close to a landfill could bring complaints and concerns from residents of the new neighborhood about the landfill.

“We really just think it’s prudent to buy it as a buffer,” Bridgeo said.

Councilors approved it, 8-0, without debate Thursday.

The current property owner, Industrial Metal Recycling, approached Public Works Director Lesley Jones this summer to see if the city would be interested in buying the vacant, wooded and wetland-containing property.

The city had it appraised and the company that owns the land, which Jones said is getting out of the business and selling off its assets, agreed to sell it to the city for the appraised value of $36,000.

Hatch Hill is owned by the city but takes trash from several surrounding municipalities, which pay fees for their residents to be able to send waste to the landfill. It is funded as an enterprise fund, with money to run it coming from both the city and the other municipalities that use it, as well as from tipping fees.

Bridgeo said Hatch Hill is a roughly $3 million-a-year operation, so, in comparison, $36,000 is a small amount of money.

The property abuts the west side of Hatch Hill Road and the landfill, the north side of South Belfast Avenue, and a Greater Augusta Utility District sludge disposal site.

The property is vacant. Jones said Industrial Metal Recycling bought it in 2000 with the idea of putting a metal recycling yard on the site, but it never acted on that idea. The company bought the land for $38,500, according to an appraisal of the property done for the city by Dwyer Associates.

The property is assessed, by the city for tax purposes, at $36,200.

About 75 percent of the property is made up of wetlands.

Jones said the city bought about 30 acres on the opposite side of the landfill entrance road years ago for similar reasons.

While the city’s immediate interest in the property is as a buffer between the landfill and other property owners, the city potentially could use the site in the long term.

Bridgeo said it could be used to develop an alternative energy project, such as part of a solar panel farm the city could do on closed sections of the otherwise still-active landfill property. He said it is unlikely the city would expand the landfill onto the property, because of its wetness and its proximity to South Belfast Avenue. He said the city could possibly have the forest on the land selectively cut.

At-large Councilor Corey Wilson asked if the city could harvest wood from the land to recoup the $36,000 cost of buying it.

Jones said that is a possibility and the city could, over time, recoup the cost that way.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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