Saying the conversation around housing an anaerobic digester in Lexington has gotten "too nasty," selectmen are trying to get more information about the proposal out to the public.
The board voted unanimously Monday to post on the town’s website a draft of a request for proposals for an anaerobic digester at the old Hartwell Avenue landfill. But the board said the vote to post the draft online is not a decision to move forward with issuing a request for proposals to seek response from vendors.
Selectmen are posting the draft to get reaction from the public about the issue.
Selectmen Chairwoman Deb Mauger said she believes the conversation about the digester has gotten “too nasty,” and she thinks the town needs to get as much information out to the public about the proposal as possible. In one instance, Mauger said an opponent to the idea told her that an anaerobic digester in Rutland does not exist and called her a "liar."
“I think we owe it to the community to post this,” Mauger said.
Commercial building landlords along Hartwell Avenue and many neighbors have raised strong opposition to housing the digester on the site because of concerns about noise, odors and the number of large trucks that would travel to and from the site. Landlords have even raised concerns about posting the request for proposals online because they said it will send a message that the town is seriously considering the facility and could hurt their ability to rent office space in the area.
Anaerobic digesters use micro-organisms to break down organic materials, such as food waste, and convert them into electricity. Leftover materials from the process can also be used for fertilizer. Lexington is one of a handful of communities in the state that received a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to investigate housing a digester. The state is interested in using the facilities to divert food waste from landfills.
Selectman Norman Cohen said some of the comments on both sides of whether an anaerobic digester is a good idea have been “over the top,” such as an argument raised by some opponents that there would be large trucks traveling to and from the site every two minutes.
But Cohen said he does think some of the arguments the Hartwell Avenue landlords have made can be supported.
“At the end of the day, I am leaning at this point to vote no to this facility,” Cohen said.
Selectman Hank Manz did not say if he would support a facility in the town, but suggested that if the board was to post a draft of the request for proposals the town should also indicate that no decision has been made about whether to issue the draft to vendors.
“Certainly I am not sensing a widespread support of the board to go forward with releasing it for vendor comment,” Manz said.