CUMBERLAND — The Town Council is considering closing the town’s compost and brush operations at the Drowne Road Public Works headquarters.

The panel on June 17 will also discuss moving the town’s sand and salt sheds from Drowne Road to an area behind Storey Brothers’ 215 Middle Road property.

The potential moves, which will be the subject of two public hearings, are the latest step in the town’s years-long efforts to reduce operations at Drowne Road.

Continuing compost and brush operations could also be in question. The town, which received its most recent Maine Department of Environmental Protection license for those operations in 2017, is out of compliance and has been working to reduce onsite piles to regain compliance, Town Manager Bill Shane told councilors Monday night.

DEP sets a guideline of 1,000 cubic yards for compost and brush dumps, but the volume of those materials and the presence of manure are both outside the current license parameters, the manager said.

He noted that although the town has now eliminated manure, “we really should not have used it without an amendment to our license. We composted over 1,500 yards of manure last year and 1,500 yards of grass and leaves.”

The license comes up for review about every five years, Shane added. The town has stopped accepting anything but yard waste and plans by the end of this month to remove 1,000 cubic yards of finished compost, and will by then be operating within its license parameters, Shane said.

High levels of methane gas at a closed-out demolition landfill near the garage led the town to scrap plans to move the entire facility, which prevents additional housing from being built in its place.

Residents of the Village Green development, built earlier this decade near Public Works, have said they moved there expecting the town garage and affiliated operations – which they call offensive to the eyes, ears and nose alike – would be moved.

The town has considered several relocation options, all of which have fallen through, primarily due to neighbor opposition.

Skillin Road residents last September aimed to block a site near them, as did neighbors of a vacant area north of the Cumberland Fairgrounds and town-owned land next to the Town Forest. Neighbor outcry in March helped sink a proposed site on town-owned land off Greely Road.

Although the council more recently discussed moving just the compost and brush pads to the Cumberland Fairgrounds property at 197 Blanchard Road, Shane said he had yet to hear whether the Cumberland Farmers Club would support the move, and club members may not convene until late this year.

Given pushback from the neighbors, Shane suggested that site be removed from the table, and the vacant, 34-acre lot next to the Town Forest be considered.

“After the deja vu moments of this process,” he said, “I think many of us have come to the conclusion that maybe it’s time to put it to a referendum and see if the people of the town … actually want a brush and compost facility.”

That vote would be held this November. If operations cease in Cumberland, Riverside Recycling in Portland would be an alternative for residents who want to continue composting, Shane said.

Rob Verrier of Tuttle Road, whose residence abuts the town-owned plot, told councilors the parcel has value for the town – whether kept as open space or developed into some manner of housing – and not appropriate for a dump.

“I think it is time … to close the dump as soon as possible,” he said Monday.

Lowell Smith of Wyman Way, part of the Village Green development, said the matter should not go to referendum. “You know it as well as I do; it’s dead on arrival,” he said.

Smith recommended the brush dump be closed, and that the town explore bulk pickup of the material. “Everyone’s sick of looking for a location,” he added.

K.C. Putnam of Main Street was one of the few to speak in favor of the operations, noting “I do use, and I very much value, the town having facilities to recycle.”

Councilor Bill Stiles pointed out that the people in town who favor the dump were largely missing from Monday’s discussion.

“Everybody is set up here against the dump, and ‘not in my backyard,'” he said.

While she favors composting, Councilor Shirley Storey-King said she supports closing the town’s operation without a referendum vote, but not before first holding a public hearing on the matter.

The council voted unanimously to conduct the June 17 hearing on the closure. All members but one voted to hold a second hearing on moving the sand and salt shed to the Storey Brothers site.

Storey-King abstained because she is the brothers’ cousin, but noted she has no business dealings with them.

The combined shed, about 8,000 square feet in size, would sit to the rear of Storey Brothers, about 1,000 feet back from Middle Road. The council could vote to allow Shane to execute a purchase and sale agreement for about 1.5 acres with owners Rick, Jim and Tim Storey.

Construction, at a cost of $300,000-$400,000, could occur next spring. A land price is being negotiated.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

People filled the Cumberland Town Council Chambers Monday, June 3, for discussions about relocating or eliminating the town’s brush and compost dump operations, and moving its sand and salt sheds.

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