Selectmen: Bowdoinham recycling center a safety concern, despite public sentiment

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The Bowdoinham Recycling Barn has housed the town’s recycling program for three decades. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BOWDOINHAM — Bowdoinham’s recycling barn has several safety and structural issues that need to be fixed, according to Selectmen ChairmanTony Lewis.

Lewis told selectmen last week that the building the town leases for its recycling program on Post Road is dilapidated. There are portions of the floor where workers’ feet have fallen through, fire doors that open to the inside rather than outside (violating fire codes), and an area of the floor that is uneven and dangerous to drive the forklift on. The exterior walls are deteriorated and have holes.

There is no heat in the barn and the doors don’t lock, Lewis said. He said there is an apartment on the third floor and the tenants who live there can access parts of the building housing the town operation. A former tenant nearly burned the building down accidentally by apparently leaving the boiler door open, Lewis said.

“I would almost call it a dangerous building,” he said.

Lewis said two previous townwide studies looking at the future of the recycling barn determined it should be relocated, but there was too much public opposition to move forward.

In 2011, a task force examined the town’s public works facility and the recycling barn it leases. In 2012, the town entered negotiations with barn owner David Berry to buy the property, but Berry decided not to sell. However, the town has the right to purchase the property before anyone else.

Selectmen are forming a new solid waste committee charged with looking at the possibility of relocating the recycling program again, as well as exploring other recycling issues.

The town is responsible for building costs related to its recycling operation.

Lewis said he also wants the town to get an engineer’s assessment of the building.

There are no estimates on what it might cost to fix the barn or relocating the recycling operation. The 2011 study estimated purchasing a new facility and moving there could cost $320,000 to $500,000, or up to $625,000 if the town needs to buy land. Renting another facility could cost between $40,000 to $220,000 the first year.

The barn has been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lewis said he visited the barn recently and found it to be in poor condition.

“It’s a disaster and it really needs to be addressed and addressed appropriately,” Lewis told selectmen.

Berry, also the town’s former solid waste director, said Monday that while it is not a perfect building, it has served the town well for 30 years.

The town leases a little less than half of the building for a little more than $15,000 a year, Berry said. Aside from an issue with an area of the barn where the concrete is broken up, the town hasn’t raised any specific issues with him, he said.

“If there are other issues that Tony Lewis thinks ought to be looked at, we can do that,” Berry said.

The town announced last week that it is close to opening the recycling barn to the public under a modified schedule and “policy keeping with COVID-19 guidelines.”



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