JAY — Selectmen and Planning Board members agreed Monday to review Verso Paper Corp.’s town-issued permits for air emissions, discharges into the river, and solid waste, and compare them to the company’s state-issued permits.

The boards decided to keep meeting to try to come up with any changes that might benefit the businesses in town or those that want to come to town but not hurt the environment.

The intent is to see what the town is more stringent on, whether there is duplication involved between state and town permitting processes, and if there is anything that can be removed to make the town’s environmental ordinance more commercially friendly without harming the town’s environment.

It was the first meeting of the two board’s since Verso requested selectmen to review the town’s Environmental Control and Improvement Ordinance.

If the two groups develop some proposed changes they would go before the voters in June.

Select board Chairman Steve McCourt said he misspoke in November when he said the company asked to suspend the ordinance. He said representatives asked that the ordinance be reviewed to see if some amendments could be made.

Planning Board members took issue with the request because they were not initially involved, and they oversee the ordinance.

The ordinance was adopted in 1988 and has been amended 23 times since then, with the most recent time by voters in April.

Selectman Amy Pineau Gould asked how the ordinance has changed since it was enacted.

“Things change over time,” she said. “No one says it needs to be taken away.”

“The law says we can be more stringent than the state but we cannot be less,” Planning Board Chairman Delance White said.

The Planning Board had worked with International Paper on pollution reduction and prevention at the Androscoggin Mill, which is now owned by Verso Paper, for years, White said. The town didn’t fine the company, but worked to correct conditions, he said.

“There has to be a happy medium,” Gould said.

White asked why they would want to change something that is working.

Conservation is a great thing but sometimes it prevents businesses from coming to town, Gould said.

Environmental Code Enforcement Officer Shiloh Ring said the ordinance is amended as needed, and in some cases, monitoring has been reduced.

White said the state Department of Environmental Protection has the whole state to oversee while Jay’s representatives only concentrate on the industry in  town.

When asked, Androscoggin Mill Manager Marc Connor said that Verso paid about $253,000 each of three previous years to the town for the fees associated with permits and the ordinance and an additional $60,000 to have ordinance-related questions answered.

This past year, the town also requested the mill to make an adjustment to a monitor it has in the Androscoggin River, which cost another $200,000.

It is something the mill wouldn’t have had to do, if left to the state, Connor said.

The biggest issue is Jay has a very, very difficult and challenging business climate, Connor said, and it is difficult for Verso to attract new businesses that make products the mill needs to the area.

One business in particular, he said, would bring 12 jobs and be an addition to the town’s tax base.

These are companies that want to set up on site, McCourt said.

Mary Howes, a Planning Board member and an owner of the former Wausau Paper mill said that she believes there are still a lot of hard feelings left over from the strike at IP in 1987.

A lot has changed, Howes said.

The economic climate has changed, she said.

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