News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 1, 2018
Transfer station bound by contract with MRC

by Anne Berleant

Citing a lack of “wiggle room,” the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station Committee said they will have to live with their contract with the Municipal Review Committee.

“Our trash is committed to 2031 to MRC,” Surry Selectman Bill Matlock said.

The Solid Waste Committee that oversees the transfer station comprises selectmen from Blue Hill and Surry.

In 2016, the SWC voted 4-2 to sign a new 15-year contract with MRC after an initial split vote. The MRC, formed in 1991 as a watchdog over Penobscot Energy Recovery Company (PERC) for its member towns, was now partnering with Fiberight, Inc., beckoned by the promise of a new Hampden waste-to-fuel facility and cheaper tipping fees. Of MRC’s 187 member towns, 115 followed.

The new contract will save the transfer station over $800,000 over its 15-year life by virtue of lower tipping fees: PERC’s $84/ton versus Fiberight’s $70/ton. The station hauls about 4,000 tons per year from five towns.

MRC Executive Director Greg Lounder said last month that the Fiberight facility will be online in January 2019, the latest in a handful of start-dates that have been pushed back each time. To bridge the gap, MRC members must haul their trash to a landfill, per the contract signed with its member towns.

“All of the checks and balances that should have prevented this landfill have failed,” Surry resident Riva O’Rourke told the committee at its October 23 meeting. “Here we are landfilling like PERC doesn’t exist.”

PERC turns trash into electricity—at a higher-than-market-rate cost per kilowatt—landfilling about 10 percent of its solid waste.

“We feel as let down as you do,” Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz said.

The transfer station committee voted in April to bypass its contract with MRC and send its waste to PERC, but MRC insisted on payment to avoid a breach of contract.

“We asked MRC to be relieved of the [landfill] condition and all we got was a bill for $30,000,” Schatz said.

The MRC’s contract with Fiberight can only be breached if the Hampden facility is not accepting waste by January 2020.

“There’s no wiggle room. We’re cooked,” said Matlock.