Selectmen approved four junkyard application renewals at the board's Oct. 15 meeting. No residents were present and no public comment was noted.

One application, from Grimmel Industries, garnered some discussion when the company initially sought town approval in 2015, when residents voiced concerns about mercury as well as air and water quality.

The junkyard operation leases land from Sprague at Mack Point to store piles of scrap metal for shipping overseas.

According to the National Enforcement Investigations Center, Grimmel had been fined in 2011 for discharging mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls and other contaminants into the Piscataqua River at a similar operation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The company ceased operations at that facility in December 2014, when its lease was not renewed.

According to Town Manager James Gillway, Grimmel has amassed a "large, sizable pile" of scrap metal because of market conditions, but he said there have been no complaints from "any angle," so far.

"Randy (code enforcement officer Randy Hall) has been down several times to make sure it is contained," Gillway said. "(He) was impressed."

The only question from selectmen came from Mark Bradstreet, who asked about the sediment pond and how it was working to catch runoff, to which a spokesman for Grimmel answered "very well."

Brian Rayback, attorney for Grimmel, was quoted in a previous Journal article as saying that neither EPA nor DEP guidelines include monitoring for mercury levels, an area of concern repeatedly brought up by residents.

“EPA concluded that mercury is not a pollutant of concern in this application,” he said. “… It's a very difficult thing to monitor for and we agree. … The DEP general permit says you don't have to monitor for mercury or any other metals if you're a scrap metal dealer.”

Other junkyard renewals approved include: Dale Bragdon, Travis McAvoy and David Hersom.

In other board news, selectmen approved spending up to $10,000 to replace lighting in Union Hall with LED lights. Gillway said it will save money "every time you turn the light on" with the goal of having more lighting and making it look better.

According to Gillway, public works operators and the full-time deputy clerk in Searsport were being compensated well below industry standards compared to other towns with similar populations.

As a result, selectmen approved a 75-cent-per-hour raise for public works operators and the deputy clerk received a $2-an-hour raise. A new mechanic/public works position was approved, paying $19 an hour, and selectmen also approved a workshop on possible benefits with shared costs for part-time employees.