Portland panel proposes trash program changes; council to take up organ bond, Peaks Island sewer growth

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PORTLAND — A panel is recommending several ways for the city to increase its recycling rate to 50 percent by 2020.

In a report that is expected to be presented to the City Council on Wednesday, the Solid Waste Task Force outlines several recommendations for reaching the state statutory recycling goal of 50 percent.

The recommendations include increasing recycling opportunities in city-owned buildings and public facilities; promotion of composting; requiring recycling opportunities by ordinance for multi-unit apartment buildings; exploring cart-based recycling, and finding a permanent home for ecomaine recycling bins. 

The council, however, is being asked to postpone action on another recommendation – re-instituting a curbside bulky waste pick-up program – until February.

Other items on the council’s Sept. 7 agenda include a $1.5 million bond to renovate the Kotzschmar Organ; first readings on proposals to ban the sale and use of fireworks; a $1.3 million expansion of the Peaks Island sewer system, and reducing the amount of per-person space hostels must provide.

Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky said in an Aug. 30 memo to the council that the Solid Waste Task Force, made up of business owners, residents, downtown property owners and solid waste officials, has been working on the proposal for about a year.

Bobinsky said the report calls on the city to increase its residential recycling rate by 2 percent annually by providing greater access to city waste services.

The report indicates that when the city instituted its pay-per-bag and curbside recycling programs in 1999, it was a model for other communities.

But it also says a lot has changed over the last 10 years – for example, the increasing popularity of composting – and Portland hasn’t kept up.

“The City of Portland should respond to those changes and re-establish its leadership position in the field of solid waste management,” the report said.

A composting project underway at the Riverside Recycling Facility is a good first step to achieving the long-term goal of offering a curbside composting program, the report said.

In the short term, the city should continue to promote home composting and increase opportunities for curbside and drop-off disposal of yard waste.

The report also calls for increased recycling at city venues like the Portland Expo, Hadlock Field and Merrill Auditorium, as well as city parks and rights-of-way.

The report even takes aim at the Portland Sea Dogs’ roaming Trash Monster.

“The Trash Monster’s high-profile presence may be effective at reducing the amount of waste left behind by fans,” the report said. “But the mascot’s message does not encourage fans to recycle.”

The report also sets its sights on City Hall, recommending that custodians only pick up recycling from offices and make employees dump their own trash.

“Most waste generated in city buildings is recyclable,” the report said.

The report also recommends requiring recycling at city-sponsored and city-permitted events. It also proposes placing a recycling container with every city trash bin by December 2016.

Giving residents larger, covered recycling bins is also recommended, as is finding a permanent location for ecomaine’s Silver Bullet recycling containers, currently located on Somerset Street, which will be displaced by a future development.

The report also suggests creating an panel to examine a recycling ordinance for buildings not participating in the city program, or those with 11 or more units.

The group would explore ways to offer “an equitable and accessible” recycling program to tenants.

The council, meanwhile, is being asked to postpone action on reinstituting its curbside bulky waste program, where residents would buy tags for $7.50. Items under 30 pounds would require one tag and waste up to 100 pounds would need two tags.

The original proposal called for a two-phase roll-out, but Councilor John Anton said action is being postponed until February, so the both phases can begin at the same time next spring.

Other business

The council is also scheduled to vote on a $1.5 million bond to fix the soon-to-be 100-year-old Kotzchmar Organ, a mammoth wind instrument with 6,800 metal and wooden pipes that is housed behind the Merrill Auditorium stage.

The bond would also fund improvements to the auditorium, including enhancing sound and lighting, painting the ceiling, and installing a video screen.

The Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ have agreed to raise half of the $2.5 million needed for the whole project.

The council will also preview ordinance language that bans the sale and use of fireworks in the city.

The ordinance is in response to a new law that lifts the long-standing state ban on sale or possession of fireworks starting Jan. 1, 2012.

Because of the city’s dense neighborhoods and its old building stock, Portland officials are hoping to take advantage of a provision that allows municipalities to regulate and/or ban fireworks. The Great Fire of 1866, which burned a third of the Old Port, was ignited by a fire cracker.

Also, the council will review a $1.3 million expansion of the Peaks Island sewer system.

The project would extend sewer service to 28 households and 23 vacant lots on Island Avenue and 32 households and 25 vacant lots on Seashore Avenue.

The council’s Finance Committee on Aug. 11 endorsed the plan, which may result in a 1.5 percent increase in the sewer rate.

The hostel proposal would set a standard requirement of 50 square feet per guest, reduced from 70 square feet.

Another amendment to the hostel ordinance would reduce the plumbing requirements.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

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