Solid waste costs on the rise for Auburn, MMWAC towns in 2015

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AUBURN — The city and other member communities that own the Mid-Maine Waste Action Corporation’s Goldthwaite Road incinerator will see their tipping fees increased drastically in 2015.

Joe Kazar, MMWAC’s executive director, said Auburn and the other 11 owner-communities currently pay $29 per ton to have their community’s trash burned by the incinerator.

Kazar said those members can expect to pay $41 per ton beginning July 2015. Non-member communities pay market prices, ranging from $60 to $85 per ton.

“It won’t be official until they vote it into the budget, but it currently is the plan,” Kazar said.

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For Auburn, it will mean an increase in solid waste disposal costs of between $92,000 and $99,000 per year.

“This is intended to be a one-time adjustment,” Kazar said. “In future years, it won’t be unreasonable to expect some sort of cost of living increase. That might be something like one-and-a half or two percent — something modest, not a big jump.”

MMWAC is jointly owned by 12 communities — Auburn, Bowdoin, Buckfield, Lovell, Minot, Monmouth, New Gloucester, Poland, Raymond, Sumner, Sweden and Wales.

The facility takes solid waste from its 12 communities and several others, about 73,000 tons per year. It’s burned to ash at 1,800 degrees, creating steam that generates about five megawatts of electricity.

The sale of that electricity and the tipping fees — both market rate and member — are MMWAC’s main revenue sources.

MMWAC sold its electricity under contract to Central Maine Power until the beginning of 2014. The incinerator has been competing on the wholesale market since the contract ended, and is getting a much lower price for its power.

“That contract gave us generally higher prices, so it was helpful to our economics,” Kazar said. “Since that expired, the bottom line is, we have seen our annual income from electricity is significantly reduced — along the order of $300,000 to $500,00 per year.”

Member communities approved the tipping increase to make up that lost revenue during their budget discussions last year but waited until the summer 2015 to have the new fees begin. That’s the beginning of MMWAC’s 2015-16 fiscal year.

MMWAC’s $43 million in debt was paid off last year. For Auburn, that amounts to about $29 million in retired debt.

“So the board wanted to hold off on any increase until there was no debt related to MMWAC,” he said. “If you look at what an owner town paid in debt and what the higher tipping fee would be, there still is a saving for our member towns.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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