ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland City Council is scheduled to vote Monday night, Feb. 13, on whether to seek possible state reimbursement of up to 75 percent for the multimillion-dollar cost of closing the community’s quarry landfill.
The city’s solid waste director said it would be challenging, however, to fill the quarry over the next two years, which would be necessary to qualify for state reimbursement.
The City Council met on Feb. 6 with Ted Wolfe from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s landfill closure and remediation program.
The former lime quarry used by Rockland for decades, largely for demolition debris disposal, will be filled to capacity in as little as seven years if the amount of materials being dumped remains at the same pace.
But if the city agrees to have the landfill closed by Dec. 31, 2015, the state could pay up to 75 percent of the costs of that closure — estimated at more than $3 million.
But Wolfe acknowledged that there is no money left in the reimbursement account for municipal landfills. He said the last bond issue approved for such costs was in 2008. He said bonds are not popular with the current administration and he could not say when money would be available.
David St. Laurent, the solid waste director for Rockland, noted that to close the landfill by December 2015, the city would need to cease having materials dumped by July 2014 to allow the ground to settle for a year before the city seeds over the land and completes the closure process.
He also said the city would need to hire contractors and rent equipment to handle the additional volume of debris necessary to fill the quarry that quickly.
City Councilor Eric Hebert questioned what the incentive is for the city to try to close the landfill when there is no guarantee of reimbursement.
“We can dangle out the possibility that down the line that money would be there,” Wolfe said.
The reimbursement program began in the late 1980s, the DEP official said, to encourage 15 communities, including Rockland, either to close their landfills or to get a license.
City councilors took no stand at their Feb. 6 meeting.
The city has been trying to speed up the closure of the landfill during the past few years by agreeing to contracts with waste disposal companies.
Those agreements have come under fire from past and current councilors for their rates.
Last month, the council authorized two contracts that allow the firms to dispose of demolition debris for $30 a ton. Supporters of the agreements said that the deals will generate nonproperty tax revenues for the city to support the landfill operations and its eventual closure.
Opponents — including Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson and former Councilor Adele Grossman Faber — criticized the agreements on several fronts. Faber said it was mind-boggling that the city would charge the firms $30 a ton while charging local contractors $40 a ton.
Aggregate Recycling Corp. of Eliot has agreed to dispose of 25,000 tons of waste each year while Troiano Waste Services Inc. of South Portland would dump 5,000 tons a year.
Correction: An early version of this story misidentified a Maine Department of Environmental Protection official. The official who met with the city council was Ted Wolfe, not Tom.