April 07, 2020

Machias area transfer station charges challenged by towns

MACHIAS — The Hampden company that runs the Machias transfer station promised to clean up its act Monday, but changes by Sawyer Environmental Services may not solve the problems of towns that use the facility.

The Bay Area Transfer Station and Recycling Center serves Machias, Marshfield, Whitneyville and Roque Bluffs. Both Whitneyville and Roque Bluffs are challenging the charges for using the facility, and selectmen from both towns say they are considering pulling out of their contract with Machias.

Machias selectmen say the transfer station is a regional center and they can’t go ahead on their own.

Richard Kilton, the chairman of the Whitneyville Board of Selectmen, said his board meets tonight. Selectmen will discuss calling a special town meeting to vote on whether to stay with Machias, Kilton said.

Kelly Lombardi, the chairman of the Roque Bluffs selectmen, said her board is examining its contract with Machias and will consider termination if a number of issues are not resolved. Lombardi said it is not clear whether Roque Bluffs can pull out, but there may be an opportunity if Machias has not lived up to its end of the contract. That is what selectmen are exploring, she said.

Lombardi raised a number of issues during a meeting Monday with Machias selectmen, including what she said were changes in the material the Bay Area Transfer Station will not accept. The list of items keeps growing, Lombardi said, and last week residents learned that leaves, pine cones and brush were on the taboo list.

Representatives of Sawyer Environmental attended the Monday meeting, and Sales Manager Richard Corey said there have been several changes in personnel at the landfill. Corey promised to prepare a list of what could not be accepted and to make arrangements for leaves, which cannot be burned under federal law. Machias does not have a composting facility.

Corey also promised to address concerns expressed by selectmen, including a lack of communication and follow-up on his promise to look into a set of scales for the landfill.

“We’re a huge company that has been in this business for 37 years,” Corey said. “We’ve never defaulted on a contract and we don’t intend to now.”

The waste disposal option that both Whitneyville and Roque Bluffs are considering is the Pleasant River Solid Waste Disposal District. The district operates a transfer station and recycling center for Addison, Centerville, Columbia, Columbia Falls, Jonesport and Beals. Both Whitneyville and Roque Bluffs selectmen say membership in the district would cost their towns about the same as Machias the first year, but after that, the cost would drop considerably.

Leon Yeaton, the executive director of Pleasant River, said he does not know if the district can accept Whitneyville or Roque Bluffs as members, at this point. The seven-member district board must vote to take in new members and 1998 has already begun, he said. Yeaton said Whitneyville selectmen approached the district about joining some months ago and asked him to speak with them in November. He has heard nothing from them since, Yeaton said.

Yeaton said Pleasant River expects its costs to go down in the next year. The district is within a year of paying off a $45,000 start-up loan and has just instituted a pay-per-bag user fee. Pleasant River expects the user fees to reduce the amount of waste going to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company incinerator in Orrington by 40 percent in 1998, Yeaton said. Pleasant River contracts with R.F. Jordan to haul its trash to PERC and operates its own transfer station. Yeaton said figures for 1997 indicate that Pleasant River’s total costs were somewhere around $113 a ton.

The Machias transfer station operates differently. The town has a five-year contract with Sawyer Environmental Services to both operate the transfer station and recycling center and to haul trash to PERC. That contract expires in August 1999 and includes payments on the equipment at the landfill. Corey said Tuesday that total costs for Machias are $123.55 a ton. That figure goes up and down, depending on tipping fees at PERC, Corey said.

As of Monday night, Machias selectmen were under the impression they were paying total costs of $116 a ton, but one of the concerns they have voiced is a lack of quarterly reports from Sawyer Environmental.

Sandra Altsmannsberger, the chairman of the Machias selectmen, told Lombardi that Machias “can’t go it alone.” Calling the transfer station “a work in progress,” Altsmannsberger said it went backward rather than forward this year, but the board will continue to work on it.

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