AUBURN — Fewer maintenance shutdowns at Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp.’s Goldthwaite Road incinerator turned into more savings, operators told city councilors Monday night.
John King, MMWAC’s executive director, and board member Paul Landry punctuated that point by giving the city a check for $106,000, Auburn’s share of the $171,000 dividend MMWAC’s board has decided to return to its member communities.
“We have a fund balance and when we reach the threshold the board sets, we think it’s important to give it back to the communities,” Landry said. “We could have lowered tipping fees, but if we have to raise them again next year, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. This was a way to show our members, ‘This is your investment.’ Being able to give something back says something.”
MMWAC is owned by 12 communities: Auburn, Bowdoin, Buckfield, Lovell, Minot, Monmouth, New Gloucester, Poland, Raymond, Sumner, Sweden and Wales.
“Everybody is going to get a check,” King said. “It’s proportioned by percentage of ownership, and Auburn has the largest share, so everybody is not going to see a check like that.”
The facility takes solid waste from its 12 communities and several others, about 73,000 tons per year. It’s burned to ash, creating steam that generates about five megawatts of electricity.
The sale of that electricity and the tipping fees — both market rate and member — are MMWAC’s main revenue sources.
MMWAC sold its electricity under contract to Central Maine Power until the beginning of 2014. The incinerator has been competing in the wholesale market since the contract ended and getting a much lower price for its power.
King said the electricity sales cost MMWAC, but they balanced it with some budget cuts.
“Typically, we spend about $400,000 a year to shut the system down for maintenance,” Landry said, “but we’ve managed to go from two shutdowns per year to one.”