Steuben postpones waste disposal decision



Chip Reeves, chairman of the Municipal Review Committee, outlined for voters at the Steuben Town Meeting a proposal to sign onto a proposed trash-to-biogas plant in Hampden. PHOTO BY JACQUELINE WEAVER
Chip Reeves, chairman of the Municipal Review Committee, outlined for voters at the Steuben Town Meeting a proposal to sign onto a proposed trash-to-biogas plant in Hampden.
PHOTO BY JACQUELINE WEAVER

STEUBEN — The town of Steuben is postponing until April a decision on whether to commit to a proposed trash-to-biogas waste disposal plant in Hampden.

Selectmen at Town Meeting March 12 said they were reluctant to sign on for a facility that is not yet operational and added that the town is exploring other options.

“We don’t have all the facts and figures” for those options, said Selectman Jim Kovacs.

In other action, voters approved a $902,128 municipal budget, up from $864,340 in the current year.

The budget does not include funding for education, which will be voted on at a later date.

Residents who met for less than two hours at the Ella Lewis School approved borrowing $600,000 to repair roads, specifically five miles on the Unionville Road.

They also approved $20,000 to buy a digital outdoor sign that will be erected outside the town office.

Kovacs, the board chairman, said the sign is needed because notice of local meetings and events were once ably covered by the Downeast Coastal Press, which ceased operations in 2014.

Also, the selectmen added, it is tough for town office staff to venture out in the winter to change individual letters on the current sign.

On the trash disposal issue, Chip Reeves, chairman of the board of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), said the board is asking members to commit by May 1 so that the MRC can move forward with the project.

Municipalities such as Bangor, Brewer and Bar Harbor have approved the Fiberight proposal.

Voters in Penobscot decided at their Town Meeting March 8 to postpone their decision on Fiberight until April while they gather more information.

“What we are asking for is your continued support,” Reeves said of Steuben, which has been an equity charter member of the PERC plant since 1996.

MRC would buy the land and provide the infrastructure for a plant to be built and operated by Maryland-based Fiberight, beginning in 2018.

The MRC represents 187 towns and cities in north, east and central Maine that now truck their trash to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) in Orrington.

The MRC said the tipping fees — the per-ton cost of disposal — would be too high after 2018 when federally-mandated electric subsidies for PERC expire.

“I have a hard time signing a commitment on a facility that hasn’t been built yet,” said Chris Bell, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “I’d rather table it.”

One resident asked if the $2.21 per ton additional tipping fee to be charged communities that don’t sign on by May 1 would apply to Steuben.

Reeves said some communities are getting extensions because their town meetings occur after May 1.

As to shopping around for other options, “I can’t say what the board reaction would be,” Reeves said.

Town Clerk Julie Ginn said Steuben paid $59 a ton in tipping fees once refunds from the Tip Stabilization Fund were added in.

The town’s stake in the stabilization fund is $85,000. Steuben also owns a portion of the plant, the value of which would depend on whether it is operational or not, Reeves said.

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]
Jacqueline Weaver

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