City officials told a local businessman Tuesday that they are definitely not interested in contracting with him to compost yard waste.

The city plans to run its own composting operation for the next couple of years and then possibly sell it to private industry.The city-run facility will save Provo money on refuse disposal and provide an effective means of dealing with sewer sludge, said Mayor Joe Jenkins. Composting will reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill, he said. Jenkins said private composting operations are not capable of handling sludge, which is tightly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We're not interested in a program unless it takes care of sewer sludge," he said.

Blue Ribbon Compost, owned by Jamie Evans, accepts grass, leaves, tree limbs and other organic material. The company does not have the ability to dispose of sludge. Evans has talked to various city officials the past few weeks trying to get them to use his facility.

The city plans to mix the material with other yard waste to use as fill for the dump. The byproducts generated at the facility - mulch, wood chips and compost - will also be used by the city for landscaping. Officials say that will cost less than buying fertilizer. Start-up costs for the operation are about $200,000.

Evans said private industry should provide composting services because it can do it cheaper than government. He concedes that he can't handle the sludge, but he's concerned that the city will solicit yard waste from neighboring communities, which might cut into his business.

Jenkins assured Evans that isn't the case. "We're only looking at a Provo City operation now," he said.

Cities affiliated with the South Utah Valley Solid Waste District have approached Provo about having the district operate a composting facility. Jenkins said that would only be feasible after the city develops a viable program.

But the mayor said Provo doesn't intend to stay in the composting business long-term. He said he agrees with Evans that the public sector should not compete with private enterprise. Jenkins said the city should probably sell the facility to the private sector in two or three years.

Evans said he will continue to operate his business on a hillside just off State Street between Provo and Springville.