Manheim Twp. Mulch Park

Mulch Park in Manheim Twp. Wednesday Dec. 30, 2020.

Some widely criticized changes at a Manheim Township composting facility have been postponed while local leaders re-evaluate an earlier decision that would result in a potential fee hike for residents.

But one change has already been implemented — the compost park is now open only to Manheim Township residents, shutting out people from other areas who previously were permitted to use it.

The residency restriction — which could be revisited — aims to address capacity issues at the facility, according to Benjamin Marchant, the township’s interim manager.

Still, others remain critical of the new rule. They include Corey Meyer, chairman of the board of supervisors in neighboring East Lampeter Township. His constituents have historically made use of the Manheim Township composting site, and now they are upset that they can’t, Meyer said.

“I did receive numerous messages from county residents ... supporting our argument that the compost park should be available to the public as a regional asset,” Meyer said.

Marchant spoke about the issue following a Monday decision from township commissioners, who unanimously chose to postpone recent fee changes for at least two weeks.

“The purpose of this temporary change is to allow township staff and the board of commissioners to re-evaluate the compost park policies and procedures to best serve the residents and taxpayers,” reads a post on the township’s website.

The re-evaluation will take as long as is necessary, Marchant said, explaining “there is no expiration set.”

Township commissioners plan to review their compost park policy at a virtual public meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 25, Marchant said. Those interested in attending the meeting can access it through the township’s website.

For years, both residents and regional neighbors had been able to use the composting facility at 2775 Oregon Pike, where they would pay a maximum of $1 per bag to dispose of yard waste — garden residues, shrubbery and tree prunings, sod, leaves and grass.

But fees were evaluated when leaders recently moved to modernize the facility, installing an electronic gate, which residents could open using township-authorized payment cards, Commissioner Samuel Mecum explained a few weeks ago.

Under the new system, those payments were set at $5 per carload, Mecum said. That’s regardless of the number of waste-filled bags inside of a vehicle — meaning the cost of offloading a single bag could increase from a maximum of $1 to $5.

It’s a potential price hike that residents spoke out against, including in messages to LNP | LancasterOnline.

Those complaints served as a catalyst for the ongoing re-evaluation. Now, residents will be able to pay $1 per bag at the compost yard through cash-only transactions with township employees, bypassing the new electronic gate, Marchant said.

The facility currently is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

All rules related to the township’s compost park will be revisited during the review, Marchant said. That includes both the fee changes and the exclusion of non-township residents, he said, though there is no guarantee that non-residents will be invited back in.

Waste volume from outsiders had been too cumbersome, sometimes limiting residents’ access, Marchant said.

“Now, we are kind of like Goldilocks. We are searching for how much is enough,” Marchant said.

Meyer, who’s been critical of the exclusion, said he’s communicated with Mecum about the issue and remains hopeful for a cooperative outcome.

“I appreciated Commissioner Mecum reaching out to me and also their willingness to reevaluate the decision,” he said.

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