County commissioners criticize reapportionment of districts

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    GREENVILLE — When the Maine Legislature’s House and Senate districts underwent reapportionment this year, the boundary lines of county commissioners’ districts throughout the state also changed.

    But the Piscataquis County Commissioners said that they had no advance notice of the new districts and criticized local lawmakers at last week’s meeting for not keeping them informed.
    The major objection to the reappointment plan are that Greenville, Milo and Brownville are now in the same district; and a whole new 10-town district has been created from Shirley south to Wellington and east to Guilford and Sangerville.
    The realignment now places two incumbent commissioners, Eric Ward of Greenville and Fred Trask of Milo, in the same district.
    “The Moosehead Lake Region is now going to be represented by Fred (Trask),” Ward said. “Fred’s a nice fellow, but he now has to drive through (Commissioner) Jim Annis’ district to come over here (to Greenville).”
    Ward said he was told that Rep. Paul Davis “knew about it and saw the maps. But for some reason, he never told us about the changes. You don’t have to be too swift to realize this isn’t right.”
    Greenville Police Chief Jeff Pomerleau said that “as a taxpayer, this does upset me for two reasons. One, it wasn’t very well publicized; and two, the only thing worse than taxation without representation is taxation with misrepresentation. I’d really like to see this revisited.”
    Davis, who addressed a group of concerned residents a few days after the meeting, said he would introduce a bill to revisit the realignment. (See separate story.)
    A 15-member Reapportionment Commission made up of seven Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent reworked the maps for the legislative and county districts based on population shifts.
    During the final days of the legislative session, the Maine Senate unanimously backed the redistricting bill after the House passed it, 133-11.
    Ward, who said that he was not running for re-election, emphasized that he didn’t want to make the issue “about me. But it’s pretty darn funny that they had multiple versions of maps, and this is the one they put in place.”
    County commissioners also heard a presentation by Greenville Town Manager Gary Lamb on the cost of having the unorganized territories use the town’s transfer station instead of the county-owned facility in Lily Bay.
    When Greenville’s landfill was open, the county picked up part of the operating cost so that residents of Harford’s Point, Big Moose Township and Moosehead Junction Township could use it. But after the dump was closed in 2011 and the transfer station opened, the county opted to have residents of the UTs use the Lily Bay site.
    Lamb told the commissioners that the Greenville transfer station has the capacity to take all the trash currently sent to Lily Bay, and estimated that it would cost the county around $44,600 per year. This would include tipping fees, transportation and 18 percent of the debt service and operating cost. “When somebody asks me for figures like this, I’m always on the high end,” Lamb said. “The real numbers will probably come in quite a bit lower.”
    The town manager also offered an alternative: a flat fee per trash bag size “regardless of where it comes from outside of Greenville. We could set a price for 13-, 33- and 55-gallon bags and take them from anyone. The user would pay us directly.”
    Alan McBrierty, who served on the Greenville Board of Selectmen when the transfer station opened, recalled that town and county officials “went round and round about who was going to participate in (operating) the transfer station.”
    McBrierty said that no matter what kind of agreement is reached or what percentage the county and UTs would pick up in operating cost, “a percentage of the debt service should be paid up front. If you don’t do that, you’re throwing Greenville under the bus.”
    Sean Bolen, who operates Moosehead Rubbish Service, services the UTs that use the Lily Bay transfer station and said that he hasn’t had any issues with the way things are now. “It’s a little more travel for me, but I’m used to it by now,” Bolen said. He also said he has a commercial container on his property for those who want to bring trash to the site “no matter where they live.”
    Ward said that the purpose of putting the issue on the agenda was to “open up a dialogue between us and the Greenville selectmen. So we’ll see where it goes from here.”

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