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Back during World War I, a California senator said that “The first casualty of war is the truth.”

But the mistreatment of facts is not the sole province of war. Election campaigns and referendum votes routinely get in on the act. At this moment, as Hancock County towns join with municipalities throughout Maine to decide on a statewide trash-disposal option, various interests are bending and stretching facts much to the disservice of local taxpayers and residents.

At issue is the vote involving the 187 member municipalities of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC). Every municipality in Hancock County — save Ellsworth, Eastbrook and Deer Isle — belongs to the MRC, which represents the towns and cities served by the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) in Orrington.

The question before the member communities is whether to stay with PERC or sign on with a new provider of trash-disposal services. Fair enough.

What’s not fair are some of the claims of the proponents of the new, unproven alternative to PERC. And what’s downright inappropriate is the MRC leadership advocating aggressively for one option over the other — in this case the untested innovation in waste disposal over the PERC plant.

The MRC has gone so far as to engage a PR firm whose Jan. 26 “press release” appears under the headline “With PERC’s Closure Looming, Communities Must Act to Ensure Sustainable Trash Solution.”

PERC closing? Does PERC know that? At a Jan. 27 public forum PERC hosted in Brewer to make its pitch, those present were advised, “The PERC facility is permitted, fully compliant with all environmental regulations and, based on a recent report from HDR Engineering Inc., is in very good condition and can operate effectively for at least the next 20 years.”

Which statement is true: “closure looming” or “can operate effectively for the next 20 years”?

We don’t know.  There are more such claims and counter-claims. And why not? Millions of dollars are at stake.

It is very much in PERC’s interest to keep its customers. Just as it is in the economic interest of the alternative candidate — the firm’s name is Fiberight — to win over MRC’s membership. But why is the MRC making Fiberight’s case? Can Fiberight not make its own case? Should the MRC not maintain an objective role, inviting the rivals to make their individual pitches to the membership and letting the members decide between PERC and Fiberight?

Call it trash, waste, refuse or garbage — it’s an unsavory subject and the layman’s inclination is to let others decide how it should be handled. But before the MRC municipalities cede control to others, the member towns should have the opportunity to weigh the options with the guidance of its membership organization. The MRC’s strong-arm tactics do not amount to guidance.

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