The Select Board has raised the fee to dispose of materials at the Transfer Station from $145 to $175 per ton, effective Tuesday, May 2.
Despite the 20.69% increase, the fee falls short of the town’s costs to handle the materials and pay a contractor for transportation and disposal, according to town officials.
The $30 rise does not affect the disposal of household trash and recyclables at the Recycling Center, which remains free to Harpswell property owners. The Transfer Station, up the hill from the Recycling Center, accepts bulk materials, like demolition debris, brush, and furniture.
Harpswell Solid Waste Manager Charles “Chuck” Perow Jr. expects some discontent about the higher fees.
“Finding the right balance of pricing, services and value, all while controlling costs for the taxpayer, can be a struggle and complex at times,” Perow said in a letter about the increases. “Increased prices can lead to illegal dumping, confrontational interactions and financial stress for patrons.
“I don’t take the recommendation of price increases lightly. I consider them the last resort after all options have been explored or exhausted. That being said, we must keep pricing in line with the actual costs incurred by the facility for proper disposal.”
The increase is the third in three years, reflecting inflation in the town’s costs to transport and dispose of waste.
In 2021, the town set the rates at $125 per ton for sorted materials and $250 for unsorted materials. In 2022, the town raised the rates to $145 and $290. As of Tuesday, the fees are $175 and $350.
Prior to 2021, the fees were the same for 12 years. In 2009, the rates were set at $120 and $240.
The town’s cost for transportation and disposal was $85.22 per ton in 2021 and $124.33 in 2022. As of Jan. 1, 2023, the cost is $156.33 — higher than the $145 fee.
“We’ve seen back-to-back years of 30% increases in the cost to get rid of a ton of material,” Perow told the Select Board on Thursday, April 27. “Trucking has essentially doubled in the last six years.”
“It begins to be a disservice to the taxpayers if we’re not at least covering the bulk of what it costs the town to get rid of it,” Perow said.
But the figure of $156.33 includes only the costs the town pays to contractors, not its own costs for labor, energy, maintenance and supplies. The town estimates that the new fee of $175 will cover 76.52% of the total cost to operate the Transfer Station.
With a three-year contract in place for disposal and trucking, Perow hopes to hold the fee at $175 through 2025 to “give everybody a breather,” he said.
The Select Board also approved a new fee schedule for disposal of mattresses and an annual permit fee for commercial haulers.
Rather than pay by weight for mattresses, patrons will pay by size, from $10 for a twin to $20 for a king.
Commercial haulers, or garbage collectors, will pay a fee of $250 per year effective Jan. 1, 2024. For the remainder of 2023, they will pay a $100 fee. Perow called the arrangement a “soft launch” that will bring the permits in line with the calendar year.