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Fort Fairfield Town Council Hears Public Opposition to Proposed Landfill Merger with Presque Isle


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, October 25, 2017


   At the Fort Fairfield town council meeting Robert Novak rose to speak, during the public comment period, about the proposed merger between Tri-Community Landfill and Presque Isle Landfill.  He noted the frustration caused by secret meetings with no public input and no dissemination of information on the negotiations, which are being held functionally in an Executive Session format.

   During his presentation, Novak laid out four rhetorical questions about the merger for the town council to consider.

   “Given the lack of transparency on this merger, all numbers and talking points that I am about to share are assumed on my behalf.  Should anyone feel that they are in error I encourage them to use this public comment period to steer me straight.  However, using a term I've picked up from my accounting friends, I will say they are at least directionally accurate.”

   Novak's questions and commentary were as follows:

   Question #1: How is this agreement going to benefit our community and will it make things better for us?

   “We deserve better answers than what we have been provided in previous town council meetings by representatives of TCL.  Show us numbers, graphs, anything other than just telling us to trust them and that it is a good deal, or it might help with government grants.”

   Question #2:  Does it make fiscal sense?

      Novak noted the cost to Presque Isle homeowners is over double at Presque Isle Landfill, compared to what Fort Fairfield homeowners pay at Tri-Community.  “One of the goals mentioned by the architects of the agreement state that the agreement cannot cost the current landfill owners more money,” said Novak.  “This statement refers to Fort Fairfield, Caribou and Limestone.  It does not refer to the citizens.  At some point where current carriers have to travel to a landfill in Presque Isle, which is about 40 miles from Tri-Community to dispose of their cargo.  If this is a possibility how will the current carriers absorb the extra transportation costs without passing it on to the customer?  They can't.” 

   Question #3: What is our current landfill capacity situation and what impact will this landfill merger have on it?

   With 200 acres still to fill, Tri-Community Landfill has an estimated 25 to 45 years worth of capacity left; Presque Isle Landfill has 600 acres left.  “Taking the worst-case scenario, which is 25 years of life left in Tri-Community I will assume Presque Isle's annual trash inbound mass to be equal to Tri-Community's,” Novak said.  “So, in 25 years we have about 400 acres left, total.  Providing numbers stay consistent, we will have about 50 years total capacity between the two landfills.  So, for 25 years more of capacity we are signing up for a lifetime marriage with no chance of divorce.  Are there other options more logistically feasible?” 

   Question $4:  What are the liabilities that Tri-Community will be absorbing because of this deal?

   “There has to be some.  No trash deal is ever this clean, no pun intended.  There must be some environmental, fiscal waiver, etc. concerns, with the Presque Isle landfill.  Let's assume that after the merger an environmental issue surfaces.  $2 million could potentially only be a drop in the pond in order to rectify this issue.”

   “With every deal there are pros and cons.  We've heard nothing official on both sides.  If we are provided with positives and nothing to weigh them against, then we will be very suspect.  If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.  No matter how each and every tax paying citizen feels about this issue, the simple, watered down truth is they have no say in the matter. Only the Tri-Community landfill board can decide by vote whether to proceed.  The only say that a voting citizen has is who they have selected to represent them on the town council.  The only say that the town council has is who they choose to appoint to the Tri-Community Landfill board.  In this case, Mr. Rogeski.  We currently have to blindly rely and trust him that he's making the correct choices which are beneficial to the town as a whole and not just a select group.  All this without sharing any of the details.  When and if this merger goes through, there will be no Mulligans or do-overs allowed.  It will be a done deal.  The folks of Presque Isle are good people, but this is their nightmare.  Help explain and clarify to the taxpayers and voters of Fort Fairfield why we need, or even better, want to get involved.  If our current system is not broken, why are we trying to fix it?”

   Stev Rogeski is Fort Fairfield's representative to the Tri-Community Landfill board.  During his report to the town council, he addressed some of Mr. Novak's concerns. “When it comes time to decide whether or not to do this merger it's [the Fort Fairfield town council's] decision.  Fort Fairfield town council votes which way they want to do things, it's not something that we do ourselves.  We bring our recommendations to you, you see all the data - by then it will be public,” Rogeski told the town council.  “I can tell you as a board member myself and I can speak for the Caribou and Limestone board members, we absolutely will not see this merger hurt us as a group.  It will only make things better for us, otherwise we won't be doing it at all.”

   Fort Fairfield town councilman, Mitch Butler raised a concern about local trash haulers potentially being required to haul trash to Presque Isle's landfill.   “I don't know if that's even going to happen.  That's still something that we're working out.  It's not our intention for the town,” said Rogeski.  “It's also not our intention for Presque Isle's trash to come our way.  Those are the kinds of things that we're working out.  We don't have an official agreement yet.  We're still working out the details.  We may come to the conclusion that it's not a feasible thing for us to do.  We haven't made that decision yet.  We're still waiting to see what they need, what we have and what we can offer and what they can offer.”