Special town meeting called to deal with trash contract

By Stephanie Grinnell | Nov 13, 2017
A PERC claw operator manually removes mattresses, tarps and other oversized pieces of junk from household garbage after it is unloaded from trucks in July 2016. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)

Searsport — To meet an early 2018 decision deadline, residents are being asked to attend a special town meeting Tuesday, Dec. 5, at Union Hall. On the ballot will be the choice to withdraw from an agreement with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., better known as PERC.

Town Manager James Gillway said Nov. 7 that Searsport must make a decision using the town meeting process to decide on the "put option," which would result in the town giving up its ownership stake in the company.

"This might be the best option to get out of this contract," he said.

The existing contract with PERC can be dissolved and money returned to the town. Gillway said any money received from PERC — $12,190.12, he said — would be deposited in the Transfer Station Reserve Account.

"I don't anticipate a lot of discussion," he said.

Selectmen on June 21 voted in favor of continuing to send municipal waste to PERC. Giving up the ownership stake in PERC will not change the town's trash disposal agreement.

The town is one of a handful in Waldo County to agree to stick with PERC after 2018, when tipping fees for disposal will increase following the loss of a lengthy subsidy that's paid above-market prices for the electricity PERC produces by burning trash.

A new facility, Fiberight LLC, has been backed by Municipal Review Committee but selectmen said during a June 14 workshop the proposed technology is unproven. Fiberight is offering towns that continue with MRC lower tipping fees.

With PERC, Searsport will pay $84.36 per ton, with adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index, under the approved 15-year contract, according to previously published reports.

Gillway previously noted PERC has agreements in place with Casella Waste Management to handle the town's trash, should PERC be unable to do so. Other steps are being taken to help the town reduce the tonnage of trash sent to the facility, thereby reducing overall costs for disposal.

Selectmen approved the special town meeting warrant and date.

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Stephanie Grinnell
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.

Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.

Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.

Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.

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