CANTON — Selectmen voted Thursday night to sign a petition calling for the government to impose tariffs and duties on certain coated paper imports from China and Indonesia as long as those countries are breaking their own laws.
The petition was brought by Rumford paper mill workers Ron Hemingway and Dale Austin. Hemingway said the document asks the U.S. Department of Commerce to impose duties on foreign products that have benefited from unfair subsidies. The petition alleges that paper is being sold in the United States at prices lower than foreign companies’ costs. Their governments are aiding the paper mills by giving them loans, fuel and other subsidies.
The imports have continued to increase, causing paper mills in Maine to suffer a downturn and threatening thousands of U.S. jobs.
According to literature accompanying the petition, Chinese companies employ child labor and pay sweatshop wages with no safety protections. The government approves illegal logging, and the mills use hugely discounted energy. The government also forgives their loans.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe support the duty petitions filed by Maine paper producers NewPage Corp. and Sappi Fine Paper, according to a letter the two sent to the U.S. Department of Commerce secretary.
The Department of Commerce is in the process of issuing its preliminary determinations regarding selling paper at a lower price than it costs to produce it.
In other news, Colby Davis said he had placed a new flag at the monument and was prepared to put a new one at the Town Office as soon as possible.
Chris Dailey, who was video-recording the meeting, asked if some street lights could be removed to save the town money. These are lights basically on Route 140 where the homes had been removed from the flood zone.
Selectman Donna Hebert said there was still a need for them, and board members said they would consider the idea.
A letter was read from Chairman Scotty Kilbreth, who was not in attendance, stating that any complaints received by the board that contain profanity would not be considered.
There was considerable discussion over whether a person should be kept on the part-time payroll if they could no longer fulfill their duties. Town Administrator Kathy Hutchins said this could be addressed at the annual town meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 13.
Elections will be held Friday, March 12, at the Town Office.