2018-07-13 / Community

In the Know

TREE FEES – The South Portland City Council signed a three-year contract for tree pruning and removal services, to June 30, 2021. The contract with Asplundh Tree Service of Naples is for $83,405 per year and may be allowed up to two, one-year extensions, to 2023. Asplundh has had the contract for the past 13 years.

There was only one other bidder this go-round, but the bid price wasn’t even close. Brownie’s Landscaping and Excavation asked for $422,950 to do the same job.

Both bids were based on the same amount of tree work done in fiscal year 2018, which included 725 hours logged by climbers and groundsmen, as well as 725 hours of bucket truck and chipper use, plus 125 hours use of a pulp loader and 20 hours with a crane.

Although the city’s own public works crew does a lot pruning, Deputy Parks Director Karl Coughlin said in a June 28 memo that, “Throughout the year, there is tree work that our department can’t perform, so the work is contracted out to professional tree care companies. The amount of tree work performed depends on the amount of major weather events throughout the year and the condition of the trees.”

In addition to emergency work to clear downed trees and to keep branches from overhanging streets, Asplundh also is responsible for any work that needs to happen more than 37 feet off the ground, as that is the limit the city’s own bucket truck can reach.

The council unanimously approved the new contract at its Tuesday, July 10 meeting

TREES FREE – South Portland is going to get a little greener. At its July 10 meeting, the city council accepted a $14,500 Trees Day grant from TD Bank, give in cooperation with the Arbor Day Foundation, through its Alliance for Community Trees program.

The money will be used to host a Trees Day event Oct. 15, when TD Bank employees will plant more than 40 trees in city parks located in or near low- to moderateincome areas.

“In recent years, the parks department has planted more trees than have been lost, but our overall tree health is in decline,” wrote Karl Coughlin, deputy director of parks, recreation and waterfront, in a June 28 memo to City Manager Scott Morelli.

“Many of the city’s trees are aging and starting to die off and others are being choked out by invasive plants or defoliation by the pernicious winter moth,” Coughlin wrote. “This (grant) would provide us a wonderful opportunity to reverse these trends and provide trees for future generations to enjoy.”

Coughlin said Oct. 15 plantings were initially targeted for Sawyer Park, at the corner of Main and Westbrook streets and around Redbank Community Center.

However, Councilor Kate Lewis said plans for Sawyer Park are in flux with locals still mulling exactly what they want. It would be a shame to put in trees, only to have an ice skating rink, for example, bump them out, she said. However, Councilor Adrian Dowling said the Redbank center is an ideal location, given that playground equipment there is unprotected from the sun, making the slides and other items “scorching hot” for

much of the day.

RECYCLING SCOFFLAWS – During the July 9 meeting of the Cape Elizabeth Town Council, Councilor Jamie Garvin took a moment to gently chide townsfolk for their recycling efforts, an issue he deemed “an increased problem.”

The town maintains so-called “silver bullet” trailers in the town hall parking lot, where residents can drop off recyclables when the transfer station is not open. Those items are then taken to the ecomaine solid waste station in Portland. Cape Elizabeth is an owner/member of ecomaine and, as such, gets a weekly report on the percentage of recyclable materials hauled in from town that arrive contaminated.

“Consistently, at least half of the contaminate loads (from Cape) are ones from right here at town hall,” Garvin said.

In addition to the inclusion of items that are not recyclable, contamination can be as simple as bottles and cans thrown in the trailer inside a plastic bag, which creates extra sorting work at ecomaine.

“As of right now, ecomaine is not charging back to their communities for this contaminated loads, although they do have as part of their bylaws a fee schedule associated with this,” Garvin said. “So, it is something that, should it continue, and especially, should it get worse, we’re going to see a financial impact from.”

According to ecomaine policy, it could assess a $40-per-ton fee if recycling containers come in containing more than 5 percent non-recyclable material. If the contamination tops 10 percent, towns could be charged the same $70.50 fee levied for a ton of regular solid waste.

Garvin encourages residents to be more diligent in recycling efforts to forestall additional fees.

“And, if you should see other people who are maybe not handling things as they should be, maybe give a nice and friendly little nudge to encourage them to do it the right way,” Garvin said.

On its website and in the Apple and Android app stores, ecomaine offers a “Recyclopedia” app to help users determine what is and is not recyclable, and how materials should be handled.

STRONG SALES – Whether or not it’s a reflection of local, state and national economies as a whole, business is booming at the Portland Head Light gift shop at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth.

During routine review of budget numbers during the July 9 town council meeting, Town Manager Matthew Sturgis said sales in the gift shop were up 131 percent over projections for the fiscal year that ended June 30, to $680,276 overall. That not only outpaces the $520,000 expectation for the year, it is also 20.3 percent above the total $565,554 take for the year that ended June 30, 2017.

“It’s off the charts,” Sturgis said. “They’re tracking at $4,000 to $5,000 a day now in sales, whereas a year ago they were doing about $3,000 on a good day.”

Sturgis said the expectation is for continued strong sales for the rest of the summer, “if the weather holds.” But even so, that won’t necessarily mean relief for taxpayers, or for those opposed to a plan to charge for parking at the historic site, now on the table and expected to be debated at the council’s Aug. 13 session.

Gift shop revenue is earmarked for operations and maintenance of the lighthouse, which is run as its own nonprofit corporation. Although the money can be used for a portion of park ranger and greeter wages directly attributable to time spent at the head light, they cannot be directed to costs elsewhere in the park.

“That’s why, if you look at the tax maps, you’ll see that the head light is itself a separate parcel,” Sturgis said.

TRASH CASH – On July 9 the South Portland City Council agreed unanimously to extend the city contract with Pine Tree Waste for solid waste collection for one year.

The agreement with Pine Tree to June 30, 2019, is under all current terms other than cost. The company will get a 1.5 percent boost in the price it is paid, to $869,743 for the year (or, $72,479 per month). Pine Tree has handled curbside collection of household waste in South Portland since 2008.

How much longer that association will last beyond next year in up in the air, however. According to a July 10 memo from City Manager Scott Morelli, the reason to re-up with Pine Tree for one year is that Scarborough and Saco both have solid waste contracts that end next year. That would be the time, he said, to potentially partner on a combined program.

Saco, Scarborough and South Portland all have automated curbside collection – in which trucks side-load trash and recycling bins and electronically read weights collected – and all three are members of the ecomaine waste-to-energy operation located in Portland.

“These three communities are currently working in collaboration with ecomaine to roll out a pilot program for regional collection in an effort to reduce costs,” Morelli wrote. “As such, one large collection contract could entice other waste haulers to participate, therefore creating competition during the bid process and ultimately reducing costs of collection.

“This is a unique opportunity for all three communities to work with ecomaine for a consolidated waste hauler contract,” Morelli wrote. “We have had preliminary discussions with Saco and Scarborough and this collaboration could put all in alignment for a joint bid in the coming year.”

– Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington

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