Proposed ordinance to go to voters that would suspend local environmental oversight

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JAY — Selectmen voted Monday to certify an ordinance that if enacted by voters on June 8, would suspend portions of the town’s ordinance that regulates industrial air emissions, water discharges and solid waste facilities.

It would be the 24th revision to the Jay Environmental Control and Improvement Ordinance that was enacted in May 1988, after a chlorine leak at International Paper’s Androscoggin Mill during a labor strike.

If voters approve the new ordinance, existing local permits and compliance orders under chapters nine for solid waste facilities, 12 for water, and 13 for air shall be suspended, as shall all obligations under these permits and compliance ordinance.

The companies also hold state and federal permits that govern air emissions, discharges into rivers, streams and other water bodies, and solid waste facilities, and must adhere to the those regulations.

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Selectman Amy Gould said Jay is the only remaining town in the state that has a local environmental ordinance.

The new ordinance would still require businesses to keep the town’s code enforcement officer informed about certain matters, including violations, and proposed consent agreements related to state and federal enforcement.

The proposed ordinance would also allow the town to use money from the environmental reserve account, that is funded by industrial permit fees for the code enforcement office and Planning Board budget, as long as the minimum balance exceeds to $250,000. Last year, there was about $1 million in the account but voters agreed to lower the cap to $800,000. It meant industrial permit fees were suspended until the lower cap is met.

If voters decide to adopt the new ordinance suspending local environmental oversight, and it doesn’t work out, voters can submit a petition to vote on reinstating the ordinance, McCourt said.

Planning Board Chairman Delance White reviewed few points about what led up to proposed amendment.

Selectmen went to Verso Paper Corp., which now owns the former IP mill, to see if there was anything the town could do to help the mill survive in a tough economy, White said. Verso did not come to selectmen, he said.

The mill manager told the board at a public meeting, White said, that either way the vote goes it would not affect the mill.

There were a couple of joint meetings between the two boards after discussion evolved over the town’s permit process duplicating state and federal permitting and the cost to the mill.

Eventually the town would have to pay $70,000 to $80,000 a year to cover the cost of the code officer and Planning Board, White said.

By 2012, it will cost the town to have a code enforcement officer and building inspector to deal with building codes and inspections, McCourt said. It would take about 14 years to draw down the reserve account to $250,000, he said.

If this is suspended then the code enforcement office expense can be taken out of environmental reserve account but if it is not suspended, then the town will have to pay for a code officer to enforce building codes, Town Manager Ruth Cushman said.

The current code officer would not have the time to enforce the environmental ordinance and building code, she said. If it is suspended, the current code officer would be freed up to take more courses to become a building inspector.

Some selectmen said they have heard from people that the ordinance deters businesses from coming to town and that it is not business friendly. They want voters to decide the matter.

Several businesses came to town after the ordinance went into effect in 1988, White said, including a chemical plant and natural gas-powered cogeneration plant and Verso Paper bought IP’s mill, where all of these businesses are set up.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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