Panel tackles confusion over Hampden trash plant profit-sharing deadline

Posted March 25, 2016, at 1:19 p.m.
Last modified March 25, 2016, at 3:19 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — There was some confusion about the cutoff date for communities to be eligible to share any profits made by the Municipal Review Committee’s planned trash-to-energy facility in Hampden, so a special board meeting was held Thursday to clarify wording.

Communities that agree by May 1 to send their trash to the MRC’s processing plant, planned in partnership with Maryland-based Fiberight LLC, will be entitled to share in the facility’s profits in the form of rebates.

Confusion arose because some communities do not hold annual town meetings until after May 1, and some that already held their annual meetings this year did not take up the matter.

Karen Fussell, Brewer business manager and MRC board member, said the agreement was clarified to “May 1 or within seven days of the annual town meeting date.”

The clarification was approved unanimously at the special meeting and will be mailed Monday to all MRC members and interested nonmembers, Fussell said.

Peter Lammert, site manager of the Owls Head, South Thomaston and Thomaston Cooperative Waste Transfer Station, asked the board during its meeting by conference call if the new rules included annual town meetings that aren’t planned for months.

“Thomaston’s is next Tuesday, one is the second week of June and one is in October,” Lammert said, noting annual town meeting times for the three town partners.

Board members explained to him that the joinder contract — a 15-year contract to send trash to the Fiberight facility — states there is an “exception for good cause shown,” but communities that have regularly scheduled annual meetings after the May 1 deadline — and, therefore, qualify for the exception — need to notify the MRC before the May 1 deadline or risk missing out.

“We need to know the details about why the town is behind,” Chip Reeves, MRC board president, said.

“It’s to encourage communities to sign up,” Fussell said. “You will be a partner in the future revenue, which we believe will be substantial.”

Enough communities to send 150,000 tons of trash annually to the facility need to sign up to get the project off the ground. The MRC already has agreements for 64,500 tons, with Brewer being the first to sign on in January and Bangor, with 28,000 tons, being the largest.

Others that signed up as of Thursday were Hampden, Bar Harbor, Trenton, the Aroostook County commissioners, St. Albans, Swan’s Island, the Boothbay Region Refuse Disposal District, Dexter, Corinna, Palmyra, Garland, Cranberry Isles, Mattawamkeag, Pleasant River Solid Waste District, Central Penobscot Solid Waste, Brooks, Thorndike, Troy, Clifton, Dixmont, Atkinson, Brownville, Chester, Guilford, Holden, Bradley and Oakland. An 11-town group, the Northern Katahdin group, which includes Amity, Patten, Smyrna and others, approved signing the contract Wednesday.

“So we are now up to 50 towns approving the MRC/Fiberight deal and 43 percent of the way to the 150,000-ton mark,” Greg Lounder, MRC executive director, said Thursday in an email.

Lounder also noted that the MRC has a four-month decision-making window for reaching its tonnage goal. He said some groups of towns are still evaluating their options and some communities aren’t holding their town meetings until May or June.

The Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington plans to stay operational, but as of Thursday no community had signed on to send its waste to the facility, according to Ted O’Meara, spokesman for USA Energy, the majority owner of PERC.

O’Meara said, however, “there’s a whole bunch of towns out there” that are taking the time to thoroughly analyze their post-2018 trash disposal options and that some communities that held their town meetings this month delayed a decision on which option they would choose until they had more information.

“That’s what should be going on,” O’Meara said, adding that PERC officials will continue making the rounds of towns. “There’s no urgency on our part. We want towns to make the decision that’s best for them.”

At the Hampden plant, Fiberight plans to use technology that will change organic materials in trash into biogas after the glass, metal, paper and plastic are recycled. Biogas is similar to natural gas.

Fiberight is offering to process MRC members’ trash at a cost of $70 per ton for a 15-year contract. PERC’s latest tipping fee price is $84.36 per ton for a 15-year agreement or $89.57 for a 10-year contract.

Communities that join the Municipal Review Committee by May also will be entitled to rebates, MRC’s general counsel, Dan McKay, said during the meeting.

Boothbay Region Refuse Disposal District (four towns), Dexter, Corinna, Palmyra, Garland, Cranberry Isles, Mattawamkeag, Pleasant River Solid Waste Disposal District (six towns), Central Penobscot Solid Waste (three towns), Clifton, Dixmont, Thorndike, Brooks, Holden, Brownville, Guilford and Chester have voted to become MRC joining members.

The MRC’s board plans informational community meetings at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, at the Stetson town office, and 7 p.m. Friday, May 6, at the Monson town office.

BDN writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.

 

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