ELLSWORTH — The Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station Committee voted 4-2 Tuesday to pursue a contract with Fiberight, a company creating a trash-to-biogas facility in Hampden.
Blue Hill Selectmen John Bannister and Vaughn Leach and Surry Selectmen Steve Bemiss and Rebecca Collison voted in favor of the Fiberight plan.
Committee Chairman and Surry Selectman Bill Matlock and Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz voted against it.
Collison broke the tie vote that was taken at the committee’s June meeting. She had voted against Fiberight last month but has since changed her mind.
“Fiberight has made progress in the past month,” Collison said. “They’ve gotten permits.”
“I also think there is power in numbers,” Collison said. “A hundred communities have signed with Fiberight. I think that helps our position. I have to put my trust in Fiberight.”
The trash is currently taken to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) facility in Orrington, where the refuse is burned to generate electricity.
However, contracts with favorable above-market rates for the electricity PERC produces expire in early 2018.
An organization called the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), which represents most towns and cities that send trash to PERC, is working with Fiberight.
Bannister, who made the motion to go with Fiberight, said “there’s no way to continue on with PERC and expect things to be the same.”
“There’s more risk doing nothing than in taking a chance, if you want to call it that, and going with 71 communities,” Bannister said. “We have the chance for rebates back with Fiberight. With PERC, you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“We’ve always had our Municipal Review Committee looking out for us, guiding us. At least when you’re with the MRC, they speak for 71 other towns. They carry a lot of weight.”
Otherwise, “we’re going to be like a lone chicken in a field of foxes just waiting to be picked off,” Bannister said. “There’s no reason to go against them [MRC]. They’ve never done anything to make us distrust them.”
Matlock and Schatz both argued that there was no urgency in making a decision about where trash would go after 2018.
“We asked can Fiberight accept non-MRC trash and the answer to that is yes they can,” Matlock said. “There’s nothing that says we have to be a member of the MRC. The MRC has said they would accept late joiners. I don’t believe we have to make a column A or column B decision tonight. I believe that a decision can be made down the road with a contract that includes Fiberight.”
Schatz said that as an employer, he’s always looked for experience and “demonstrated effectiveness.”
The longtime selectman compared the Fiberight pitch to one that might be found when buying a car.
“Even though the people are skilled at presenting this new product, this new approach, there really isn’t a track record in place,” Schatz said. “It’s a skill I find present when I go to buy a car. It’s compelling but not something I want to invest in at this point.”
“I feel it’s important that we not just jump on board,” Schatz said. “I think this is an opportunity to design a relationship that suits us.”
Leach argued against PERC.
“I can’t see why anyone would feel that PERC has any possibility of being viable without the energy subsidy, without the tons of trash,” Leach said.
Bemiss spoke in favor of joining Fiberight.
“A lot of things started falling into place, and I think if we don’t do it, we’re going to regret it,” Bemiss said. “We may have forgotten the fact and maybe it’s a little bit their fault too that we’ve got a group of people that are us that we can rely on.”
In other business, the committee unanimously voted to go with a zero-sort process at the transfer station.
With zero-sort, residents would toss virtually all of their recyclables, including glass, into one bin. That bin would then be taken to a recycling plant for sorting.
The committee also voted to enter into a contract with Winterport-based DM&J Waste Inc., which has a facility in Ellsworth.
Two years ago, the committee had considered entering into a contract for zero-sort with Casella Resource Solutions.
However, the DM&J proposal costs less and may be even cheaper. DM&J is planning to build a zero-sort facility in Ellsworth in a year or two, according to transfer station manager Jeff Jewett.
Two members of a peninsula-based group of concerned citizens called Trash Action Group, or TAG, attended the meeting and offered to help educate residents about zero-sort recycling.
Bannister suggested the group make a video explaining the process to put on YouTube with links on each town’s website.
Blue Hill resident Gabrielle Wellman, who wasn’t at the meeting, said the TAG is looking for new members. For more information, call Wellman at 374-2140 or email [email protected].