Category Archives: June 4

A ‘good one-man business’ comes to an end

Me & truck 9.27.2014SM“I’m tired of it and I’m ready to go,” Reggie Montgomery says flatly of the trash removal business he has operated in St. George for nearly 28 years. By the end of June he expects Reggie’s Rubbish Removal to be completely shut down—which, if the business doesn’t sell by then (as of this writing there are two interested buyers), may leave his current customers scrambling for an alternative way to get their trash to the transfer station.

Montgomery first began thinking about stopping hauling rubbish after a painful accident last September. “I got burned real bad when a radiator cap came off and scalded me—my face, under my arm and along my side. Just before that I was offered another job. So after getting burned I decided that this might be it.”

Montgomery started his trash removal business on Labor Day of 1987. Before this he had been transporting goods all over the 48 states using his own trailer trucks. “Then my trash business was a small Saturday route with 68 customers. Over the next couple of years I built it up to over 100 customers and moved to hauling twice a week.” He also continued trucking, but to accommodate his fledgling trash removal enterprise he sold his rigs and confined his driving jobs to New England routes.

Some of his new customers were passed on to him by Vivian Leppanen. She and her husband Alfred had operated a trash removal business in St. George for nearly 30 years. When Alfred became ill Vivian started cutting back. Eventually she and Montgomery teamed up.

“I started working with Vivian about 1990,” Montgomery recalls. “I worked for her for two-and-half years. We merged. That was how I bought her business. She had the truck, so she drove. I bought the gas and did the work. When she got done I bought my own truck and continued on my own.”

Montgomery bought a hook-lift truck in 1998, enabling him to lift containers. “I used that truck for a couple of years, but it wasn’t heavy enough for what I was doing. I wanted to get more into dumpsters at businesses and stores so in 2001 I bought the Packard that I’m still using.”

Commercial customers then became a key element of Montgomery’s business. The twice-a-week pace of hauling became a five-day pace that in summer became a six-day pace. “In the summer my cottage route eventually expanded so that, in addition to customers in St. George, I was doing 35 cottages in Owls Head.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Montgomery’s trash removal business has evolved, so too, he says, has the town’s management of solid waste. “When I first started we had a dump and you dumped the garbage on the ground. Then they pushed it into a pile and burned it. A year later they started the ‘Mount Trashmore’ landfill. There was a clay liner at the bottom and you would dump within that boundary. Every night they would cover the garbage with a layer of dirt and it got higher and higher. Then the Department of Environmental Protection closed us down and we built the first transfer station. That was 25 years ago.”

When the new transfer station was built in 2003, the recycling program began. There was a proposal to make recycling mandatory that Montgomery says he opposed. “I said don’t make it mandatory because those who don’t want to do it will ruin it for the people who do. We ended up being one of the top recycling towns in the state.”

Montgomery then added a recycling service to his business, using an 18-foot walk-in van. “I’ve done it steady for four years. I’ve got only four households, but I also have the stores and the rope mill, which produces half a ton of cardboard a week.” The cardboard he brings to the transfer station alone, he notes, makes a big contribution to the town’s recycling revenues.

Although Montgomery says he’s tired of trash removal, he still takes satisfaction in the business he built. “I used to have more customers than I have now, but I have a better overall business now. It is smooth and steady. It has kept me going. It’s been a good one-man business.”

Montgomery started the new job he was offered last year—which involves light trucking—on a trial basis last October. He continued hauling trash, but began to realize that he was enjoying the “less structured” nature of the new work, enough so to want to give more time to it. “I’ll never retire, but I would like to travel more and see the good side of things. I’ve seen all the backsides of every town, every warehouse, every city in the country—that’s no fun. I’d like to see the front side now. The new job makes that possible.”—JW

‘Burn building’ to be valuable asset for St. George firefighters

A training exercise in progress

A training exercise in progress

When the alarm goes off, our town’s firefighters respond, ready to do what is required to protect the people and property of St. George. They need to be prepared  for that dangerous task by having the proper equipment and training. The only way to train a firefighter for the dangerous work of fighting a structure fire is to put them in real conditions: facing fire, heat and smoke, wearing all of their gear and hauling hoses and axes. In the past, training was done by acquiring structures that could be burned. This has become very problematic because of environmental concerns and the increasing value of older structures.

It has been the vision of the St. George Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Association (SGVFFAA) to build a live fire training facility, or “burn building,” for many years. “All the pieces are in place now to make it happen,” says Chief Tim Polky, SGVFFAA President. “We have land next to the Fire Station on Route 73, and the Town has been setting aside money in a reserve fund over the past few years. The fund has grown to $82,000. This May the voters approved transferring those funds to the Association when construction begins. We began raising the additional funds this spring. Our goal is to raise $290,000 in the next year through grants and donations. This will be a regional resource and we’re making a pitch to individuals and businesses throughout Knox County for support.”

