By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff - DEXTER - If Jim Silverman and his attendants had taken the "advice" offered them in recent months by Mid Maine Solid Waste Facility users, they would have been to "hell" and back a number of times.The verbal abuse usually comes after someone attempts to deposit a television set, a monitor or a fluorescent light, and Silverman, supervisor of the facility, or his attendants inform the person of the required disposal fee.
The fees, implemented in October and ranging from $1 to $25, are in response to a state law regarding the disposal of universal waste. That has caused unpleasant reactions among some residents in Corinna, Dexter, Exeter, Ripley, Cambridge and St. Albans who share the use of the solid waste facility on the Airport Road in Dexter. The facility serves about 10,000 people.
"Go to hell, I'm not paying that, I'll take it out and bury it behind my house," is a common response that Silverman and his attendants hear when users are advised of the new fees.
One user apparently was so upset that he deposited his television set on an association board member's lawn.
"Ninety-five percent of the people are good. It's just a small percentage that make it bad for the rest of them," Silverman said Thursday.
The small remainder, when told of the new disposal fees, often threaten to dispose of the materials in other ways. If they do so and are caught in the act, Silverman plans to make an example of them.
"People using the facility need to understand that the new fees were established in response to a requirement mandated by state and federal government," Dexter Town Manager Robert Simpson said Thursday.
"Attendants at the transfer station are meeting with a lot of resistance to the new fees as well as a disturbing level of verbal abuse by some customers," he said.
The Mid Maine Solid Waste Facility is one of 38 facilities in the state to have fully implemented a program to dispose of universal waste such as television sets, computer monitors, thermostats, thermometers, fluorescent bulbs, mercury vapor lights, and lights containing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.
These items are considered hazardous and must be treated differently from standard municipal waste, including the use of special handling containers. Only state-approved trucking firms may transport the items to specific disposal sites in and out of state.
As a move to protect the environment, the state has mandated that all communities must have a program in place for such universal wastes by the year 2005.
Businesses that generate such products had to comply with the law by Jan. 1, 2001, according to Ann Pistell, a Department of Environment Protection environmental specialist who works with the program.
Pistell said that while most Maine residents do care for the environment, there will be those individuals who have similar responses to some of the Mid Maine Solid Waste Facility users. "It's always unfortunate when someone takes that avenue," she said.
"All towns will have to make provisions by 2005 to handle certain universal waste, so we encourage them to start work with the program now so they're well-prepared by 2005," Pistell said.
She said the state provided 49 grants in the first funding round and will award more grants through a bond issue recently approved by Maine voters.
Facilities or communities awarded grants earlier had a choice of selecting a pre-made shed ordered, paid for and delivered by the state, or a $7,000 grant to construct or modify a building for specific needs. The 49 grants cover services for about two-thirds of the state's population, according to Pistell.
Silverman said that since businesses had to comply with the new law, municipal officials decided that everyone else also should comply.
The town applied for and was awarded a Department of Environmental Protection grant to construct a 20-by-30-foot storage building for the universal waste.
Although many Maine communities charge no fee for homeowners to dispose of these items, Mid Maine Association members felt they had to impose fees to help offset costs.
"We were trying to place the burden on users rather than taxpayers," Simpson said. He said implementation of the special handling procedures is costly, cumbersome and difficult.
Although the new fee schedule is unpopular, he said it is the only way the association can deal effectively with the expense of complying with the new mandate.
Silverman wants users to recognize that the transfer station attendants are not responsible for establishing the fees. "We don't pass these laws and regulations, we just have to enforce them," he said.
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