WATERVILLE — City funding for a private recycler has been a hot topic at City Council meetings this August. Some councilors say the amount the city pays the recycler should be cut even more. Business owners argue they need the recycler to take their recycling that the city doesn’t. And some wonder if the city recycles the recycling or dumps it with the trash.

As late as June, the city was paying I Recycle Inc., the former Shredding on Site on the Armory Road, $1,200 a month. I Recycle owner Craig Lefebvre said that talk about cuts began in June and that since then the $1,200 payment had been negotiated down to $800 for the month of September.

Ward 5 City Councilor Jay Coelho said he’d like to see the city pay I Recycle $600 a month for taking recycling.

Coelho said when the council was looking at what each department needed to cut to get the mil rate down, they found they could cut $15,000 from the public works department, which handles solid waste, recycling, and I Recycle.

Craig Lefebvre, owner of I Recycle Inc. on Armory Road in Waterville, bundles blocks of recycling with a Bobcat on Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“We have a worldwide recycling problem,” Lefebvre said. “You’d think the city would want to fund an important program like this.”

At the last council meeting, Waterville attorney and business owner Sid Geller voiced his concerns about where businesses would take their recycling if I Recycle stopped receiving funding.

“I own seven commercial buildings in downtown Waterville … I provide recycling for two of the larger buildings in town, and I personally take care of the recycling,” Geller said. “I go to the Armory Road at least twice a week … The city should continue to provide those facilities for the businesses downtown so the city can be supportive and progressive for showing its concern to those businesses.”

Lefebvre said, “They don’t seem to want to support local businesses.”

Craig Lefebvre, owner of I Recycle Inc. on Armory Road in Waterville, bundles blocks of recycling with a Bobcat on Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Since its introduction two years ago, the curbside recycling pickup provided by the city has excluded commercial businesses such as bars, restaurants and large apartment buildings. It’s the responsibility of those businesses to take their recycling to centers such as I Recycle.

Some council members said they didn’t want the city to spend more on commercial recycling than it does on residents’ recycling though it’s crucial to have a place where businesses can take their recycling.

The city began its curbside pickup of recyclables in July 2017 after its contract with Sullivan’s Waste Disposal of Thorndike expired. Sullivan’s collected recycling for $72,000 a year. Other bidders wanted more than $200,000 a year.

The solid waste and recycling committee recommended that the city collect the recycling, and the council voted 5-to-2 to hire another public works employee and buy a new $200,000 packer truck that took both recyclables and trash.

Councilors also were concerned at the Aug. 20 meeting that I Recycle was not collecting enough material for it to make “fiscal sense” for the city to fund it at $1,200 a month.

“For me it’s all about numbers,” Coelho said. “If you’re not taking 300 to 400 tons of our stuff, it’s not fiscally responsible for our residents to give you money to run your business.”

Lefevbre also collects recycling for the town of Sidney and wasn’t able to confirm how much of the weekly 40 tons he receives is from Sidney and how much is from Waterville.

To Coelho, I Recycle’s services are redundant. “We already have curbside pickup for residents.”

Craig Lefebvre, owner of I Recycle Inc. on Armory Road in Waterville, bundles blocks of recycling with a Bobcat on Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Geller sees the matter differently. “As far as what I have observed, not only could businesses go there, but a lot of citizens go there. It’s the citizens’ choice, but I have no choice but to take it there, or frankly it’s going to be going into the trash which is going to harm the economy and the environment.”

Residents and business owners also expressed their doubts on Aug. 20 that the city is recycling what is picked up at the curb.

“I took a ride out to the Norridgewock airport — that’s how I remember it — but now it’s a recycling place,” a Ward 7 resident said. “I see a truck with a Waterville city seal on it, and I see him (the driver) dump the entire load in the same hole. Now a department head is going to say they recycle? I beg to differ.”

Jennifer Bergeron, owner of Lion’s Den Tavern on Main Street, aired a similar grievance.

“That truck throws all the recycling in the trash … none of us have confidence in it,” Bergeron said. “It’s deceptive to put out your recycling and it just gets put in the trash. I want to take it somewhere it’s going to be recycled. I understand the arguments on both sides … I have a dumpster. I pay for that service, but I’d still prefer to take it to the facility where I know it’s being recycled.”

Director of Public Works Mark Turner reassured residents that the trucks that collect residential recycling dispose of the material correctly.

“That truck has two different compartments,” Turner said. “It dumps the trash at one facility, and then we have to drive to a completely separate facility to dispose of the recycling.”

But Lefevbre said many of the residents who choose to recycle at his facility have voiced the same concerns.

“I can’t give you an exact number, but I have a ton of residents who still come and recycle here,” Lefebvre said. “They come here because they don’t like the curbside service. People don’t think it’s really getting recycled.”

According to City Manager Mike Roy, the new $800 rate has been paid for the month of September, but it’s now up to the council to decide how it wants to proceed long-term.

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