County waste disposal to continue with GRACE, LLC

DOVER-FOXCROFT – The name is changing but the price Piscataquis County will be paying for trash disposal from the Unorganized Territories will remain the same for the short term. The Piscataquis County Commissioners signed an interim waste disposal agreement with GRACE, LLC of Orrington during a meeting Tuesday morning (a session postponed  seven days due to the storm a week prior).

The foreclosed Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. plant was sold Nov. 12 after a third auction. The new owner, C&M Faith holdings, wanted to start processing the trash by the end of the year.

C&M Faith holdings bought the plant for $1.2 million, less than 10 percent of the assessed value of PERC, which is about $13 million for tax purposes. The company, owned by Bill Richardson from Little Rock, Arkansas, and Boswell from Sarasota, Florida, closed on the purchase last month.

The incinerator closed in May and stopped accepting trash from Orrington in September after it became full. The plan is to process that trash — around 10,000 tons — first before accepting new trash. 

The 35-year-old plant also has a new name. It’s now called the Garbage Recycling and Clean Energy plant, or GRACE. The 40-acre facility located off River Road, also known as Route 15, had been taking waste from 44 communities and commercial waste haulers in recent years. Trash was burned to make electricity, and the facility burned 315,000 tons of trash in 2017, its last year of full operations.

County Manager Mike Williams said the interim agreement runs through May 2024 at a rate of $90.93 per ton, the same as with PERC.

“It’s the same place, they are doing all the work to get set under the new name,” he said. Williams said he believes a more long-term agreement proposal will come before the county mid-2024 and so far he has heard positive things about GRACE, LLC.

He said otherwise there are not too many options the county could consider for waste disposal.

In other business, the commissioners authorized Williams to sign any change orders concerning the relocation of the dispatch center. Otherwise such actions would need to be voted on by the commissioners during their bi-monthly regular meetings.

After opting to table a decision on a project to relocate the dispatch center from cramped conditions in the Piscatquis County Jail in Dover-Foxcroft into the administrative unit of the sheriff’s office in Guilford, the commissioners opted to go with the low bid of three during a meeting on Nov. 21.

The commissioners voted to proceed with the $668,944 bid from Ganneston Construction. The other submissions were $763,750 from Sheridan Construction and a $876,215 proposal from Dunbar & Brawn Construction.

Twice last year the commissioners put the project out to bid. The decision was made to attract more affordable contractors and in December 2022 the commissioners opted to try again in the fall of 2023 to see if material prices would come down.

Sheriff Bob Young praised county dispatchers for handling hundreds of calls from residents dealing with the wind and rain storm that caused multiple-day power outages across the region.

“They really did an excellent job, we are fortunate to have the dispatchers we have,” he said, including some part-time employees.

The sheriff said other such communication centers in Maine are struggling with staff numbers, but that is not the case in Piscataquis County.

Young said he wanted to bring up regional ambulance service, mentioning the idea of creating a task force to see how this could be improved — potentially with the creation of a countywide service. He said the sheriff’s office handles dispatch for all ambulance services but does not have ambulances and staff of its own to respond to calls.

He mentioned a recent Brownville resident had suffered a heart attack, but a vehicle from Three Rivers Ambulance was not available. Dispatch called to Northern Light Mayo Hospital and services based in Millinocket, Old Town, and Glenburn before finally getting an EMT and Milo Fire Department. “That’s a lot of burden on our dispatchers,” Young said.

Ambulance services from Penobscot County have been called in before, but this is not always an option for Piscataquis County incidents. Young said he and others may not be sure why there is such a problem in the region, but a solution needs to be found.

“When they are frustrated and angry that an ambulance isn’t coming, it’s the dispatcher they are talking to,” he said. “We need to look at the future, what is the best way to provide these services.”

Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Jaeme Duggan said the county has most likely reached thresholds in storm damage to meet disaster declaration criteria. She said towns have been great in reporting storm damage to the agency.

“We were just hit very hard,” Duggan, mentioning an estimate close to $2 million in damage across the region. She said reimbursements will likely be available with federal disaster declarations.

If awarded, funding may not be distributed for 12-18 months as is standard practice.

Duggan said the storm has pushed back the planning process for the April 8 eclipse, but a plan should be ready by next month.

Around 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, April 8, 2024 the moon will be fully in front of the sun for a total solar eclipse, after leading up to the event starting at around 2 o’clock that day. Among the best viewing spaces in the country will be Piscataquis County with thousands of visitors projected to be coming to the region for the event.

To help plan for the influx of people, representatives of Northern Light Mayo and CA Dean Hospitals, fire and police departments from across the region, and emergency management agencies have been busy working to get ready

The Bangor Daily News’ Marie Weidmayer contributed to this story.

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