In 2010 SGVFFAA members began designing the facility. “There is nothing else like it in the state,” says Chris Leavitt, Assistant Chief. “It will be state-of-the-art. The two-story building can be configured to create a variety of training scenarios that will prepare us for the wide variety of situations we have to deal with. Firefighters can practice entering a room that is thick with smoke and rescuing people, carrying them down stairs, or going out through a second story window.” The facility can also accommodate training for fire suppression, search and rescue, ventilation and rehab. Other types of training included confined space training, rescue training for EMS as well as fire, and other fire-related training like sprinkler systems, ‘get out alive,’ and may-day operations.

“One huge benefit of this facility will be the chance for several fire departments to train together,” says Assistant Chief Larry Smith. “When the alarm goes out for a structure fire a department depends on neighboring towns to respond. We rely on Thomaston and South Thomaston, and they rely on us, for both manpower and equipment. Thomaston has a ladder truck, but we have the tank truck.”

With this dependence on mutual aid it is critical that these departments have trained together to insure the safety of the firefighters and to deliver the best possible protection of people and property.

“When there’s a fire in a two-story house we need to have at least eight certified firefighters on the scene,” says Mike Smith, Deputy Chief. “We do everything in pairs. To be certified for a structure fire, and then to stay certified, requires many evenings and Saturdays of training. Right now we have about 12 firefighters in St George with that level of training. Some of them are getting older. Some of them work outside of town, or are not always available.”

Chief Polky says it’s important for people to understand how important it is for firefighters to train together. “We have to trust each other.”

Recruiting residents willing to volunteer to be ‘on call’ to respond to fires is a growing challenge for many fire departments. The Village Soup ran an editorial on May 21, 2015, “Public Safety needs new blood.” The piece noted that there were approximately 12,000 firefighters in the early 1990s in Maine, but that number now is in the area of 8,000. Reasons cited for the dwindling numbers are the increase in the cost of living, the cost of gas to respond to calls or attend training is higher, the emergency force is getting older.

“It’s increasingly difficult to find people willing to drop what they’re doing when an alarm goes off,“ says Polky. “Having this training facility could help us recruit and retain firefighters in St. George. Even though we’re a ‘call’ department, rather than full-time, all of us train to the same level. We’re all professional. That’s why I hesitate to use the word ‘volunteer.’ Though we’re volunteering much of our time, we’re just as well trained and professional as full-time firefighters.”

The project is endorsed by the Knox County Mutual Aid Association. There are 18 municipalities in the association, including Waldoboro and Lincolnville.  Annual operating expenses will be paid for through dues and fees paid by other departments.

“This facility will be good for St. George and a regional resource,” Leavitt says with understandable pride.

Drawings and floor plans of the facility are at www.kcfta.com.

  —Susan Bates

PHOTO: SGVFFAA

Why not try some barbecue with that shrimp basket?

Mike Mastronardi and Lorna

Mike Mastronardi and Lorna

The 2015 St. George summer has started. Kayaks are rolling around the harbor. Tourists with digital cameras strapped around their necks can be spotted just about everywhere. There are people at the beach collecting sea glass and occasionally tanning. All this summer needs is a place where you can get fresh seafood, barbecue, and wine.

Well, you are in luck, because the Yardbird Canteen opened Saturday, May 23. The take-out restaurant is located at 686 Port Clyde Road, near the village of Port Clyde and will be open Thursday through Sunday, 11am-7pm (closing at 5pm on Sundays). There is picnic-table seating near the outdoor barbecue grill.

Yardbird Canteen is owned by Michael Mastronardi and Amber Kenney. Mastronardi says he has been cooking his whole life. He moved to Portland, Maine in 2005 from his hometown of Hartford, Conn. In Portland, Mastronardi worked at a sandwich shop that specialized in homemade bread. Two years ago, he decided to move to mid-coast Maine. When he saw the ‘For Sale’ sign at Doug’s Seafood, he thought St. George was a special place that he would love to be part of. “So I talked to Doug and a vision became a reality.”

Yardbird Canteen offers a variety of fine casual dining—here you can enjoy a hot dog, shrimp, lobster rolls and barbecue, along with beer and wine. All of the food is prepared on site by Mastronardi himself.

When asked what Mastronardi’s concept for the take-out restaurant is, he replied, “I want to stay true to what Doug was doing, but with my style of cooking.” Mastronardi confessed, “I have large shoes to fill.”

Mastronardi explains his style of cooking as “a combination of Asian style, barbecue, home-made, fresh and local.” He buys lobster from the Port Clyde Co-op and other seafood from Jess’s Market in Rockland. He also has his own forager who hand selects wild Damariscotta oysters.

This is only the start for Yardbird Canteen, which is why Mastronardi says the key to the first year is “simplicity.” He plans to grow and evolve with the demand of the business.
Mastronardi plans to eventually open the restaurant six days a week. He also plans to hire more people to work the cash register and for other jobs. “I want to start offering brick oven pizzas, more catering, homemade lemonades, homemade iced teas, clam bakes, and pig roasts.”

