Bar Harbor wants answers on sale of waste facility 

BAR HARBORThe Bar Harbor Town Council voted Tuesday to call for a special meeting of the members of the Municipal Review Committee to go over changes that would come with the sale of the Hampden-based Coastal Resources of Maine waste treatment plant to a new company.  

Last month, the MRC, a nonprofit that owns the property on which the Coastal Resources of Maine facility sits, approved the sale of it to Delta Thermo Energy Inc. Officials of the company said it can get the former Fiberight operation back to accepting trash within nine months of ink drying on the deal. Ultimately, the decision on the sale of the Hampden plant to DTE is up to the bondholders (that hold the CRM loans) and DTE, not the MRC. 

But first, the 115 member towns of the MRC have to look over four changes that are subject to special voting rights if enough MRC members request a special meeting within 30 days of the notification. If a meeting isn’t called, the changes automatically go into effect.  

Those potential changes are: DTE would have the option to buy the land where the facility is locateda replacement to the rebate structurea two-year extension of the master waste supply agreement; and a two-year extension to the lease site.  

Even though the Town Council called for the meeting, it is unlikely that it will actually be convened. For the special meeting to take place, MRC members representing an aggregate of 60,000 tons of waste (a year) need to call for it. Bar Harbor represents only about 5,000 tons.  

Bethany Leavitt, the town’s director of public works, told the council that she was not aware of any other members calling for the special meeting.  

But council member Gary Freidmann felt the vote would signal to MRC their displeasure over a lack of answers about the sale and concerns about the future.  

“I think that it would be better for Bar Harbor to send a message to the MRC that we want to call a membership meeting and we’re willing to throw our tonnage in there and see who else joins before we sign this contract,” he said. 

Reports from earlier this spring found that DTE CEO Rob Van Naarden had mischaracterized his past business work and listed technical advisers who either never worked or no longer worked for the company. 

Friedmann had concerns about the company, calling it “shabby” and a “questionable outfit” and wanted answers about the facility before Bar Harbor gave a tacit endorsement of the sale.  

“We’ve given up all our leverage if we agree to these items on your list,” he said. “And I don’t see any more guarantees from DTE than we had from Fiberight. So, why not send the message that Bar Harbor’s fed up and wants to call a membership meeting to hold MRC and DTE accountable to answer these hard questions? 

The council also voted to ask the MRC Executive Director Michael Carroll to meet with the council and pondered if it should remain a member.  

Carroll and MRC’s board vice president Tony Smith met with Tremont selectmen on Monday to discuss the contract amendments.  

“This negotiation was very complex and it’s been going on for six months,” Carroll told the selectmen. He explained that any changes made to the proposed contract would be subject to the public notification process and would further delay reopening of the plant.  

“This plant costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain each month,” Carroll added.  

“The equipment in that plant is worth in excess of $15 to $20 million dollars,” said Smith. 

The facility closed last year when the company ran out of funds. Problems with a lack of permitting for resale of the byproducts and a depleted market for recycling contributed to the loss in revenue. “It was like the perfect storm for garbage,” said Smith.  

Since its closure, Bar Harbor’s waste has been processed at Penobscot Energy Recovery Company, where it’s burned to make electricity. The town’s single stream recycling is brought to Casella in Old Town, where it is later brought to a Lewiston facility for sorting and recycling.  

The single stream recycling the town currently has is more than three times the cost of the Hampden facility and the PERC fees are the same. But the PERC fees were negotiated by MRC, which would no longer lend its help if the town decided to pull out. 

The MRC has said that the sale to DTE would benefit its members and represents the best opportunity to resume waste processing at the facility.   

“It doesn’t sound like we have much choice if you had seven potential buyers and you’re down to one,” said Tremont’s Board of Selectmen Chairman Jamie Thurlow. That board decided to take no action on the matter.  

Sarah Hinckley contributed to this article. 

Ethan Genter

Ethan Genter

Former reporter for the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, Ethan covered maritime news and the town of Bar Harbor.

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