On Nov. 6 Rockport voters will be asked to approve a ban on expanded polystyrene foam takeaway food and beverage containers by vendors in the area. On Aug. 27 the select board voted unanimously in favor of placing the item on the ballot, following a discussion and amending the original ordinance.

A draft of the ordinance was written and presented to the board earlier in the year by Frances Woodworth, then a senior at Camden Hills Regional High School. Since then the document was reviewed and annotated by the town's legal counsel, Phil Saucier. If the ban is placed on the November ballot, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

The revised ordinance would prevent vendors from serving or selling prepared food in expanded polystyrene containers and would extend to banning the use of such containers by the town of Rockport at public events. The town manager, Rick Bates, would have primary responsibility for enforcing the ordinance, and for the first six months of the ban being enacted any violations would receive a verbal warning.

After six months, a written notice requesting compliance with the ordinance would be sent to vendors, and subsequent violations would be subject to a fine. The proposed fine would not exceed $250 per violation. Those who fail to comply with the ordinance would also be responsible for reimbursement of the town's legal fees and costs of prosecution for each violation.

At the Aug. 27 meeting members of the board expressed concern over how the ordinance was written, specifically as it pertained to how many fines or violations could be incurred by a business over a certain time period.

Selectman Jeff Hamilton said it was important to clarify what constitutes a violation of the ordinance, and the frequency in which the punishment is enforced. Board members Ken McKinley and Debra Hall echoed his comments, and McKinley said that it was important that the consequence was substantial enough that businesses wouldn't simply pay the $250 upfront to continue using polystyrene containers.

"I don't like the idea of allowing somebody to "buy-off" the ordinance, quite honestly, because some bigger company may say '$250 bucks is peanut change to us,' and the intent of the ordinance is to not have the polystyrene out there," said McKinley, who suggested that an annual maximum of incurred fines be inserted into the document's verbiage.

"I don't see the purpose of having an ordinance if you're not going to have something that has some bite to it — it has to have consequences, or don't have the ordinance," said Hall.

The Board voted to amend the ordinance to include the language that the fine per violation would not exceed $250, and in aggregate, not to exceed a total of $1,500 in a one-year period.

The proposal states that the town has a responsibility to protect the natural environment and that Styrofoam packaging has a harsh impact on the environment on a local and global scale:

"It is in the best interest of the citizens of Rockport to protect the environment and natural resources by prohibiting the distribution and use of disposable expanded polystyrene cups, plates, bowls, coolers, and food containers and to require the use of food containers made of other materials associated with all takeout foods defined in this section."