Councilors are moving ever closer to signing a contract to send the city's solid waste to a soon-to-be-built processing and recycling facility in Hampden, while they pulled the plug April 19 on a request to expand security camera surveillance along the waterfront.

For several months now, officials have considered where Belfast will send its trash once its contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. expires in March 2018. At that point, Belfast will see its tipping fee — the price per ton it pays to dispose of its solid waste — increase because PERC's lucrative power purchase agreement expires.

The new Hampden facility will be built and operated by Maryland-based Fiberight LLC through a partnership with Municipal Review Committee, of which Belfast is a member. Fiberight would charge participating towns a $70-per-ton disposal fee.

Belfast could and would continue to maintain its own recycling program, City Manager Joe Slocum said.

Before the plant is built, MRC must secure agreements to send at least 150,000 tons of garbage to the new facility. To date, Slocum said MRC has secured about 76,000 tons.

In addition, a May 1 deadline to sign up with Fiberight, or face a penalty in the form of a slightly higher tipping fee, has been extended to June 30, Slocum said.

Councilors recently met to discuss MRC and Fiberight's proposal, and a majority of councilors supported sending city trash to the Hampden facility. Councilor John Arrison, while not opposed to the proposal, asked at that meeting for additional time to review documents related to the agreement and facility.

With more time available to make a decision, a motion was made to table the vote until all councilors were present — Eric Sanders was absent from the April 19 meeting. Before tabling the vote, however, Councilor Neal Harkness suggested it would be beneficial to create a "frequently asked questions" document to explain what sending trash to Fiberight's facility means for the city.

Councilors then voted to table a decision until their May 17 meeting.

Security cameras

Last month, city officials approved a request from Harbormaster Kathy Pickering to apply for a $25,000 Federal Emergency Management Grant to install security cameras at the public landing. On April 19, Pickering and Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden asked that councilors authorize expanding the scope of the grant application to include installing cameras along the Harbor Walk from the boathouse to Armistice Bridge.

The total cost of the installation, as estimated by Seacoast Security, is $140,000.

When asked how many criminal incidents police investigated along the Harbor Walk, McFadden said he was unsure about the exact number. However, he said a person or group of people used a BB gun to shoot out lights along the waterfront. That act resulted in thousands of dollars in damages, he said.

He added that having security cameras in the area would have greatly aided police efforts to apprehend the person or people responsible for that vandalism.

While a security system might aid police investigations, Councilor Neal Harkness questioned what kind of message having surveillance cameras would send to people who visit Belfast. Councilor Mike Hurley also voiced doubts that the city would be a target for terrorist attacks.

“I do not see ISIS coming into the harbor in rubber boats to attack the harbor,” Hurley said.

The request for additional cameras failed for lack of a motion. An application will still be submitted to secure funding to install cameras at the public landing because councilors approved that request earlier this month.

Reimbursement for travel to Mississippi, North Carolina

Hurley introduced a motion to prohibit the city from reimbursing non-emergency travel or participation expenses for city staff to Mississippi or North Carolina after both states passed discriminatory legislation.

Mississippi passed a law that allows churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to refuse services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people if doing so would violate their religious beliefs on marriage and gender, according to The New York Times.

North Carolina passed a law banning anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation. The law also requires transgender people in government buildings and public schools to use a restroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate, according to The New York Times.

Governments in New York, Vermont and Washington have also banned state-sponsored travel to those two states, according to media reports.

Councilors approved Hurley's motion.