03/16/04 — City will not sell compost to residents

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City will not sell compost to residents

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on March 16, 2004 2:00 PM

The Goldsboro City Council decided Monday not to sell bags of compost directly to the public because of liability concerns. But store will still be able to buy the compost from the city and sell it.

Two weeks ago the council agreed to a proposal to sell bags of compost or mulch to retailers and citizens. The material is made at the city's compost plant from biosolids and yard waste.

The decision allowed retail stores in Wayne County to sell it. The council also recommended selling the bags from its compost plant, where customers would have to buy at least 50 bags per purchase. But the wording in the written proposal passed later at the council meeting said that the compost would be sold only to retailers.

City Manager Richard Slozak asked the council for clarification Monday night, saying the compost plant wasn't equipped to sell directly to citizens.

"Our initial intent was to make bags and sell it to retail outlets," Slozak said. "There definitely was some confusion. We didn't do a good job explaining it."

He said the city had also been surprised at the number of people who wanted to buy directly from the compost plant.

"We had about 10 or 11 people wanting to buy," he said. "That's around 550 bags."

Slozak said that bagging the compost was labor intensive, making it difficult to sell directly to citizens.

Councilman Chuck Allen said that if anyone wanted 50 bags, whether it was an individual or a store, the city would still have to bag it.

"But what worries me," Allen said, "are the liability issues. I'd like to see the city as far removed from it as possible."

Slozak said the city staff would do "whatever you all want."

The council discussed ways the city could possibly sell a 50-bag minimum directly to citizens, including trying to set up times when the public could get the compost without interfering with the work schedule of the staff.

Slozak said there were three problems.

"First, bagging is labor intensive," he said. "Then there's the issue of people going down to the facility around all the equipment, and also if we've got retailers selling, we don't need to compete."

Allen asked what it cost the city, in terms of materials and time, to bag the compost.

"If we can't bag it for profit, there's no sense in continuing," Allen said.

Slozak didn't know the cost, but said that he hoped at some point to get prison labor to help.

City Councilman Jimmy Bryan asked whether it would pay for the city to buy a bagging machine, but Slozak said it would be too expensive.

"That could cost from $10,000 to $15,000," he said. "That's a tremendous capital cost, and we don't know what the market would be."

The council finally decided that there was too much risk in selling compost directly to citizens. The biggest worry was injury to citizens, or damage to personal property by equipment at the facility.

"I would rather them go to the retail stores and leave us to do what we're supposed to do, which is treat sewage," Allen said.

The compost will be on sale at places like Casey's Garden Center, Long's Plant Farm, Mulch X-Press and Waltham Gardens.