As of right now, Mastronardi wants to thank the community. “Everyone in the community has been very supportive,” he says. “They’ve been helpful and seem eager to see me succeed.”

So next time you are thinking about going all the way to Rockland for a shrimp basket, why not head down to the Yardbird Canteen instead—you might just end up getting some barbecue to go along with your shrimp.
—Sienna Barstow

PHOTO: Sienna Barstow

7th grade Trekkers summit Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

A team of 7th graders from St. George, Thomaston, and Rockland went on their first Trekkers trip on May 8th, 9th, and 10th. We left on Friday, May 8th, got on the Trekkers bus, and went to Acadia National Park. Our team was called K2, with two sub-groups. Mine was Blue and the other was Grellow.

When we got there, we took a hike up Cadillac Mountain. The hike was about 6.5 miles total. It was tiring, but so fun! We told a bunch of riddles the whole time, and they were fun to figure out. After, we went to the campsite, where we made dinner, which was spaghetti and salad, and we had a campfire and played games.

The next day, we got up, ate breakfast, and then got dressed. The first thing we did was go rock climbing. There were four climbing spots we could go on, two over the water, and two that went to the top. We were all nervous, but we loved it! When we were done, we went canoeing. We started playing bottle tag, which was really fun! Canoeing was very relaxing and nice! Afterwards, we went to Bar Harbor to meet the Grellow group to play kickball and games. It was really nice to be with the other group and to play games with them!

On our last day, we packed up all of our stuff and went to eat lunch at Sand Beach with the Grellow group. Some of us played games and drew in the sand. After lunch, we went to the amphitheater and did the skits that we made up. The Grellow group had a skit about one of their leader’s nicknames and then they sang the Grellow song. The Blue group’s skit was about a story called “The Ghost with One Black Eye.” They were both really funny!

After the skits, we had to get on the Trekkers bus and head back home. We all played a bunch of fun games and talked to each other. It was such an awesome adventure to be a part of! We can’t wait until next time!

Another Trekkers team, Team Everest, went to Acadia a week after we did. They  did everything that we did, and they had a lot of fun! Karizma Chickering said, “I thought it was pretty cool and I had a lot of fun. I had fun with my friends, and my favorite thing out of canoeing, rock climbing and hiking, was rock climbing because it was a thrill. Everybody was so fun and nice, and we can’t wait until our next trip!”

—Chloe Simmons (Simmons is a 7th grade student at the St. George School.)

PHOTO: Trekkers

Mulching, the good and not so good

IMG_2303SMMulch. Spring is a time for mulching. Mulch is a good thing. It suppresses weeds and helps retain moisture around plants. It keeps the soil covered so that it is less likely to erode. Organic mulches decay over time and help build the soil. And mulched beds tend to have a good, clean look.

There are lots of mulch options out there.

I tend to prefer using compost as a mulch for perennial beds, putting down a top-dressing of an inch or two, enriching the soil with good nutrients as well as covering the exposed soil, thereby suppressing weed emergence. I tend to use aged bark mulch on beds that are primarily shrubs, though an occasional compost mulch helps these beds as well. I’ve also used buckwheat hulls in perennial beds, and would love to get a shredder so I can have a ready supply of shredded leaves every fall.

In vegetable beds, mulch hay (harvested before weeds go to seed) is great. And many use plastic mulches or one of the degradable paper mulches in vegetable beds.

There is nothing wrong with mulch. But there is something very wrong with over mulching, which is something I see from time to time in garden beds. Adding a couple of inches of bark mulch every year seems innocuous enough. But adding a couple of inches of material that does not break down every year will shortly turn a garden bed into a mulch pile. A number of years ago I worked on a property that had been dutifully mulched ever year, yet the plants were dying. When I dug through the mulch I found that it was up to eighteen inches thick in some places and that the shrubs were trying to grow in mulch, not soil. Our task that year was to dig up many of the plants on the property, remove the mulch—I calculate that we removed around sixty cubic yards of mulch, and then replant the property. When we reached the soil level I did a simple soil test and found that the soil had very little nitrogen. That’s because the microorganisms that decompose organic materials used up the nitrogen in the soil.

Here’s another problem with mulching. Bark mulch in particular should never be placed directly against tree and shrub trunks. That is because the mulch is effective at retaining moisture, which means that all of those insects and diseases that favor moist conditions will settle in around the trunks and begin to cause problems. Additionally, bark- and stem-eating rodents may find a nice home, not to mention a tasty pantry in a deep layer of mulch up against a tree.

Mulching too deeply can also keep the soil around plants too wet. The mulch may cause the soil underneath to stay wet and saturated, which means that plant roots don’t have access to the oxygen they need. Not good.

 —Anne E. Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville)

PHOTO: Betsy Welch