BIDDEFORD – The Biddeford City Council voted overwhelmingly tonight to buy Maine Energy Recovery Co. for $6.65 million.

Councilor Melissa Bednarowski cast the lone vote against the plan. The vote was met with cheers and applause by residents who support the purchase.
The plant has generated complaints about odor and truck traffic since it opened 25 years ago in the downtown mill district. Supporters of the agreement say Maine Energy is an obstacle to downtown development, while opponents are concerned about lost jobs and the impact on property taxes.
Under the agreement, Biddeford will buy the trash-to-energy plant on Lincoln Street for $6.65 million over the next 20 years. The incinerator will stop operating in six months and be demolished six months after that.
All that will remain is the smokestack, which holds cellphone towers that generate $150,000 a year in revenue. That, coupled with tax money from a special financing district for Biddeford Crossing, will cover most of the purchase price.
Annual payments start at $150,000 per year and climb to $350,000 per year. The purchase will add 1.8 cents to the city’s property tax rate for 2012-13, followed by small increases for the next 19 years. The average tax bill impact per year over the life of the agreement is $79.35.
The plan also established a curbside recycling program that will begin next summer.
About 70 people showed up to tonight’s hearing at Biddeford Middle School’s auditorium to weigh in on the controversial issue. The City Council moved the hearing away from City Hall, anticipating the large turnout.
The council will take a final vote on the agreement on July 31.