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Gerritsen appointed to Mid-Coast Solid Waste board

By Susan Mustapich | Jan 04, 2021
Source: Zoom Video Conferencing Selectman Josh Gerritsen is appointed Dec. 28 to  the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corporation Board of Directors in a 3 to 2 vote.

LINCOLNVILLE — Lincolnville selectman Josh Gerritsen was appointed to one of the town's seats on the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corporation Board of Directors Dec. 28.

The vote was 3 to 2, with Jordan Barnett-Parker, Gerritsen and Mike Ray voting in favor and Chairman Ladleah Dunn and Vice Chairman Keryn Laite voting against the appointment.

In 2017, when Gerritsen ran for and was elected selectman, he made his interest in waste and recycling management and joining the Mid-Coast Board well-known.

Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corporation runs the transfer station in Rockport, which handles  trash disposal, landfills, construction materials and recycles. The transfer station serves the towns of Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville. Each town appoints two representatives to Mid-Coast's Board.

Former Selectman David Barrows, who died in a tractor accident in September 2020, previously held the Mid-Coast Board seat. Laite holds the other Lincolnville seat on the Board.

Laite said appointing a new representative could wait until the Mid-Coast Board's February meeting, and suggested seeking interest in the position among community members. He said the process of seeking community interest would not mean that a selectman could not be chosen at the end of the process.

Laite also talked about how Lincolnville selectmen had removed one of its past appointees from the Mid-Coast Board. Anyone appointed to this board needs to know that regardless of their personal beliefs or agendas, when it comes to voting on big issues that will go before the town, the town dictates how they vote, he said.

He said a Mid-Coast Board meeting was planned for Dec. 30 to approve the transfer station's 2021 budget, which had been well-vetted. (The Dec. 30 meeting was not held because there were not enough members to form a quorum.)

Gerritsen said he is qualified and willing to serve on the Mid-Coast board. He is very interested in solid waste and recycling processes. He pointed out that a transfer station can reduce a community's carbon footprint and save money.

He had attended Mid-Coast board meetings for three years as a private citizen, until a few years ago. He served as chairman of its recycling committee for two years and has organized roadside trash cleanups in Lincolnville. This experience gives him an understanding of how the MCSW corporation works, recycling markets and the players in Maine's solid waste industry, he said.

"I have an agenda," he said, "a safe, well-functioning transfer station that has a high recycling and diversion rate and saves money for the community.  If I was on that Board, I would vote for what I thought is good for the people of Lincolnville."

When Mid-Coast's Board votes on its annual budget, it would be best to have two members from Lincolnville appointed, according to Gerritsen.

He pointed out that the MCSWC interlocal agreement states that to the extent possible, the board shall be composed of two municipal officers from each town. If two officers from each town cannot be found, then the board may designate other individuals.

It isn’t appropriate to appoint other members, if two officers are willing to serve, he said.

Both Ray and Barnett-Parker spoke in favor of Gerritsen's appointment to Mid-Coast's Board based on his interest and experience.

Dunn raised her concerns about appointing Gerritsen. She talked about witnessing his "almost blind pursuit of Fiberight, and we all know how that turned out." She cited this as his previous performance with Mid-Coast Solid Waste. She asked if he can assure the people of Lincolnville that he will take as his priorities the duties laid out in Mid-Coast's interlocal agreement, and not his own personal agenda regarding sustainable waste handling and recycling.

In 2016, Mid-Coast's board was embroiled in debate over entering into a new long-term contract for trash disposal and recycling. The majority of its board members backed a long-term contract with EcoMaine in South Portland. A minority on its board backed Fiberight, a company proposing to build a plant in Hampden that used new technologies to make bio-fuels from trash. Three of the four towns using MCSWC voted against a long-term contract with EcoMaine.  Afterwards, MCSWC entered into a short-term contract with EcoMaine. More than 100 Maine towns contracted with Fiberight's plant, which had not received permits to produce biofuels by mid-2020, and subsequently closed down due to financial problems.

Gerritsen said that in 2016, Mid-Coast's agreement for waste disposal was expiring. He was not a selectman at the time. He feels good about his working with community members to advocate for Fiberight, and that MCSWC did not sign a 20-year contract with EcoMaine. Currently, the Mid-Coast board is looking at a contract with Waste Management, because it is the better short-term solution, he said. Fiberight's technology is sound, but its management has been a total failure, according to Gerritsen. He said the plant might be an option in the future.

Dunn commended Gerritsen for his enthusiasm, commitment and encouraging others to be informed and care about Lincolnville's trash. At the same time, she favored exploring citizen interest in participating on the Mid-Coast Board.

In other business, board members voted 4-0 to have Town Administrator David Kinney look into the cost of implementing town email accounts for selectmen and town staff. Dunn abstained from the vote.

At a prior meeting, Ray suggested selectmen have town emails. He said his suggestion was based on a recommendation of the Maine Municipal Association that officials use town rather than personal emails, particularly in reference to Freedom of Information Act requests for emails.

The email discussion was on the Dec. 28 agenda at the request of Barnett-Parker, who supports Board of Selectmen emails to be separate from his existing business and personal email accounts.

"For transparency, privacy and ease, a town email would be beneficial and professional," Barnett-Parker said.

Ray maintained his support for adding town emails for selectmen.

Laite suggested town email accounts be researched and added to proposed items for the upcoming 2021-22 budget. He understands what Ray and Barnett-Parker are saying, but he does not need another email account. He added that iPads for town officials were discussed in order to do as much work as possible in a paperless environment.

Kinney recently discussed numerous computer-related items with a representative from the company that handles information technology for the town. The discussion included a possible replacement of the town server, and tablets and emails for selectmen. Kinney said the question of whether department heads use town email came up during that discussion. He said some department heads use town email and others use personal email. He was advised to include desired changes to the town's information technology system in a single upgrade.

Gerritsen supported adding town emails for selectmen as soon as possible. He later changed this to inquiring about the cost of adding the emails within the next two weeks.

Dunn supported using the annual budget process "to find a fully integrated solution that works for the entire town government, not just the board."

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