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Presque Isle Landfill to Close Under Proposed Merger Agreement


Tri-Community Will Inherit Presque Isle’s Historically Bad

Decision-Making by Gaining Two of Their Board Members


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, November 22, 2017


   Tri-Community Landfill solid waste director, Mark Draper recently disclosed tentative terms of the proposed merger with Presque Isle Landfill that would have the Presque Isle landfill ultimately closed with all of the trash from the area they currently serve being brought to Tri-Community's site in Fort Fairfield.

   “Fundamentally, essentially, there's an excess in landfill disposal capacity in Aroostook County,” Draper told the Fort Fairfield Town Council at their November meeting.   “We have Tri-Community Landfill and Presque Isle Landfill, each has significant amounts of disposal capacity and we're faced with a realization that the amount of waste disposal required in Aroostook County is declining; our population is declining.”

   Tri-Community Landfill is owned by the City of Caribou, and towns of Fort Fairfield and Limestone.  Over the years, its board of directors has done a stellar job of maintaining a highly efficient landfill operation while keeping costs comparatively low for its member communities, which continue to shrink in population.

   “Waste reduction efforts have come to fruition, so you have two landfills that are basically competing for a shrinking volume of waste.  Moving forward, both entities recognize that it would make more sense to combine that capacity under a single entity, use it more effectively, more efficiently and stabilize costs today and going forward,” said Draper.

   However, it's important to note that under the direction of the Presque Isle Landfill board of directors' “Dream Team” people in that area have suffered under one bad decision after another, the most noteworthy of which was the “Pay as You Throw” fiasco that ended up costing people many times more money than it should have by forcing them to purchase extremely expensive blue or orange bags that could barely hold trash without tearing apart. 

   The business of garbage disposal is essentially putting trash in a pile and burying it in a way that meets current environmental standards. Presque Isle's landfill has historically been plagued by poor financial decisions by its board members to the point that their costs to process trash are nearly double that of Tri-Community Landfill's cost to do exactly the same thing.   The cost to process trash at Tri-Community is around $42 per ton for member communities while Presque Isle's is over $80.00 per ton.  Needless to say, there is nothing “efficient” or “cost-saving” about the way Presque Isle Landfill's board of directors operates in the landfill business and Tri-Community would be inheriting two of those board members on its new board under the proposed merger.   If this merger is finally adopted with two voting members from Presque Isle, it will be the first stupid decision Tri-Community Landfill's board will have made.

   Draper said there will be changes to the interlocal agreement to help alleviate the poor management decisions of the incoming Presque Isle board members.  “When certain types of decisions are made, primarily our annual budget, or in any case where we will be borrowing money, we will require a three-fourths majority of the board of directors to do that.  That's been a concern for a number of towns to make sure no one community can drive, for example, the agenda of the organization.”

   While the three-fourths majority may help insulate the current Tri-Community owners from the outcome of a bad vote, it will not protect them from being swayed by the historically bad ideas and business practices that Presque Isle will be bringing to the table and tainting what is now a perfectly functioning, highly efficient and cost effective Tri-Community landfill board of directors.  In addition to a three-fourths majority vote, it has been suggested by some in the affected communities that the Presque Isle board members only be allocated a half a vote, or none at all, on the new board in order to protect Fort Fairfield, Limestone and Caribou from their financially devastating ideas and decisions in the future.  This writer suggests that in addition to no voting power, the two Presque Isle board members should be left out in the hall during important discussions and not allowed to say anything, at all.

   Draper has mentioned a lot of people in the Tri-Community area were concerned that they may end up having to transport their trash to Presque Isle under this new agreement.  However, he said that the situation would actually be reversed.  “There has been a specific plan that has been developed that would call for operating both landfills for a limited period of time primarily to use the constructed capacity at the Presque Isle landfill - not the entire licensed capacity, but the cells that have been constructed there,” said Draper.  “Utilize that capacity, fill it up, shut down operations in Presque Isle and bring everything to Fort Fairfield.  The alternative to that would be to immediately shut down Presque Isle landfill and bring everything to Fort Fairfield.”

   Presque Isle landfill currently has three cells in use, of which they are half full.

   Draper said the other determination made is the legislative bodies of Fort Fairfield, Caribou and Limestone will be approving the merger before it is adopted.  “Effectively how that's going to be done is the three legislative bodies have to approve any changes to our interlocal agreement, which is an agreement between the three current owners that governs how we operate.  In order to add a new owner to that we need to change that interlocal agreement.”

   Fort Fairfield town councilman John Herold asked Mr. Draper if a person in Fort Fairfield purchased a sticker for the Tri-Community Landfill, would that sticker also entitle him to utilize the Presque Isle landfill before it is shut down.  “It hasn't been contemplated at that level yet,” Draper answered.  “This plan allows for a transition period for the folks in Presque Isle because eventually that facility will be shut down.  It allows them a period of time to contemplate how they're going to deal with that.”

   Councilman, Mitch Butler asked about how the costs to maintain the cells that are currently in Presque Isle would be divided up, as well as any other unforeseen maintenance costs that may spring up at the Presque Isle location before it is closed and retired.  Draper said under the new plan, if something came up at the Presque Isle facility that needed to be addressed, the financial burden would fall on all four communities - Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Limestone and Caribou to pay for it.  However, he did state that there is a provision in the proposed agreement that would require Presque Isle to provide funding for the eventual closure of their facility, but other unforeseen costs up until that point will have to be borne by all member communities in the new corporation.

   What skeletons the Presque Isle Landfill has hiding in its closet that will have to be paid for by Tri-Community's owners has yet to be revealed and probably won't be until after the approval of this merger takes place.

   “There are still negotiations around the specific financial details of how the financial part of this is all going to work,” Draper told the council members.  “Those are still being discussed, so there isn't a lot I can share with you tonight.”