Chip­ping away at the prob­lem

Bay Roberts re-eval­u­at­ing ar­range­ment for dis­posal of tree prun­ings

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - edi­tor@cb­n­com­ BY TERRY ROBERTS

The Town of Bay Roberts is reeval­u­at­ing an ar­range­ment it has with a lo­cal busi­ness for the dis­card­ing of tree prun­ings and other sim­i­lar or­ganic ma­te­ri­als. An over­whelm­ing vol­ume of ma­te­rial fol­low­ing the havoc caused by Hur­ri­cane Igor has re­sulted in an un­sightly pile of mulch in the town.

The steam­ing pile of mulch that now dom­i­nates the French prop­erty just off the Con­cep­tion Bay Ac­cess Road in Bay Roberts is largely a con­se­quence of Hur­ri­cane Igor, whose high winds stripped and knocked down trees like they were match­sticks on Sept. 20-21.

But for Ger­ald French, the pile — and an even larger pile of tree prun­ings on an­other part of his prop­erty — has been noth­ing but a nui­sance.

“Lousy. It’s the worst job we’ve ever had in our lives,” French, who’s been in busi­ness in Bay Roberts for a half-cen­tury, told The Com­pass last week.

Two em­ploy­ees with French’s com­pany have been work­ing flat-out for weeks, try­ing to keep up with the over­whelm­ing num­ber of trucks that were pulling into the site and dump­ing their or­ganic loads.

They’ve been feed­ing the de­bris — mostly tree branches — through a town-owned shred­ding ma­chine, cre­at­ing a grow­ing pile of mulch that now pro­duces a steady swirl of steam. French es­ti­mates there’s now 300 to 400 tonnes of the stuff slow­ing com­post­ing on his prop­erty.

“It’s only just a money ex­pense,” French said, not­ing that on some days, as many of 70 pickup loads of de­bris have been dropped off, with the ve­hi­cles com­ing from all over the re­gion.

It’s slowed down con­sid­er­ably in re­cent days, and not soon enough for French.

It’s a unique ar­range­ment be­tween the town and the pri­vate com­pany. In the be­gin­ning, both saw it as a win-win sit­u­a­tion. The town needed to ad­dress the is­sue of pro­vid­ing a sys­tem for res­i­dents to dis­pose of their tree prun­ings and other nat­u­ral wood de­bris, so it spent some $24,000 to pur­chase the shred­der.

The French’s op­er­ate the shred­der, and had hoped area res­i­dents would pur­chase the mulch.

But it hasn’t worked out to ev­ery­one’s lik­ing. The vol­ume of ma­te­rial has over­whelmed the com­pany, and sales of mulch have been next to zero.

“ We sold $60 worth this sum­mer,” said French, adding that he had hoped to sell enough to cover his ex­penses.

French plans to com­bine the mulch with ma­nure this fall and spread it over a 350-acre cat­tle pas­ture off Coun­try Road. As for the pile of tree prun­ings, the town is weigh­ing its op­tions, chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Nigel Black stated last week.

Black de­scribed the pile as “mas­sive,” and said some of it may be shred­ded on­site, burned, or moved else­where.

The town’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, which in­cludes Black, Mayor Glenn Lit­tle­john and Deputy Mayor Philip Wood, plan to meet with French this week to dis­cuss a so­lu­tion.

“ We did this on a trial ba­sis. Now we’re look­ing at re­vis­it­ing it, and see­ing if there’s a bet­ter way to uti­lize the chip­per,” Black said.

In the past, French used to col­lect the or­ganic de­bris from the town and pri­vate cit­i­zens and — in co-op­er­a­tion with the town — stage a com­mu­nity bon­fire in the fall. But that prac­tice was halted af­ter area res­i­dents is­sued com­plaints about the smoke.

That’s when the town de­cided to buy the chip­per, Black ex­plained.

“ That was our con­tri­bu­tion; to pro­vide the chip­per so the busi­ness owner could chip away so there wasn’t a fire haz­ard. He was free to charge for the mulch if peo­ple were will­ing to buy it.” French was never sold on the idea. “I told them be­fore they even de­cided to go at that, that it was no good. But they wanted to go ahead and try it,” French said

Shred­ding op­er­a­tions were halted last week in or­der to do some main­te­nance on the ma­chine, and French is now dis­cour­ag­ing peo­ple from drop­ping their tree prun­ings on his prop­erty.

“ We won’t be chip­ping next year any­way. It’s no good,” French said.

He com­plained that some peo­ple were putting more than just tree prun­ings in the pile. He said he found fence wire, cable, pipes an even house­hold garbage.

“Coun­cil will face the same prob­lem, no mat­ter what they de­cide,” he noted.

Black, mean­while, said he’s not aware of any pub­lic com­plaints about the mulch pile.

Ger­ald French grabs a hand­ful of fresh mulch from the large pile on his prop­erty in Bay Roberts. At left is French’s son, Ger­ard.

The Town of Bay Roberts paid roughly $24,000 for this mulcher, which has been op­er­at­ing at a brisk pace since Hur­ri­cane Igor in Septem­ber.

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