The Kennebunk Select Board has been discussing the public works facility and one question they’ll have to answer soon is if the transfer station would be included in future upgrade proposals. The transfer station is privately operated. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – As the town contemplates upgrading and adding to the public services facility on Sea Road, a decision will soon have to be made whether the transfer station, currently operated by a private firm, will stay in the plan.

“To move forward, the first decision is around the transfer station and if the board wants it to remain on this site or relocate it,” said Public Services Director Brian Laverriere.

The Select Board has been looking at the Public Services facility for the past few years and about $2.86 million had been budgeted, but as it turned, out, that wasn’t nearly enough, said Laverriere. In the fall of 2019, Kennebunk contracted with Sebago Technics to assess the situation – building on a 2016 assessment, which revealed the need for new space and perhaps a rehab of the existing building.

In a July workshop, board chair Blake Baldwin pronounced the current public services facilities as “not fit for people to work in.”

Laverriere said the current building could be renovated for vehicle storage, and a new building constructed for administration, mechanics bays and a wash bay. He said the price tag would be about $16 million.

With wetlands taking up much of the space not currently in use and other operations on the site – like the transfer station, snow dump, bottle redemption center, treasure chest shop, storage for items belonging to the town, police department and fire department, the dog park, and more, available land is an issue.

And so is traffic flow on the site, which Laverriere said is a considerable concern.

Dipping into the wetlands as a location for the transfer station – and paying the associated wetland impact fees – would cost about $720,000, Laverriere estimated.

Board member Shiloh Schulte said there have been inconsistencies at the transfer station, “but getting rid of it entirely and saying “good luck” is a nonstarter for me.”

Kennebunk has curbside pickup for recycling and trash, but the transfer station and recycling center is designed for disposal of items that cannot be picked up at curbside.

Laverriere said the private firm has a contract that runs until 2025. He said if the transfer station were to ever return to the town for operation, he would prefer it be on the same site as other public services. He said the current thinking is that a transfer station could be placed on the Sea Road lot with a different entrance, but would have to impact the wetlands to do so.

Board member Peter Brewitt said his preference is to eliminate the transfer station, indicating he believed private industry could take up the slack. “There are much cheaper options than this transfer station,” he said.

Board member Wayne Berry said he tended to agree. He noted the town would have to spend $720,000 with no return, and pointed out the town itself is charged fees when it takes items there for disposal.

“I’m not sure it should be the town’s responsibility,” Berry said.

“There’s no way I can ask taxpayers to pay $720,000,” to dispose of items at a place already considered expensive, said board member Frank Paul.

Schulte said he is concerned if there is no means of disposal in town, unwanted items will just get thrown out. He said he doesn’t like the $720,000 tab and is concerned about cutting into wetlands.

There was considerable discussion.

Baldwin said it will be up to the voters to decide, and the discussion that evening would be the first of several. He said people he talks to say they don’t personally use the transfer station but they like having it and it is considered an amenity.

Resident Sharon Staz said the transfer station is important to many, that she believes there needs to be a facility in town and it makes sense that it would be comingled at the public services facility.

Resident Brenda Robinson urged the board to consider the age of the population and their needs. Referring to the costs associated with disposal, she said she recently hired someone to remove items from her property, at 25 percent of what it would have cost for her to do so at the transfer station.

Baldwin suggested putting together a task force to look at the matter, and that the board would discuss the matter on Dec. 8 and again at a workshop scheduled for Dec. 15.

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