Vassalboro Conservation Commission Minutes 12/10/2020 via Zoom (on line)

Present: Christopher French, Betsy Poulin, Steve Jones, David Jenney, Patricia King, Holly Weidner (Chair), and Peggy Horner (guest and interested in joining VCC)

1) Investigating possibilities for reducing organic wastes through composting as a means to reduce tax burden from trash fees and decrease pollution:

a. Chris presented information collected from an UMaine economic study and from his own research. On average, 40% of Maine towns’ trash is organic waste. Our town’s 2020-2021 budget for tipping fees is $140,000 and $51,000 transport fees. Tipping fees are $200/truck, usually each trip takes 12-14 tons but with problems with the compacter there are more trips and less tonnage (maybe around 7/tons a trip).
b. Betsy and Chris offered different options that might be used in Vassalboro including: joining with KVCOG (Gabe Gauvin) on Food Waste Projects; working together with other towns e.g. China (contact person -Irene Belanger, select person) to form a regional solution; work with other private collaborators in Central Maine: e.g. Scrap Dog who have worked with municipalities and individuals in recycling food scraps in the Rockland, Thomaston and Hope areas. They can do door to door pickup or central pickup like at the transfer station; develop a town composting area (this would involve a redesign the Transfer Station to be able to easily and safely collect food scraps and an upgraded licensing. George Hamar, Transfer Station, has been approached and has input on how to make it happen); work with local private trash collectors to see how they might integrate with any new system (Some have expressed an interest).
c. The VCC members were interested in pursuing options :
d. Action: Chris and Betsy will write up a draft letter for the select board to consider for their Jan 7th meeting. We will propose that the VCC, working with others, will develop a draft 3-5 yr. plan for diverting as much organic waste from the waste stream in order to lower the cost of disposing of the town’s trash and thus the tax burden. Chris will contact Mary Sabin to get this on the Jan 7th agenda and will email members a draft to be edited and then send onto Mary , the select board and George.

2) Carbon fee and dividend program:

a. A request for the select board to endorse a town warrant article for the next town meeting in 2021 that would direct our state and federal representatives to pass legislation that would endorse a nationwide carbon fee and dividend program.
b. Peggy Horner presented information about this program from the website . (Details can be seen at this site including the language of the warrant article). This type of program would require an increasing fee on the oil, gas and coal producers at the point of production based on the Carbon that is produce (and thus the amount of pollution generated in the form of plastics, CO2 and other pollutants). The income from the fee would not be a part of the US govt budget like a tax would be, but would be directly and equally distributed to every person in the US. The purpose is to have the cost of pollution, wastes, and climate changes from fossil fuels to be born by the industries that are profiting from it, to transfer some of those profits to people in the US who already bear the costs and to give an incentive to industries to use less costly alternatives.
c. Action: VCC members were unanimous in supporting this legislation and asking the select board to endorse it for inclusion on the next town warrant.
d. Peggy will write up a draft letter for the select board with the proposal to email to the VCC for editing and ask Mary to add VCC to the agenda for the Jan 7th select board meeting.

3) A spring fed pool, home to native wild brook trout, was accidently covered in the process of a culvert being replaced this fall.

a. Steve Jones explained that the town had a culvert replaced on the Cross Hill Rd. Prior to the work, the IFW discovered 12 native brook trout in a pool above the culvert that evidently were able to maintain a population because there is a spring in that area. (Steve has fished there since a youth and found trout there.) Unfortunately, the pool got filled in, leaving only the stream. The permit and the replacement for the culvert were only designed for a stream, not a stream and pool.
b. Steve, Mary Sabin, Eugene Field (town public works) and the land owner, Jim Foster (who is also the engineer at IFW) met with 8 others from the state and drew up a plan to apply for new permits, to excavate a pool. The project was not costly (rental of an excavator and having town crew do most of the work taking less than a day).
c. Today, Steve was notified that the re-permitting process is more involved than initially thought and that the process may not get done until 2022.
d. Action: the VCC recommends gathering resources to work with the state and town to find a resolution that can act as quickly as possible. Steve and Patricia will write up a letter to be submitted to Town selectmen about the situation and the VCC interest in getting this resolved. Peggy offered her services in helping (she has some professional experience in this area). Steve will ask Mary to be put on the select board agenda for Jan 7th.

4) Peggy Horner would like to join the Vassalboro Conservation Commission.

a) She grew up in Maine and moved back 3 years ago to take care of aging parents where she lives (near the Natanis Golf Course). She got her Masters in biology and specializes in endangered species. She has worked for Texas and Missouri State Dept. of Conservation and most recently for the Ozark Land Trust. She is now retired. She lives full time in Maine but still has her official residence in Missouri with her husband.
b) The VCC already has put Peggy to work and will request that the select board appoint Peggy to the VCC as a welcomed addition. Holly will notify Mary and ask that this be put on the Jan 7th board agenda.

5) Announcements: the Kennebec Land Trust has a new water resistant booklet with hikes and trails. Available for $18. Betsy has her addition and recommends it as a holiday gift to family and friends.

6) Our next meeting will be via Zoom on January 14th, 6:30-8pm Thursday.