City’s composting program doesn’t work when contractors abuse it

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The City of Warren compost area at the Harmar Street sewer plant is open to city residents. Officials say it’s not intended for the use of paid contractors.

The City of Warren’s composting program is in jeopardy.

For now, city residents are welcome to take their yard debris, clippings, and leaves to the dumpsters at the sewer plant on Harmar Street.

Woody material is put through a chipper, then everything is taken to the city’s compost facility on Hemlock — which is not open to the public.

“The spirit of the compost pile was helping residents make their properties look nice,” Public Works Director Mike Holtz said. “It’s there to help the residents.”

The intent was not to allow paid contractors to dispose of organ

ic waste material in a free, city facility, Holtz said. Contractors can bring in — and regularly have brought in — far more than the system can handle.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The City of Warren compost area at the Harmar Street sewer plant is open to city residents. Officials say it’s not intended for the use of paid contractors.

“It’s a good system and it would work perfectly if we didn’t have contractors overloading it,” Public Works Superintendent Joe Reinke said. “We don’t have the manpower or the time to break all that brush down.”

It is only a few contractors who are abusing the program, Holtz said.

“If the contractors continue to abuse it and the city is not able to get a handle on it, we may be put in the unfortunate position of having to limit it,” Holtz said.

The dumpsters are currently available from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and from 7 to 11 a.m. on weekends on the honor system. That could change.

It recently did change on a temporary basis.

“We shut it down last weekend,” Reinke said.

The city could go back to having staff actively monitor the station and require identification to make sure those dropping off materials are city residents, Holtz said.

But, officials would rather not have to take steps that ultimately cost the city money and reduce the convenience of the service.

“The city has gone to lengths to put together a very good program,” Holtz said.

At the Hemlock facility, the material is put in long rows — windrows — and turned every few weeks to improve the process, Reinke said.

“It’s a great facility,” Holtz said.

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