Thanks to an idea by Dupont Borough Council president Stanley Knick and a gaming fund grant, managing yard waste will be much easier for Greater Pittston municipalities by this summer.
When Dupont Borough Council awarded bids for composting equipment at a special meeting on Tuesday, Knick's idea to create a regional compose center on four acres of a 33-acre parcel the borough owns in the Grimes Industrial Park took a big step toward becoming reality.
Two years ago, Knick, after seeing successful co-op compost programs work in other areas, looked for a way to make such a plan work here. He took his idea to State Rep Mike Carroll who urged him to ask surrounding towns to write a letter of interest and then apply for a gaming money grant.
The towns did their part by writing the letters and forming a Greater Pittston Regional Compost Commission. Last May, the state came through with a $461,000 gaming fund grant.
Of that money, approximately $292,000 was allocated on Tuesday for the purchase of machinery to convert yard waste into compost. The bid for a grinder was awarded to Ransome CAT from Whitehall for $214,000. Highway Equipment from DuBois got the bids for the loader with bucket and grabber forks at $66,000 and a water buffalo for $12,000. Knick said the next steps are to solicit bids for fencing, gate and a camera system for the site
Dupont, Pittston, Hughestown, Yatesville, Duryea and Avoca boroughs and Jenkins Township are all members of the compost commission. Representatives of those towns will meet on April 4 to elect officers for the commission.
Approval from the Department of Environmental Protection is pending, but Knick said the group doesn't anticipate a problem as the site is in compliance with the guidelines under Act 101. Those guidelines state the site should be less than five acres, not in a 100-year flood plain, not within 300 feet of a wetland, not within 100 feet of a perennial stream and not within 300 feet of an occupied dwelling; it should be gated and accessible only when an attendant is on duty.
The Dupont site will accept yard waste from the seven towns only, not from individual homeowners or contractors. The resultant compost will be available to residents of the member towns for free.
The grant money should keep the program running for two to three years. After that, the member towns, which have all agreed to remain in the commission for five years, will be asked to contribute operating costs.
While in the future, towns may have to contribute to operating costs, there are also savings to be enjoyed. For example, Pittston, whose grass clippings now go to the landfill, should see reduced tipping fees when the compost site opens.
Hughestown and Avoca, both of whom haul yard waste to the Lackawanna Recycling Center, will save on time and fuel.
The compost site will accept yard waste that includes tree branches up to eight inches in circumference, hedge trimmings, garden residue, ashes, leaves and Christmas trees. Grass clippings, though not considered yard waste by the DEP, will also be accepted.
The commission expects to hire two part-time workers to operate the compost center and have the site up and running by June or July. The grinder will be delivered in 45 to 60 days.
Knick said a compost site was inevitable. "We had to do something sooner or later. Municipalities are running out of room. Regulations say you can't dump it. We had the property and, who knows, if we waited we might not have been able to get the grant."
Pittston City Manager Joe Moskovitz hopes the compost co-op portends a trend.
"Maybe an intergovernmental agreement like this will show regionalization can work and spur on other ideas of shared services," he said
On the West Side, West Wyoming and Exeter both have DEP-compliant compost sites.