SEARSPORT, Maine — Residents heard plenty of incentives Wednesday night at an information session put on by a company interested in building a massive propane terminal at the Mack Point industrial zone.
New jobs. An increased tax base. And a company — Denver-based DCP Midstream — that says it prides itself on being a good neighbor to host communities.
But the 25 or so people who attended the session at Union Hall also heard some of the arguments against the terminal.
Those included fears about the traffic from as many as 50 propane trucks a day, concerns about the safety of so much potentially dangerous fuel coming into town, and worries about changing the community’s skyline.
Voters will decide Saturday during the annual town meeting whether or not to change Searsport’s land use ordinance in the industrial zone to allow structures to soar as high as 150 feet, 13 feet taller than the 137-foot-tall propane tank proposed by DCP Midstream. Fuel tanks already at the terminal measure about 50 feet tall, well below the existing 60-foot height limit.
Amy Nickerson is a manager of Anglers Restaurant on Route 1, where a sign outside urges drivers to “Save our Skyline” by voting against the ordinance change on Saturday.
“They say they want to be a good neighbor, but I don’t feel that’s how we’ve been treated,” she told the BDN after the presentation.
If the tank is built as the company’s engineers have proposed, it will be located on the northern end of Mack Point, between the restaurant and motel complex and the coastal rail line.
Nickerson expressed her concern that the location could force the family business to move, or worse.
She referred to “the possibility they could put us out of business. That’s 45 jobs [lost].”
Company representatives told the attendees that between 50 and 100 jobs would be created during the construction phase of the facility, and that they prefer to hire local people to fill positions such as electricians, pipe fitters, welders and carpenters.
After it is built, they said there would be 12 to 14 permanent, full-time positions at the terminal.
“DCP will pay substantial taxes into the community. We accept that,” said Jeff Hurteau, the asset director for DCP Midstream’s North East Propane Operations. “We have asked for no relief from any tax burden. We’re going to bring in good-paying, high-quality jobs and increase the tax base.”
He said that propane is a clean fuel, and that the company goes above and beyond when it comes to safety.
“I pledge to you that we will be safe,” he said. “We will listen to your concerns. You won’t be sorry we’re in town.”
The company already has a presence in Maine with rail propane terminals in Bangor and Auburn that are operated by Gas Supply Resources, DCP Midstream’s wholesale propane business segment.
Its closest marine terminal is in Providence, R.I.
The officials encouraged townspeople to read a letter written Feb. 24 by Joanne Potvin, director of the Androscoggin Unified Emergency Management Agency.
“It is with much certainty that I can say DCP Midstream has a proven record of being the ‘good neighbor’ and cooperating in planning, training, exercising and disclosing its chemical information,” she wrote.
Another resident asked the panel if there was a way to have a different tank configuration that wouldn’t be so tall, and an engineer said that the company is looking at several different options. After the snow melts, they may be able to determine how deep the tank could be lowered before hitting solid rock, he said.
Ben Crimaudo of Searsport said that he thought the promise to search for local workers was a bit misleading, and that he also has doubts about how much tax money it would actually bring to town.
“It may be a wash. I don’t know,” he said, adding that he still had questions even after the information session was over. “That’s my whole point. I don’t know.”
Resident and harbormaster Wayne Hamilton had a different take.
“I think it sounds clean, and we need more tax breaks to help us out,” he said.
Marietta Ramsdell of Searsport said her worries were not mollified.
“My most serious concern is why are we going to be importing more fuel from Africa?” she asked. “Everybody has to realize that we can’t just keep consuming fuel.”