The owners of a property near Mack Point where salt is being stored say they've made every possible effort to be good neighbors and haven't violated any permits issued by the town or state.

Steve Clisham and Patrick Thibodeau are co-owners of Maine Materials Inc., the company approved for bulk storage of materials on a 6-acre property located off Trundy Road. Currently, the asphalt-covered site is being used to store salt but Clisham noted it could be used to store other dry materials such as wind turbine parts. He said Maine Materials decided to purchase the property formerly owned by Bain Pollard to create more storage space adjacent to the Sprague Energy property.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” Clisham, who also owns New England Salt Co. in Bangor, said. “We want to do whatever we can to help everybody. We tried to address concerns with the neighbors.”

A group of neighbors previously brought concerns to the Board of Selectmen ranging from noise to grading of the pad to light and the cutting of trees.

Clisham acknowledged unloading the first shipment of salt — there have been two — was noisy.

“With the empty pad, the noise was echoing everywhere,” Clisham said, adding the piles of salt helped dampen the sound when the second shipment was unloaded.

Other options are being considered to dampen noise as well, he said, such as bulking up the berm between the property and the rear of Dunkin' Donuts or placing tractor trailer bodies parallel to the existing berm.

The pad was designed by Plymouth Engineering Inc. and has a varied grade, Clisham said, from 1 percent to 6 percent. The grade allows runoff to be directed to a retention pond at the lowest point on the property.

Clisham pointed to two portable lights and said one was directed at the pile of salt and the other was used to light the road leading to the Sprague property, away from neighbors' homes and Route 1.

“If you were trying to play baseball in that light, it wouldn't be a very good game,” he said, referencing neighbors' descriptions of the lighting.

Looking toward the harbor, Clisham noted the property lines of Maine Materials. The entire tract is paved to within 10 feet of the boundary, as allowed by DEP, he said. The abutting property, owned by Bill Banks, was cleared of trees during construction of the asphalt pad, Clisham said, revealing a view of the large Sprague tanks.

“This was all cleared when we bought it,” he said of the Maine Materials land. “ … [Banks] harvested wood at the same time we came in. That was not us.”

Clisham said DEP monitored the unloading of the second salt shipment, assessing noise. It is important to realize truck back-up alarms and idling engines are exempt from the noise restrictions, he said. Thibodeau also used an app on his phone to monitor the noise levels, especially during evening and overnight hours.

According to the DEP permit issued to Maine Materials, the hourly sound level for protected locations, including a residence, may not exceed 60 dBA between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. At the property line of Maine Materials LLC, the sound level may not rise above 75 dBAs at any time, the permit states. Thibodeau on Aug. 19 used the monitoring app to show the noise levels without any activity on the site, which ranged between 50 and 65 dBA near the property line.

Thibodeau said he informed the Planning Board during the application process the company planned to work 24 hours per day and a “clerical error” on the DEP application was made, omitting the allowance for 24-hour operations. DEP Communications Director David Madore said no request for an amendment, or new application, has been received from Maine Materials.

"If Maine Materials wants/needs to make a change from the original language that was approved, it would require them to file an amendment to the original permit," Madore said in an Aug. 24 email. "I checked with staff about 5 minutes ago and we have not received anything from them as of today."

Working 24 hours per day, it took 56 hours to unload the second shipment of salt,

Thibodeau said the company cannot notify neighbors of when shipments are expected because of Coast Guard rules. There is an estimated time frame for shipments but notice can be as long as two months or as short as four hours, he said.

Upon hearing concerns, Clisham said he encouraged dump truck drivers to decrease the noise made with tailgates slamming against the truck body as well in an effort to appease neighbors. Now, the site will remain quiet for at least a few months, he said, as no further salt shipments are expected.

The company's efforts have not quieted neighbors, who were back before the Board of Selectmen Aug. 18, again hammering the board with concerns about noise, runoff and hours of operation. Jay Economy, owner of Yardarm Motel, said a DEP representative told him Maine Materials would have to resubmit their application if they wish to operate 24 hours. He said the noise generated by the unloading was so severe, he was forced to stop accepting room reservations and it cost his business nearly $3,000.

Town officials were present during the second unloading and took decibel readings, which were provided to The Republican Journal by Maine Materials. The readings, times and locations stamped did not show violations; however, Town Manager James Gillway said most of the salt already had been unloaded by the time he was able to secure a meter, which was borrowed from Bar Harbor.

“It would not have been an accurate depiction,” Gillway said Aug. 18. “It would have looked as if everything was quiet.”

Any amendments to the town-issued permit would have to be suggested by the code enforcement officer and heard by the Planning Board, Gillway said.

Economy stated it was his understanding that residential properties in a commercial zone were allowed special buffering but selectmen Chairman Aaron Fethke said commercial businesses are not required to treat a residence any differently.

Bill Pestano, whose property directly abuts Maine Materials, said he'd spoken with Clisham and Thibodeau but said he felt they were less than sincere.

“Butter would melt in their mouth, they were so nice to me,” he said.

Pestano said an offer was extended to pay for a hotel room during unloading days, which he appreciated, but said “it's not a fix.” The company's offer to plant additional trees on his property he also rejected.

“Whatever trees they plant, I'll have to live to be 120 years old,” Pestana said. “They should be forced to put up some kind of a barrier.”

He described the noise as “devastating” to him because he is a combat veteran.

“I have a lot of problems; I'm a combat vet,” Pestana said. “I'm not crying about that shit because there's a lot of vets around, so that's not a big deal. … [The noise] sets me off. … It does a number on me.”

His wife, Carol Pestana, speaking by phone Aug. 18, said the change to the area has been “just terrible.” The couple had hoped to move to Searsport full time but are reconsidering their future in the town.

“We can't sell our house now because of the view of the tanks and salt,” Carol Pestana said. “I guess we could give it away. … We even thought about moving it somewhere because we love it so much.”

She said before the trees were cut and salt piled, “it was quiet as can be. We forgot the tanks were there.”