Most of the 30 condominium owners at Jamestown Court enthusiastically recycled household throwaways, when South Portland provided large blue bins and curbside service a month ago.

Then, the trucks abruptly stopped picking up recyclables without notice. The service has yet to restart.

Daniel Dudley, a resident of Jamestown Court, joined other condominium owners, as well as apartment landlords, at a City Council workshop Monday night to find out how to start or renew the city’s new single-sort recycling pickup.

Although South Portland’s automated recycling program has been heralded as an early success, apartment owners and condo residents learned that they may be excluded from the service by city ordinance. Under city rules, apartment buildings larger than four units and condominiums with more than eight units are ineligible for curbside recycling pickup.

City Manager Jim Gailey told the City Council that some condominiums and apartments were allowed to recycle when the city introduced the original green bins, even though it was against the rules. Gailey said a few buildings were added to routes after landlords and residents requested it.

After the city introduced improved curbside recycling service this summer, it made sure that all residential buildings complied with rules and the terms of its contract with Pine Tree Waste, which handles both recycling and rubbish pickup. Service was halted at buildings and complexes that had been included previously as exceptions.

Although Councilors Tom Blake and Linda Boudreau urged the city to find a way to expand automated recycling to include condominium complexes and apartment buildings that want to participate, Gailey said the services will come at additional cost to the city.

Gailey noted that the city began limiting complexes from trash pickup in the 1980s, because some of the roads into these developments were “substandard” and cracked under the pressure of heavy trucks. Those same rules were applied to recycling pickup, as it was introduced in the 1990s.

Although the city expects to decrease trash disposal fees from an increase in recycling, he said that it’s too early to tell whether the savings will be enough to expand the single-sort, curbside program to include all the condominium complexes and apartment buildings that want to participate.

“We don’t have the data from how much we took in from last month to last year,” said Dana Anderson, who heads the Public Works Department.

Pine Tree Waste, which has been contracted to handle curbside recycling, indicated that it is easier and safer for trucks to empty recycling barrels from complexes, if they are left at the curb on city streets.

Stu Axelrod of Pine Tree Waste told councilors that Scarborough has been dealing with a similar issue and has begun to phase in curbside recycling for homes on private roads, apartment buildings and condominium complexes. He said that it helps if a majority of residents choose to participate, rather than just a few households from a development.

Sometimes apartment buildings need to build additional corrals for the large recycling barrels, he said.

Dan Hoffman, who owns two apartment buildings on Spring Street, said he is willing to share the costs with the city and purchase the blue bins. Previously, he said that smaller, green recycling bins were emptied by crews and that the recyclables were left at the curbside of a city street.

The service stopped when the blue bins on wheels were provided to most homes and small apartment and condo complexes.

Blake argued that all property owners are bearing the costs of the new recycling program through property taxes, and should be eligible for recycling pickup.

But Councilor Jim Hughes said condominium owners already get a break from the city. He said that the city allows for denser developments and narrower streets in condominium complexes, as long as associations handle their own trash pickup and plowing.

He said that condominium owners benefit from those savings by paying less to buy their homes.

Mayor Jim Soule was more emphatic, saying that residents are having a hard enough time paying heating bills and should not be burdened with additional costs to expand recycling pickup to condo owners and apartment dwellers.

“I will fight this tooth and nail,” he said, adding that “individual complexes should pay for this service.”

Hughes then added that he was “too wishy-washy” in his previous statements and warned that condominium associations should not try to shift cost burdens on to the city.

Anderson estimated that buying additional 65-gallon barrels on wheels would cost $55-$60 per container. The cost could go as high as $25,000-$30,000, if 500 were purchased, he said.

He projected an additional $55,000-$60,000 for the recycling pickup, bringing the total up to $100,000 a year.

Bodreau asked for more specific data on where buildings and complexes are located, and how much the cost would be. Anderson said he could have figures in October, especially if he focuses on residences that have made specific requests for recycling pickup.

Gailey said that there are about 135 individual buildings that are not serviced. But he did not have numbers on how many blue barrels each building would require.

Dudley, the resident from Jamestown Court, tried to speak at the workshop, but Soule cut him off. Soule told Dudley that the workshop was not a public hearing and that one would be scheduled at a later date.

After the meeting, Dudley said he had been told by city staff that he could offer information at the workshop. He said he was disappointed by the council’s response, especially Soule’s.

“He was unprofessional,” Dudley said, adding that condominium owners have seen their property taxes rise, just as they have for single family home owners.

Hoffman, who owns the two Spring Street apartment buildings, said he also owns properties in Portland. He said the city has allowed curbside recycling at his Portland buildings, after sending out an inspector to ensure that trucks could safely navigate to and from the apartments.

Also present at the meeting was a resident of the T-Ledge condominiums. She carried a petition signed by most of the complex’s residents.

Blake noted that he has heard from a half-dozen residents who want recycling at their buildings and complexes. He urged a slow transition for residents now excluded but actively seeking curbside pickup. Their only alternative is the so-called silver bullets located at three sites in the city.

Added Boudreau, who chairs ecomaine, the nonprofit regional solid-waste and recycling company: “I would like to see us find a way to make this possible.”


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