September 19, 2019

Town Council reluctantly approves new PERC trash-disposal contract

BAR HARBOR — With obvious reluctance, Bar Harbor’s Town Council on Tuesday evening approved the amended PERC contract which calls for a $30 increase in tipping fees.

Council Chairwoman Jill Goldthwait cast the only opposing vote, indicating that her vote signaled her “great distress at having been put in this position.”

Goldthwait issued “absolute heartfelt wishes to Monroe … in hopes that they succeed at whatever they’re doing.” Monroe is among the list of communities which have turned down the PERC amended contract, having insisted that the original 30-year contract with significantly lower tipping fees is still valid.

Bar Harbor Public Works Director Lyle Dever, who has actively pursued alternatives to the PERC contract, agreed that the town had little choice but to sign on for the initial five-year agreement.

“My gut feeling is I’d like to fight (PERC) every inch of the way. But we owe it to the citizens to have a place for their garbage. The four years gives us time to explore other options,” Dever said.

Echoing the opinions expressed by other council members, Dever said that the company which operates the trash-to-energy facility is “ill-run, ill-conceived, and all the good people (who once worked for it) have gotten out.”

Council member Peter Swazey, a member of the town’s solid waste committee, cautioned that the probable life span of the company is limited. “Their tax benefits and financing breaks are scheduled to end in four years,” Swazey said. “We may be without PERC in four years.”

He added that the amended contract contains the unsavory possibility of rate increases being passed on to towns every three months.

Swazey, whose committee “reluctantly” recommended that the amended contract be approved, said that the town must now push to establish an island- wide solid waste district. Such a district, which is being pursued by the MDI League of Towns, would consolidate management in the hands of an independent body with decision-making power.

A solid-waste district, with an islandwide coordinator, could oversee the budget of the district, coordinate islandwide recycling, and make long-range decisions aboug solid-waste options.

Swazey added that the town also should “immediately start exploring any viable alternative open to us for solid-waste management systems,” so that by the end of four years the town could exercise its option to bow out of the PERC contract.

Swazey said that the town should also become actively involved in recycling on a voluntary basis, with a later switch to mandatory recycling.

The town may begin a recycling program as early as next month at the Strawberry Hill Transfer Station, according to Dever. Planning Board approval is needed before that project can begin.

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