Idexx Laboratories offered a proposal Tuesday in which it would continue its $50 million plan to expand in Westbrook’s Five Star Industrial Park and Pike Industries would continue mining its nearby rock quarry.

However, Pike Industries said the terms of the proposal would make it impossible for it to operate the quarry.

Also Tuesday, two other businesses in the park threatened to leave the city if Pike is allowed to continue blasting.

Idexx issued a letter to city officials with a proposal that it said would allow Pike to keep operating the quarry and allow biotech businesses to continue growing in the industrial park.

Under the plan, Pike would be limited to blasting six times and extracting 70,000 tons of rock per year while limiting vibration levels from the blasts.

Jonathan Ayers, president and CEO of Idexx, said it’s a fair compromise that would let Pike exceed the level at which it operated in 2007.

Ayers said that if Pike is able to exceed those limits, it would prompt Idexx to expand in a neighboring community.

“We would much prefer to expand at our existing site,” he said. Idexx has proposed a $50 million office building and 500 new jobs in the industrial park.

Tony Buxton, the Preti Flaherty attorney who represents Pike, said that just six blasts a year, at the intensity Idexx has proposed, would put Pike out of business at the quarry off Spring Street.

Pike has proposed 20 blasts a year as well as improvements, like enclosed rock-crushing equipment and an earthen berm to shield neighbors from the sights and sounds of the operation.

Idexx knows its proposal “would make it impossible for Pike to operate,” Buxton said. “Mr. Ayers doesn’t own the property. Pike owns the property and has permits from the city to operate. We are in litigation over the validity of the permits. Pike doesn’t tell Mr. Ayers how to run his business and Mr. Ayers shouldn’t tell us how to run ours.”

At a meeting Tuesday of the editorial board of The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, Ayers said he wants to expand Idexx in Westbrook but will do it elsewhere if Pike continues to blast at the level it has in recent years.

Idexx representatives met with Scarborough officials this month to discuss a possible expansion there. Idexx employs 1,600 people.

Also at the editorial board meeting was Doug Finck, general manager of New Age Media, which operates the television stations WPXT and WPME at the industrial park. He said the company will move if Pike is allowed to blast as it has in recent years. Finck said the company, which employs 25 people, is on the same rock that Pike wants to blast.

“The heavy duty blasting they have been doing for the last couple of years shakes our building and disrupts everything we are doing,” Finck said. “What may work for Idexx might not work for us. We apparently are a little more sensitive to the impact of Pike’s explosions than Idexx is.”

Kirby Pilcher, president of Artel, said that if Pike’s quarry operation resumes at any level, Artel will have to move.

Based on industry guidelines, he said, the company cannot operate near a quarry. Artel employs 55 people and recently invested $1.25 million in an adjacent building to expand its technology business.

Pilcher said at the meeting that he has talked with officials from Scarborough and South Portland about relocating the business.

“We would prefer to stay in Westbrook,” Pilcher said in a statement.

A committee formed by Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton to find a compromise to let high-tech industries coexist with a quarry proposed safeguards last week to protect residents and nearby businesses from the adverse effects of mining.

The recommendations will be the subject of a public hearing from 6 to 9 tonight at Westbrook High School.

A slight majority of the committee favors allowing double blasting six to eight times a year, saying it would be enough to keep Pike in business while limiting the impact on neighbors and nearby businesses. Double blasting is seen as a way for Pike to mine two sides of its quarry at the same time.

Other committee members said they favor no blasting.

Pike officials issued a statement Tuesday offering free box lunches to its supporters before tonight’s public hearing.

Hilton said she remains confident that the committee can find a compromise.

“I was thrilled to see that Idexx made a public statement to support quarry activity and left the door open for the possibility of an agreement,” she said.

“The fact that they are talking about an agreement is progress. The fact that there is dialogue is progress. I continue to have confidence that reasonable minds will come together.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]