EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — State leaders want to hear from businesses willing to run the Dolby landfill commercially, thereby possibly saving the state as much as $46.5 million over the next 30 years, the governor’s office said Friday.
Officials from the Maine State Planning Office hope to issue requests for proposals in two or three weeks. The state would entertain proposals from firms willing to lease or buy the landfill, said Adrienne Bennett, Gov. Paul LePage’s spokeswoman.
If the state could lease or sell the landfill, it would also create jobs and revenue for East Millinocket, said Rep. Herbert Clark, D-Millinocket. In addition, he said, it would relieve East Millinocket and Millinocket of pressure from LePage to contribute funds or manpower to landfill operations, which cost about $254,100 annually.
“These towns don’t have a lot of money to do this long term. Millinocket came up with a number [a proposal to contribute $50,000 to the landfill’s operations for a year] and East Millinocket came up with a proposal of services,” Clark said Friday.
The state could probably use another landfill, state officials have said. Estimates place the life remaining in the state’s landfills at six to 10 years.
However, state laws prohibiting new or expanded commercial landfills might have to be changed, and officials from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection have expressed doubt whether Dolby has enough room to accommodate the state’s trash needs.
Also, Dolby is limited to serving as a disposal site for the new Great Northern Paper Co. LLC mill in East Millinocket, and changing that would take at least five to seven years, officials have said.
Still, other forms of landfill operations not specifically addressed by state law might be allowed, said a LePage administration official who declined to be identified. The Legislature could also vote to approve exceptions to the law, he said.
The Legislature voted in June to take ownership of the dump, thereby clearing the way for the eventual purchase of the two Katahdin region paper mills, as no would-be buyer wanted the landfill’s cleanup and maintenance costs.
State officials have estimated it would cost roughly $31.9 million to run the landfill commercially plus another $14.6 million to close a filled portion of Dolby, but town officials have said those costs could be more than offset by tipping fees and other charges commercial landfills pass on to their customers.
Clark said he was unsure whether operating Dolby commercially would be preferable. He is concerned, he said, that commercial dump traffic would jam Route 157 through Medway, East Millinocket and Millinocket, and whether residents would want the landfill run commercially.
State officials hope to have proposals returned from businesses by April.