Portland councilor decries transfer station changes

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PORTLAND — Changes to fees and acceptable items at the city transfer station go into effect July 1, and at least one city councilor says the new rules are upsetting her constituents.

As of July 1, residents will no longer be able to use their e-cards to dispose of remodeling waste and loose materials. The card, which now allows residents to bring unwanted items to the Riverside Recycling Facility and dispose of them for free up to a certain limit, starting next month will cover mostly just bulky items and small yard waste. 

“In the past if you wanted to do a small home project, like rebuild a back deck, you could just take (the debris) over to Riverside and use your e-card,” City Councilor Cheryl Leeman said. “Now there’s lots of things you’re going to get charged for.”

Leeman said she has heard from residents who are upset with the changes. She said every year the city takes more trash removal services away, and believes the elimination of heavy item trash pick-up combined with a reduction in the number of e-cards allowed for apartment buildings and multi-family rental homes could lead to unsafe conditions.

Tenants often leave items behind in basements and hallways, Leeman said. Up until now, landlords were allowed up to four e-cards, meaning they could bring as many as 40 loads to the transfer station each year. But beginning in July, owners of these propertied will be provided just one card.

Leeman said while the council approved that change, she was unaware that the city Public Service Department also planned on eliminating several items from the list of material allowed under the e-card system.

“It’s a real public safety issue in these tenement buildings,” Leeman said.The fee for residents and small commercial operations to dump remodeling and loose materials as of July 1 will range from $16 to $24 per cubic yard.

City officials have said the e-cards, meant for residents, are being abused by commercial landscaping operations.

Leeman has called for a City Council workshop to discuss the changes at Riverside, including changes to management. The council voted in its 2010 budget to turn more of the management of the facility over to Commercial Pavers. She said while she believes Commercial Pavers does a good job managing the center, she is concerned the city is getting into a situation where its transfer station operation is beginning to resemble a private business.

“People are getting less service, but paying more,” she said. “The information about our contract with C.P. is unclear despite councilors requesting specific information several times.”

For a list of other changes set to take affect at Riverside, go to recycling.portlandmaine.gov/ecardrules2009.pdf

The free e-cards available to Portland residents allow up to 10 drop-offs a year of acceptable items. Residents do not have to get a new card each year. Riverside Recycling Facility is also available to anyone for a fee.

E-card users can dispose of up to 10 gallons of hazardous waste for free annually with the e-card. People without an e-card can dispose of toxic waste at Riverside and will be charged $6.50 a gallon for liquids and $3.50 per pound for solids.

The hazardous waste disposal program is open to nonresidents as well and takes place on the first and third Saturday of each month from July to November.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net