CAPE ELIZABETH — Over the past 27 years the bottle shed in Cape Elizabeth has raised more than $600,000 to support local nonprofit service clubs and organizations.

But with fewer groups applying for funds, questions have arisen about the program’s future.

Cape Elizabeth’s bottle shed brings in about $1,800 a month for local nonprofits. The Town Council is reviewing the program to see if it’s working. File

The council will take up the matter at a workshop after forwarding the matter for further discussion at its Nov. 13 meeting.

It was only five years ago that the council first considered several options for the bottle shed, including shuttering it for good.

However, in what Councilor Jamie Garvin called “a quickly stitched together model,” the council decided to keep the shed open, with all proceeds held by the town. Each year qualified nonprofits apply for a grant from the account.

The town also created a Bottle Shed Committee to decide how the money is distributed. The committee last met in December 2018, when it gave out $16,500 to various groups in town, including the speech team at Cape Elizabeth High School, Scouts, sports boosters, and the parent associations at Pond Cove and Cape High.

Applications were due Nov. 8 and, according to materials provided to the Town Council, there is $17,000 available.

In order to qualify for proceeds, organizations must be based in Cape Elizabeth and provide proof of tax-exempt status.

The issues to be worked out, Garvin said Nov. 13, are whether to create a more formal structure for oversight and the distribution of funds, including whether the three-member committee should be a permanent standing committee.

At issue is also how best to distribute funds, particularly as more nonprofits conduct their own fundraising efforts, often using the Clynk redemption service, which only requires handing out collection bags to supporters.

Garvin, a former chairman of the town council, said he was first approached about the management of the bottle shed earlier this fall and that’s why he put the issue on the council agenda for consideration. There was no public comment at the Nov. 13 meeting.

Residents donate returnables to the program, the revenue from which has been steady over the past several years, topping out at $21,000 in 2016 and hovering between around $16,000 and $17,000 in the last two years.

The bottle shed is located at the transfer station and recycling center on Dennison Drive, off Spurwink Avenue. It’s operated in partnership with the South Portland Redemption Center. The shed first opened in December 1992, the brainchild of resident Rosemary Reid, who created the redemption program to support youth in town. Originally the facility was an old garden shed donated by Reid, but in 1996 the town built a more formal structure.

At its height, the bottle shed brought in approximately $3,000 a month. Now, the council memo said, the average revenue from the bottle shed is closer to $1,800.

Groups had begun to have trouble recruiting volunteers to collect donations each month and the returnables began to stack up. Then fewer groups asked to rent the shed until there were not enough applicants to fill the calendar year.

That’s when the town made the switch to the current model. But since it was done “so hastily,” Garvin said, “it’s appropriate” for the council to review it.

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