City wants task force to tackle solid waste

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LEWISTON – A solid waste task force will be established in Lewiston to study the city’s options for trash disposal and make recommendations related to anticipated legislative action that would prohibit out-of-state trash.

Formation of the new group comes at the recommendation of City Administrator Jim Bennett and by unanimous vote of the Lewiston City Council at its meeting Tuesday night.

Applications are invited over the next two weeks, and councilors will appoint members to the group at the May 2 meeting. The proposal calls for one member from each of the city’s seven wards.

The task force would report back to the council around the end of November. That would give Lewiston officials some lead time before the Legislature’s report on solid waste issues, which is expected early in 2007, and several months before the April 1, 2007, expiration of municipal contracts with Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp.

Bennett said, “I don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense to be into a two- or three- or five-year contract right now unless we know what the rules are going to be. And, quite frankly, I think it makes some sense to have some citizens take a look at this and bring back recommendations.”

Bennett added, “Now is not the time for a legal battle with the state.”

He told councilors he believes Lewiston could win a court test of Lewiston’s right to bring out-of-state waste to the city’s landfill, but he thinks a better course is to study the situation in tandem with the state’s study process.

At the request of Council President Renee Bernier of Ward 2, Bennett explained that Lewiston had not dragged its heels on solid waste issues. Bernier said such claims were incorrect but had been reported in newspaper stories, and she wanted the record to be set straight.

“Anyone who has been faithfully watching these meetings for the last year knows that solid waste has been discussed here in these chambers for over a year now,” Bennett said.

“We started meeting with the attorney general and the commissioner of the DEP last summer. We were trying to work through the administrative function and the administrative end of state government to try to find a solution that made sense.”

Bennett said there were “verbal commitments” from people to try to work with the city at the same time that legislation was being introduced to bar out-of-state waste from Maine.

What happened instead of cooperation, he said, was a temporary ban.

“That bill really hurt us,” he said.

The councilors also voted first passage of amendments to the city’s personnel code regarding civil service positions.

Police Chief William E. Welch and fire Chief Paul Leclair told councilors the changes are needed to help filter examination applicants and keep an up-to-date and fresh list of candidates on file.

Bennett said the changes “are a first step” in a series of hiring practice changes that the council will be asked to make in coming months. He said the changes could be helpful in improving gender and cultural factors in the city’s hiring practices.

In other business, the council approved special amusement permits for dancing and entertainment for Little Joe’s Inc., 740 Sabattus St., and for Warden’s Bar and Grill, 703 Sabattus St.

Final passage was voted for rezoning land associated with the Island Point condominium development project from Riverfront District to Centreville District. Bennett said the change was appropriate to allow the project to proceed.

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