News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 4, 2017
Landfill may be answer to waste disposal gap
Fiberight facility likely to open months after PERC contract ends

by Anne Berleant

Municipal Review Committee Executive Director Greg Lounder updated the Solid Waste Committee April 24 on progress on a $69 million Fiberight waste-to-biofuel facility to be constructed in Hampden.

Two issues of concern are the private financing of the plant and the likelihood that it would not be on line when MRC’s contract ends with Penobscot Energy Recovery Company next April.

“Things in the waste world move slow,” Lounder said, and with the time frame shrinking, he said MRC will have to discuss a Plan B and C for waste disposal, either hauling waste to a private landfill, or to see if the state would open one. MRC plans to allocate up to $1 million dollars to cover the possible cost.

About 4,000 annual tons of waste move through the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station, with a portion now as single-sort recycled material since September 2016.

“When will we know if it’s Plan A or B or C?” Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz asked. “It’s hard to sell the idea to our constituents that there’s a period of land fill. Is there an alternative that doesn’t have those two words in it?”

“The only hope would be an interim agreement with an existing facility,” Lounder said. “That would be the only practical way to do it.”

Lounder said that Fiberight’s private financing for the facility was in place with a projected June closing date but, when pressed by Schatz, declined to publicly disclose details before the signing of contracts.

Schatz said he found it “disturbing” that there was more ambiguity in the financing than before the board entered into a contract with MRC/Fiberight in 2016.

MRC voted to partner with Fiberight at the end of its contract with PERC, and the Solid Waste Committee decided, after debate and two votes, to sign a 15-year contract with MRC.

The three selectmen from Blue Hill and three from Surry compose the Solid Waste Committee, the governing board of the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station, which has an agreement with five peninsula towns.

As one of 86 charter MRC members, the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station has about $550,000 equity in MRC, which will spend $5 million of member equity for the land and infrastructure for the Fiberight facility.

Cost-sharing formula fair?

In other business, Schatz questioned the cost-sharing formula for the five towns that use the transfer station, which is based on population and number of residences, because large organizations that do not pay property taxes use it disproportionately, with the likelihood that non-residents contribute to the debris and trash brought to the transfer station. He cited Blue Hill Memorial Hospital and George Stevens Academy residence halls, specifically, and suggested negotiating a fee in lieu of taxes, adding, “the idea is not to create a witch hunt but to share the burden.”

The transfer station, which accepts waste from member towns Blue Hill, Surry, Brooklin, Brooksville and Sedgwick, has an operating budget of over $900,000 annually.

“Why should private persons pay the burden for all the others?” one citizen asked, suggesting that all organizations that aren’t paying property taxes should pay.