January 18, 2022

Mount Desert to ask for payment in trash pickup

MOUNT DESERT – Selectmen agreed Monday to send a letter to the three U.S. post offices in town asking them to pay something toward the cost of picking up and disposing of their trash.

The board did not favor Town Manager Michael MacDonald’s suggestion to notify the federal offices that the town would not pick up their trash after Oct. 30.

Mount Desert is the only community in Hancock County that still runs a municipal trash hauling operation, according to Public Works Director Tony Smith.

In all other towns, residents and businesses either hire a private hauler or bring their refuse to a transfer station.

A town maintenance worker spends 90 minutes a day dealing with refuse and recyclables from the Seal Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Somesville post offices, Smith said.

Not only does the town pay tipping fees to dispose of the trash at the regional incinerator in Orrington, it also takes recyclable material, which the town loses money on annually, Smith said.

MacDonald and Smith said all other post offices in the county pay for trash removal. Selectmen agreed, but wanted MacDonald to ask for a contribution before considering shutting off the service.

“It’s not just the wages, it’s what he could be doing elsewhere,” Smith said of the town employee.

MacDonald said he has been bothered since he took the manager’s job three years ago that town residents pay the federal government’s trash bill through their property taxes.

“Let them do what every other post office in Maine does,” MacDonald said.

The town picks up trash twice a week during the summer and once weekly the rest of the year.

Also Monday, Selectman Patrick Smallidge asked MacDonald to poll towns within a 30-mile radius about how much they pay for employee health insurance, what kind of benefits they offer and what deductibles cost employees.

The town pays about $400,000 for health coverage for its 30 employees in an annual municipal budget of about $5 million. The town pays 100 percent of employee and dependent coverage.

“I’m going to be as popular as manure” for broaching the subject, Smallidge said, adding that while “our employees are worth it,” at some point the town might have to lay off employees because of the rising cost.

Selectmen accepted the resignation of finance director and treasurer Michael Chammings, who has accepted the job of town manager of Oxford in western Maine.

Chammings took the finance job a year ago after working as town manager of Tremont. He will work until Oct. 4.

A cash audit of town finances will be conducted in October, MacDonald said, as standard procedure when a town treasurer leaves the job.

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