SOUTH THOMASTON, Maine — Residents backed a waste disposal plan at their Tuesday night meeting that puts them at odds with the recommendation of the board that oversees their three-town trash cooperative.
All but a dozen of the 88 South Thomaston residents who turned out at the annual town meeting voted to go with the recommendation of selectmen to remain a member of the Municipal Review Committee and send their trash to a solid waste facility being developed by Fiberight LLC in Hampden.
The warrant article consumed nearly an hour of the town meeting as residents questioned the selectmen’s recommendation and asked what would happen if the two other towns in the cooperative — Thomaston and Owls Head — voted to go with a different option. The three-town cooperative board voted 5-1 last week to enter into a contract with ecomaine of Portland.
The towns currently send their waste to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington, but remaining with PERC is not supported locally.
John Spear, a former selectman and town administrator, urged the residents to go with Fiberight, an option backed by the Municipal Review Committee, which consists of numerous communities in eastern and northern Maine.
Spear acknowledged there are risks with going with this project, since the plant has not yet been built, but added that it is an innovative technology that will reduce the amount of materials burned. He also contended that the town would lose control of its waste management by going with ecomaine because that agreement would be dominated by much larger southern Maine communities such as Portland and Westbrook. He said South Thomaston would have a bigger voice if it remained with the municipal committee.
Thomaston Selectman Peter Lammert voiced support for ecomaine.
South Thomaston officials said that if the other two towns in the three-town cooperative vote for ecomaine, then another local town meeting or a joint three-town meeting would need to be held to vote on whether to remain in the cooperative. Spear said the town should not delay a vote to see what the other towns will do since a special town meeting later in the year would not attract nearly as many residents.
In the single town election held during Tuesday’s meeting, residents voted from the floor to elect Walter Reitz as selectman. He won with 63 votes compared to 25 for Carolyn Neagle. Reitz succeeds Dorothy Meriwether, who did not seek re-election.
Town officials presented Meriwether with a bouquet of flowers at the meeting and thanked her for service.
The proposed 2016 municipal budget of $1,135,000 was backed with little debate. This is down about $25,000 from what residents approved at the 2015 town meeting.
The only significant debate was over whether to spend an additional $10,500 for lockers for firefighters at the renovated town office/fire station complex. In the end, residents voted to support the greater amount.
One of the most significant declines in the proposed budget concerned the money set aside for paving. Last year, residents approved spending $102,000 for paving, while this year the amount was reduced to $48,000. The general government budget was the largest at $292,000, down about $2,000. The public works budget was approved at $208,000, down about $39,000. The ambulance budget was approved at $114,000, up about $3,000 and the fire department budget was approved at $90,000, a drop of $12,000.