CAPE ELIZABETH — A $1.4 million bond question to fund upgrades and safety improvements at the Recycling Center is likely to be on the June 16 ballot.
At a meeting Monday, the Town Council voted 6-1, with Councilor Caitlin Jordan opposed, to accept the report of the Solid Waste and Recycling Long Term Planning Committee, which calls for changes in how the Recycling Center operates.
Town Manager Mike McGovern will have the bond question language available for council and public review at the Feb. 8 council meeting, when councilors could also debate a $600,000 expenditure to replace the aging humidity and chlorination system at the town pool.
Only one resident raised concerns during the public hearing Monday on the proposed improvements at the Recycling Center.
Scott Clark said his issue is the continued negative environmental impact of 6,000 cars going to and from the Recycling Center every week.
He said the town could reduce its carbon footprint by moving to curbside collection of household waste and recyclables, because that would only require one or two trucks traveling town streets.
Clark said he is concerned about the town putting so much money into its current system of trash disposal instead of thinking ahead and trying to make it more environmentally friendly.
Peter Frye, vice chairman of the town’s Recycling Committee, agreed with Clark that curbside pickup has its benefits, but said instituting such a system is not possible given the costs and the sentiment in town.
In his comments, Frye praised the proposal by the Solid Waste and Recycling Long Term Planning Committee, calling it both a “good plan” and a “viable solution with lots of efficiencies built in.”
A fatal accident at the Recycling Center in November 2014 led the town to review immediate and long-term safety changes and more efficient trash disposal.
The result of that review was a 158-page report that was given to the council last summer.
The major changes being recommended include installing drive forward-only lanes, which would have their own recycling and outdoor trash compactor stations; constructing a bypass lane to allow more convenient access to services like the Swap Shop and Bottle Shed, and repurposing the existing compactor building.
The five-person Solid Waste and Recycling Long Term Planning Committee, which met 20 times, was appointed by the council to “study all aspects of the current (Recycling Center) and to recommend long-term solutions for the handling of solid waste,” the report states.
The ultimate goal for the Recycling Center upgrades, the committee said, is to “provide substantial safety and service improvements over the next 25 to 30 years.”
Following the accident, which killed former Public Works Director Herbert Dennison, the town implemented a short-term safety solution, which would be replaced with the new upgrades being recommended.
In introducing the report, Councilor Jessica Sullivan, the council’s liaison to the group, said the recommendations represent a “very, very exciting proposal,” that would save the town money in the long term.
Overall, Sullivan added, the changes being proposed for the Recycling Center are “extremely economical and efficient.”
Kara Law, another member of the town’s Recycling Committee, said the panel “thoughtfully considered” several issues and put forth an “excellent” plan, although some details could still be improved.
When it was time for council debate on the recommendations, Councilor Sara Lennon said she also has concerns about the carbon impact of residents using their own vehicles to bring their waste for disposal.
But, she said, “curbside pickup is so expensive and you can do so much at the Recycling Center in one trip,” including dropping off recycling, yard waste and more.
Lennon also said the committee proposal addresses a lot of concerns raised in town about the best way to operate the Recycling Center. She called it “a very, very effective solution.”
Councilor Patricia Grennon said the plan includes “significant safety improvements.”
After the council meeting, Jordan said she voted against putting a Recycling Center bond out to voters because of the cost.
“There are other options that don’t cost as much,” she said.
While Jordan agrees that Dennison’s death was a tragedy, she said the bond measure takes things too far.
The existing method of trash disposal has worked for “many, many years,” she said, adding, “I agree that it will be a wonderful facility, if the voters approve, but we could spend that money on other things.”
Cape E.lizabeth voters may be asked to borrow $1.4 million for improvements at the town’s Reycling Center.