FARMINGTON — The Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed Tuesday to seek a compost facility license transfer from Sandy River Recycling Association to the town.

The decision is based on a private donation of $288 from Thomas Eastler to fund the Department of Environmental Protection license transfer fee.

While some board members were hesitant to take on the license without a plan for the compost facility, Eastler urged the board to provide time for volunteers to prepare a plan. He backed his request with an offer to pay for it.

After the initial transfer cost, the state licensing requires an annual report of composting activity along with a yearly $300 licensing fee, Town Manager Richard Davis said.

SRRA has accepted food waste, about 27 tons a year from the University of Maine at Farmington and another 2 tons from the Mallett School, and combined it with horse manure from the fairgrounds to produce a good-quality compost for sale to local citizens.

The operation costs about $10,000 annually, running higher than annual revenues of $3,000.


SRRA will stop accepting material for the compost operation as of Dec. 31, Jo Josephson, former SRRA president, told the board.

This decision came after a request for Aramark, the UMF cafeteria provider, and UMF to contribute $7,000 to avoid stopping the program was not supported, she said.

The DEP has asked the town to accept a transfer of the license, Davis said, which is something the town doesn’t have to do.

Davis was not sure what the costs for the town would be even if the operation was scaled back, he said. The license could be obtained and held for two years without the town operating the compost site.

The Public Works Department has a compost operation for leaves and manure at the town garage, Director Denis Castonguay said. It could be consolidated with the SRRA compost if the license is secured.

Eastler, a UMF geology professor, viewed keeping the license as an educational opportunity to teach about food waste. Students at UMF, through the Sustainable Campus Coalition, are already involved and youngsters at Mallett are learning, he said.


He was sure students and volunteers could make it work and “make it get better and better,” he said.

Composting also helps save on disposal fees, Davis said, noting that about 17 percent of the solid waste stream is composed of food waste.

Some board members repeated their concerns about investing the small sum without a plan for the program. Some were also concerned about potential costs for staffing and transportation for the Public Works Department to deal with composting. The department budget is already stretched by the Whittier Road project, Chairman Ryan Morgan said.

“If we don’t try, we may lose the potential,” Eastler said of letting the license go and perhaps starting from scratch later. “Give it a two-year trial and see what happens. If we wait two years, it may be too late.”

The board agreed to accept Eastler’s donation for the transfer of the license, one they believed would expire July 1.

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