Cape Elizabeth committee to study Recycling Center operations

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The town will form a citizens committee to review safety at the Recycling Center following a death there on Nov. 24.

The Town Council on Dec. 8 approved creation of the five-member panel to “review solid waste and recycling options for the community.”

The decision came after former Public Works Director Herbert Dennison, 79, was killed when he was hit by a car and knocked into a trash hopper at the center.

Town Manager Mike McGovern announced Dec. 1 that the town would have Woodard and Curran, a solid waste and recycling engineering firm, assess the safety of the facility. As of Dec. 10 the firm still had not submitted its report, and McGovern said he does not know when the report will be available.

McGovern on Dec. 1 said he wants Woodard and Curran to recommend “short-term measures” to improve safety and that he also wants to hire the firm for a longer study.

A 10-year capital improvement plan approved by the Town Council in September includes plans to upgrade the Recycling Center. The long-term study McGovern wants is outlined in the plan as a $25,000 study to be done during fiscal year 2016. 

The plan for fiscal year 2017 says $300,000 will be used to modernize the Recycling Center.

McGovern on Dec. 8 said the citizens committee will be responsible for seeking public input, reviewing recommendations from Woodard and Curran, looking at long-term solutions, and submitting a report to the council by June 30, 2015.

“We need to look longer term,” McGovern said. “Where are we going with this, what major investments might we make to look out into the next couple of decades.”

The five-member committee will include one councilor, one member of the Recycling Committee, and three other residents.

Councilor Caitlin Jordan moved to appoint a seven-member panel, but her motion failed.

“This is something I think is going to affect everybody in town, and I’d like to have a little more input from citizens at large,” Jordan said.

Council Chairwoman Kathy Ray will appoint the committee members; Councilors Jessica Sullivan and James Walsh both volunteered to be members.

“We need to use the resources appointed through this engineering company to get this right,” Walsh said.

Councilors and McGovern said improvements must be made at the Recycling Center to avoid future accidents. 

The trash hopper is at the bottom of a two-story shed built on the side of a plateau at the Recycling Center. Vehicles approach from above, where there is room for three cars or pick-up trucks to back in and drop trash down into the hopper.

Director of Public Works Bob Malley on Nov. 25 said one car was already pulled up to the hopper when Christine Sharp-Lopez, the driver who hit Dennison, approached. Police Chief Neil Williams said Dennison was walking up to the hopper, rather than driving up to it, because his vehicle was towing a trailer.

Residents are supposed to always back into the shed, but many choose to walk up.

Williams has said the Cumberland County district attorney’s office will determine if any charges will be filed against Sharp-Lopez.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.