SOLON — Voters at the Town Meeting on Saturday will be asked if they want to become the first town in Maine to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The measure’s intent is to protect the town’s water resources, but the state geologist said no fracking is going on in Maine because there are no known gas and oil deposits in the state, and the state’s rocky subterrain is simply not suitable for the practice.

Fracking is a process of drilling into the earth and directing a high-pressure water mixture at the rock to release shale gas and oil inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Opponents of the practice worry that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used in the process could escape and contaminate groundwater around a fracking site. There are also worries that the fracking process can cause earth tremors.

A spokesman at the Maine Municipal Association said he thinks Solon would become the first community in the state to adopt such a resolution.

“Myself and two of our attorneys have not heard of any town or city doing this yet,” MMA spokesman Eric Conrad said. “We have not heard of another town doing this.”

The moratorium would give the Solon Planning Board time to develop an ordinance, which the town would vote on, to ban the practice altogether, Selectwoman Elaine Aloes said. Aloes said a Solon resident asked that the question be included in the Town Meeting warrant.

Robert Marvinney, the state geologist, said the rock structure in Maine would not support fracking, even if a company wanted to attempt the practice.

“There’s nowhere in Maine where that is happening, and actually, the geology just wouldn’t support that kind of exploration and development work,” Marvinney said Wednesday. “We just don’t have oil and gas anywhere in the state.”

He said Maine sits on high-grade metamorphic rock that has been subjected to heat and pressure along with granite intrusions, which were molten rock. The extraction of oil or gas using the hydraulic fracturing method requires specific temperatures, and the rock of Maine already has been subjected to much higher temperatures.

The Town Meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Solon Elementary School. Balloting for town officers is scheduled for 8 a.m. until 12:15 p.m., also at the school. There are no contested elections.

Voters on Saturday also will be asked to change the position of town treasurer from an elective post to an appointive one following errors in the filing of town payroll taxes in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The change, if approved Saturday, would take place March 5, 2016, according to the meeting warrant.

Aloes said the taxes were paid once the errors were discovered and the required paperwork was sent to the Internal Revenue Service, but the town still faced $40,000 in penalties and interest. The town hired a tax lawyer and appears to have successfully negotiated an appeal of some of the penalties owed.

Former Town Treasurer Judith Robertson stepped down after last year’s Town Meeting. Sharon Begin was appointed to take her place and is on the ballot this year for election to a one-year term.

Robertson also has agreed to pay back all of the money that had been unaccounted for, Aloes said. The town Budget Committee recommends not accepting any money from Robinson.

“All the money is available there. It just hasn’t been transferred yet,” Aloes said. “We have heard back from the IRS, and they are going to waive all penalties. We still will owe some interest, but all the penalties, which was the largest amount, has all been forgiven.”

Aloes said the interest payments owed will be $5,000 or less. The town also has to pay about $3,000 in legal fees.

Solon residents at last year’s Town Meeting approved a budget of $314,579 to be taken from taxation, down from $321,074, not including spending from state grants, spending for schools and the county tax. This year, Aloes said, the budget is expected to rise about $23,700 if all of the articles are passed as written.

Increases in spending are the result of a loss of state revenue sharing money and some increases to summer and winter roads spending. Proposed spending for winter roads in the coming year is $90,000 and for summer roads $100,000, including the purchase of gravel to rebuild some of the back roads.

Aloes said the town tax rate of $16 per $1,000 in property valuation is expected to increase slightly. Voters will be asked to take $80,000 from surplus to reduce taxes.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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