Casella Waste Completes Sale of Incinerator to Biddeford, Maine

Date: December 3, 2012

Source: Casella Waste Systems, Inc.

Casella Waste completes sale of facility to Maine city Casella Waste Systems, Inc. (Rutland, VT) has completed the sale of the property containing its Maine Energy Recovery Facility in Biddeford, Maine, to the city. Under the terms of the transaction, the city will pay Casella a total consideration of $6.65 million over 21 years and has entered into 10-year waste handling and recycling collection agreements with the company. Casella has reached a post-sale transition agreement with Biddeford under which it will operate the facility for up to six months. Casella has 12 months to dismantle all facilities on the property except for the stack that houses cellular transmission equipment. “In September, we began construction of a new transfer station in Westbrook, Maine, to handle the majority of the waste currently disposed of at Maine Energy,” said John Casella, chairman and CEO of Casella Waste Systems. “We expect to complete construction at Westbrook in late December, and to begin transferring waste historically directed to Maine Energy to other company landfills.” ----------------- Maine Energy no more Casella signs incinerator over to city By DINA MENDROS Staff Writer Published: Saturday, December 1, 2012 5:59 AM EST BIDDEFORD — Around noontime on Friday at City Hall, City Manager John Bubier, surrounded by several city staff members and city councilors, put pen to paper and began the process of signing a stack of documents several inches, marking the beginning of a new course for the City of Biddeford. Earlier that day, officials at Casella Waste Systems, the Rutland, Vt.-based company, signed similar papers that shifted ownership of the Maine Energy Recovery Company waste-to-energy incinerator, located in Biddeford’s downtown, from the company to the city at a cost of $6.65 million. The sale and imminent closure of Maine Energy “is the beginning of an incredible new era of the downtown,” said Bubier. The only unfortunate part, he said, is those people who are losing their jobs. The facility has earned the city the moniker “trash town.” Its odor, traffic and pollution issues have been blamed for a stalled redevelopment of Biddeford’s downtown and nearby mill district, according to officials. The purchase of the incinerator would be completed by the end of business Friday, said Bubier, and ownership of the 8.4-acre site will be turned over to Biddeford. Next, the facility is slated for closure on Dec. 31, according to Casella, and will be torn down sometime next year, with Casella picking up the tab for that cost. All that will remain on the site is the incinerator’s smokestack. There are cellular phone towers attached to the stack; the lease revenue from those towers will be used by the city to pay part of its installments to Casella. It is planned that the stack will eventually come down. Money from a special city fund will be used to pay the rest of the interest-free installments, which the city has up to 20 years to pay off. The sale, which was originally scheduled to take place two weeks ago, was rescheduled for Friday in order to review an environmental report, received Nov. 14, and await receipt of a letter – received Thursday – from the Department of Environmental Protection that effectively protects the city and potential buyers of the site from future liability. Many city officials said they were pleased to be part of the demise of Maine Energy, which they believe brings about new hope for Biddeford’s future. “This is a milestone for Biddeford and changes the city’s economic paradigm,” said Mayor Alan Casavant by phone on Friday. He was unable to take part in the signing as he was recovering from surgery. “As mayor, I feel very fortunate be in the right place at the right time,” he said. Not only does he believe the city will turn a corner toward a brighter economic future, said Casavant, but he also hopes residents will see the city differently and feel more of a sense of pride in their community. This is “one of the best things” he’s been part of while serving on city council said Council President Rick Laverriere. “There’s no looking back now,” he said, “it’s full speed ahead.” Councilor Richard Rhames said he is pleased the deal is done. Rhames, who was reached by phone Friday, has been fighting to close the facility almost since it opened, 25 years ago. He has been one of its harshest critics. “While I’ve always favored a more punitive and vengeful approach,” he said, “given the circumstances, I think it was the best possible outcome.” Rhames credited Environmental Control Officer Brian Phinney as being a key player in getting rid of the incinerator. When Phinney was hired about six years ago, “Biddeford finally had someone at the table who understood how the regulations worked,” he said. Bubier also credited the work of city attorney Keith Jacques for enabling the city to negotiate a favorable deal, and the expertise of Public Works Director Guy Casavant, Finance Director Curt Koehler and Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson. Stevenson’s work will begin in earnest now. He is charged with being at the forefront of the future development of the site, once the facility is removed, which has been described as a prime piece of real estate, as it borders the Saco River. Although a number of investors have already expressed interest in the site, said Stevenson, a feasibility study to determine the best uses will take place over the winter. Sometime next year, the city will request proposals from investors and developers on a national scale. That could lead to the potential of $100 million in investment or more, said Stevenson. In addition to the feasibility study, Biddeford has and is working on a number of other vehicles that will make the city center inviting to potential investors, said Stevenson. For instance, he said, the possibility of a parking garage is on the table and a number of tax credit options are available to investors. “Biddeford has its act together,” said Stevenson. “It’s proactive and moving forward.” “We’re very excited,” said developer Doug Sanford, who owns the largest amount of former mill real estate in Biddeford. “The activity we’ve seen in the last six months rivals anything we’ve had in the last five years,” he said. Sanford said that is due in large part to the news that the solid waste incinerator would soon be gone. “The future looks very bright,” he said. One person who is not as enthusiastic about the sale is former Mayor Joanne Twomey. Along with Rhames, Twomey has been a long-time opponent of the incinerator, and was initially excited by the prospect of the sale. “I should be jumping for joy, but I’m not,” she said by phone Friday. Twomey said she’s concerned about the results of the environmental study at the facility’s site. According to the study, conducted by Credere Associates, LLC, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs, were found at the site. Twomey said she’s concerned about how the cleanup will be handled and the lasting health effects on residents. Both Rhames and Bubier noted that Maine Energy would be responsible for the cost of the cleanup of both contaminants. The area with the dioxins will be cleaned to a “residential standard,” said Rhames, and the area with PCBs – believed to be on the site before Maine Energy was built – will be remediated to a “park standard.” The latter area, which is less than half an acre, is along the riverfront and was already planned to be part of the Biddeford RiverWalk even before the PCBs were found, said Bubier. Several said the momentous purchase Friday, which will lead to the eventual closure and decommissioning of the Maine Energy incinerator, has been many years in the making. “The ground work was laid for this 10-12 years ago when I was on the council and we adopted an air toxins policy,” said Rhames. Work during the administrations of former Mayor Wallace Nutting, 2003-07, and Joanne Twomey from 2007-11, “got us closer,” said Bubier. During Nutting’s administration, the city signed a five-year, waste-handling agreement that ended earlier this year. That was signed on the heels of 17-year contract with the company. While many in the city were displeased when the latest contract was signed, closure of the facility wasn’t on the table, said Councilor Michael Ready, who was on the council six years ago and voted to approve the waste-handling contract. “It was right for that time,” he said. But with what has happened since – the hiring of Phinney, ability to view plant data, inclusion of a clause in the last contract to work toward an “exit strategy” and Casella’s interest in getting out of the incineration business – “This is the perfect opportunity,” said Ready. Casella spokesman Joe Fusco didn’t have much to say about the sale. “Certainly we’re pleased that the sale is completed,” he said, “we’ve been working on this for a long time.” However, said Fusco, it’s almost anti-climactic. “Most of the excitement can be found asking people in Biddeford what they think,” he said. ------------------- PRESS RELEASE Casella Waste Systems Announces the Sale of Its Maine Energy Recovery Facility to the City of Biddeford, Maine

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