OCRRC question ‘fails miserably’

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REGION — Confusion over a ballot question in the Nov. 8 general election  appears to have led to the overwhelming defeat of a plan to terminate the joint recycling agreement and the Oxford County Regional Recycling Corporation.

Voters in more than half the remaining 15 Oxford County towns, townships and plantations involved in the regional program, either voted not to terminate the joint recycling agreement or agreed to hold off on the vote until a future town meeting during the Nov. 8 general election.

In July, Oxford County Regional Recycling Corp. took the first step to dissolve the  organization when 12 of the remaining 15 municipalities voted to dissolve the corporation by putting it out to a vote. The 20-year-old organization originally involved about 20 communities, but over the years some towns, like Waterford, have opted out to pursue other avenues such as single-stream recycling at their transfer station.

Escalating transportation costs and a move toward single-stream recycling made the county recycling program obsolete, corporation officials said.

According to the agreement, member towns had to hold a referendum to make sure each town wanted to terminate the program. The majority of the towns had to pass the measure by a two-thirds vote.

But of the remaining 15 towns only Otisfield, Norway, Paris, Bethel, Greenwood, Woodstock, Newry and Livermore voted on the request in local referendum questions during the Nov. 8 general election.

Others will have a vote at future town meetings. One town, Hanover, was unaware a vote to terminate was taking place, said OCRRC Chairman Janet Jamison.

Jamison, who said she was appointed chairman of the OCRRC in recent months, said confusion by voters who may have felt a “yes” vote would end recycling, led to the defeat of the measure.

“A lack of marketing and due diligence by board reps lead to this failure,” said Jamison, who was appointed chairman of the OCRRC with a mandate to shut down the “unnecessary” entity (OCRRC).

Some town officials agreed with Jamison’s assessment of the defeat.

Warren Sessions, of the OCCR recycling station and a Norway selectman, said he believed some Norway residents, particularly the elderly, were afraid the good service that the recycling center offers now would change if they voted to terminate the agreement.

“I am not on the board now, but I believe that we didn’t do enough explaining so that the citizens really understood what they were voting on. I think they thought that it was going to end recycling,” said Woodstock Town Manager Vern Maxfield.

Jamsion said the board met the night after the election and members agreed they must move forward to terminate the agreement.
“The question is not easily addressed in a large format without extensive marketing, which is obviously difficult with an all volunteer board,” she said.
During the meeting, the board also voted to approve a budget in which all revenues to fund OCRR will now be taken from existing revenues, Jamison said. The towns will no longer pay dues to the corporation and a letter will be sent to notify member communities that no transport will be provided after June 30, 2017, she said.
The board also voted to direct Sessions to dispose of 20 of the most damaged/unusable recycling containers. Most likely these will be sold for scrap, Jamison said.
Norway Town Manager David Holt had said before the general election, that if the OCRRC dissolved it would not change how things worked and residents in Norway would not really see any difference in the operation.

“It is unlikely that any of us will notice any difference in our weekly trip to Brown Street with our recyclables,” Holt said of the chance that the OCRRC would dissolve. “The facility will be operated by Norway/Paris Solid Waste instead of 17 [15] county towns. The staff will no longer travel around the county picking up recyclables in other towns.”

Some towns, like Woodstock are already recycling with larger firms such as Pine Tree/Casella, said Maxfield. Others like Milton Township pay to send their recyclables to Greenwood and Woodstock there they are picked up by a recycling company.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net

Results of Member Community Votes on Dissolution of OCRRC

(Two-thirds vote within each town needed, then simple majority of towns needed to pass measure.)

Bethel: Yes 620 No 931 Needed 1,034 Failed

Denmark: Not on ballot. Will vote at an as of yet unscheduled special town meeting.

Gilead: Not on ballot.

Greenwood: Yes 230 No 217 Needed 298 Failed

Hanover: Not on ballot.

Hebron: Not on ballot. Will vote at annual town meeting in March 2017.

Lincoln Plantation: Results not obtained.

Livermore: Yes 749 No 470 Needed 862, Failed

Newry: Yes 166 No 102 Needed 179, Failed

NorwayYes 1,173 No 1,338, Needed 1674, Failed

Otisfield: Yes 644 No 416, Needed 707, Failed

Milton TownshipNot on ballot.

Paris: Yes 1,074 No 884, Needed 1305, Failed

Upton: Not on ballot.

Woodstock: Yes 247 No 437 Needed 456, Failed