ROCKPORT, Maine — During a lengthy, contentious meeting Wednesday night, the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corporation narrowly voted to ask residents of its four towns to support sending their trash to a Portland waste facility.
The chair of the Rockport Select Board, who also is a member of the trash panel, stormed out of the meeting, saying the corporation was going against the wishes of the citizens.
“We’re not a democracy. This is a communist organization now. We don’t trust the people. We’re going to tell them what to do,” Rockport Select Board Chair William Chapman said when he realized that the majority of corporation board members favored the Portland-based ecomaine trash facility.
He then got up from the table and left before the vote was taken, loudly saying as he left, “You don’t want the people to speak. Fine, go that way.”
The full meeting can be viewed at http://livestream.com/Rockportmaine/events/6053004. Chapman leaves the meeting about 1 hour, 35 minutes into the video.
At regular town meetings in June, residents of Camden, Rockport and Hope declined to support their select boards’ recommendations to go with ecomaine. Lincolnville residents voted to support going with ecomaine.
At Wednesday night’s solid waste corporation meeting, the board members voted 4-2 to place on the November ballot in the four towns a referendum question asking residents to authorize the board to contract with ecomaine for at least three years and up to five years.
Camden representatives John French Jr. and Leonard Lookner, Tom Ford of Hope and Arthur Durity of Lincolnville voted for the measure. Owen Casas of Rockport and Hope representative James Annis voted against the ecomaine proposal.
Durity said the corporation board needed to go with certainty. He said the board members would be abdicating their responsibilities by foregoing ecomaine because of public opinion.
French said that ecomaine was a known commodity unlike the other main option before the towns, the Fiberight waste plant proposed to be built in Hampden.
Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington has been the primary waste processor for nearly 190 Maine communities, including the four member towns of the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corporation — Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville. But PERC’s ability to continue operating at an affordable cost will be greatly affected when its contract to sell electricity at rates above market prices expires in 2018.
The Municipal Review Committee, which represents all those communities served by PERC, has supported Fiberight’s plan, saying it would be financially and environmentally beneficial to the communities.
Last month, the Hampden Planning Board granted the MRC and Fiberight permission to construct a $69 million state-of-the-art waste-to-energy plant. The Department of Environmental Protection issued earlier this year three state permits for the project.
The Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corporation agreement with PERC ends March 31, 2018.
During the Wednesday night meeting, supporters of having residents vote in November said the general election would attract far more voters than the number that turn out for town meetings. Ford of Hope noted that at a special town meeting, fewer than 10 people may turn out, but in a hotly contested presidential election, as many as 1,000 residents may vote.
The MRC has given towns an extended deadline of Aug. 31 to become founding members, which would offer financial advantages. To meet that deadline, special town meetings would need to be held in each town by Aug. 31.
Casas had asked the solid waste board to call for special town meetings, but that offer was rejected on a 4-2 vote.
Together, the towns of Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville generate about 6,800 tons of trash annually.