Special town meeting Dec. 6

Town still considering options for rifle range site

By Beth A. Birmingham | Nov 28, 2017
Source: File Photo

Warren — A workshop to discuss the next steps regarding the former rifle range site has resulted in the town's seeking legal advice.

Rep. Paula Sutton, R-Warren, and representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection met with residents and town officials Nov. 21 to seek input on options available for the remediation of the site.

Also in attendance were former Selectmen Ed LaFlamme and Michael York, who helped explain some history of the ongoing issue, Town Manager Bill Lawrence said Nov. 27.

Three options were proposed by DEP, according to Lawrence: do nothing, bury the material on-site, or have the town take back ownership of the site and remove as much of the exposed material until available funds run dry.

The DEP has approximately $375,000 set aside for the remediation of the site.

Lawrence said burying the material would create landfill issues and he got the feeling from those in attendance they did not want the town to take over possession because of liability issues.

"Another issue is, there have been no taxes collected on this property for about 15 years," Lawrence said. "Some people want it back on the tax roll."

However, to do that, the town would have to take it over and sell it.

"The Board of Selectmen doesn't want to make a bad move that could cause a financial impact on the town," Lawrence said.

So the board recommended contacting town attorney Bill Kelly to review a draft proposal from DEP that seeks to maintain access to the property for remediation and asks the town waive liability if it should decide to take back ownership of the property.

A special town meeting on the topic is set for Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.

In October, Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. completed testing of the fiber material, and found it to be a viable source of energy. Lawrence said PERC remains an option for some remediation, as does Dragon Products in Thomaston.

The property in question, located on Route 90, housed more than 27,000 tons of polyester fiber material originally brought in to create a berm to absorb bullets and the sound of gunfire at the proposed rifle range.

The DEP had contracted with Triumvirate -- at no cost to the town -- to truck the scrap material to its site in Pennsylvania, where it planned to use it in making composites for manufacturing other things.

Per contract stipulations, Triumvirate began work at the site more than two years ago. The initial expected completion date for the project was late 2016 or early 2017. But in June, Lawrence confirmed the material was no longer being removed.

"Many options have been researched and vetted over the last 15 years which include: hauling the material to a landfill, incineration, stabilizing in place, recycling, and processing on site," a report by Bill Longfellow, who is in charge of the project for DEP, stated in June.

The end result -- no one solution solved the problem, or any solution that did was too costly -- even figuring in the remediation funds available.

There is nothing in the contract that prohibits the town of Warren from acting on the outstanding tax liens -- which have been waived since the beginning -- taking ownership of the property and selling it while the cleanup is still under way. If the sale occurred, an agreement with the new owner might have to be negotiated to allow continued access for cleanup purposes.

Thus far, the town has declined to take over the property until the mess is cleaned up.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

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