No Meeting Between Mayor and Casella

Saturday May 03, 2008

By: Dina Mendros
Staff Writer
Source: Journal Tribune Weekend
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Page: A1, A3
BIDDEFORD – Mayor Joanne Twomey expressed disappointment early this week that the head of Casella Waste Systems, Inc. has refused her April 10 invitation to meet and discuss a strategy for Maine Energy Recovery Company exit from Biddeford’s downtown.
Casella’s President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Larkin has indicated he’s aware of a contract clause calling for the city and the company to work together toward closing the facility in a manner that furthers the interests of both parties.
However, in a letter dated April 18, Larkin wrote that a meeting between he and the mayor would only be “productive” once discussions between representatives from the city and Maine Energy “produce feasible options for closure.”
Until then, he advised Twomey that the exit strategy discussions should take place between city officials and local representatives of Maine Energy.
Larkin wrote in his response that, like Twomey, he is new to his job: “I find myself on a learning curve, trying to familiarize myself with all of the company’s operations, including Maine Energy.”
Prior to his appointment as president of Casella in January, Larkin worked at Office Depot, Inc. corporate offices for 10 years.
“If he’s unknowledgable he shouldn’t have been given the job,” said Twomey.
Larkin wrote that, for now, Casella Regional Vice President Brian Oliver and Maine Energy Recovery Company General Manager Ken Robbins will be managing the discussions.
Twomey said she has nothing personal against Oliver and Robbins, but, “their interest is not to exit the city. Their interest is to keep their jobs.”
In a previous interview, Robbins said closure discussions are very complicated. For the company to leave, it wants a return on its investment of the downtown incinerator.
Robbins said he is available to meet with Twomey and other city representatives.
Budget discussion have preoccupied city officials for over the past month, and no meetings between the two parties have been scheduled since an initial meeting when Twomey first took office in January.
City Manager John Bubier said Biddeford’s contract with Casella requires the two parties “to have discussions in good faith with respect to closure options.”
Biddeford Environmental Code Officer Brian Phinney said that if the clause is not adhered to by Casella, the company could be considered in material breach of contract.
City Attorney Keith Jacques said he has not been asked to examine the issue, and is unsure of the ramifications if the closure clause was breached.