Voters at the Solon Town Meeting on Saturday will be asked to adopt an ordinance that would ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing — fracking — drawn up by the Planning Board at the request of last year’s Town Meeting voters.

Planning Board Chairman Michael Golden said Tuesday he was surprised about the discussion that the anti-fracking proposal got at last year’s meeting, but that the board did as it was asked to do.

The board used fracking ordinances from around the country as a model for Solon’s ordinance, though geologists say the state’s rock structure wouldn’t support the practice.

The Solon Town Meeting begins Saturday at Solon Elementary School with the election of town officials from 8 a.m. until 12:15 p.m., and the meeting at 1:30 p.m.

“The Planning Board wasn’t asked to evaluate whether it was necessary or not. They asked us at the last Town Meeting just to develop something for an ordinance that would prohibit hydraulic fracturing in the town for the purposes of oil and gas exploration, and we did that,” Golden said Tuesday. “I think that we all are aware of the fact that the geology doesn’t support the fact that it’s beneficial for hydraulic fracking, so the likelihood of it ever being used is slim to none.”

The three-member Board of Selectmen is recommending passage of the article 2-1, with Mary Lou Ridley and Sara Davis in favor.

The incumbent chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, Elaine Aloes, who is up for re-election, also stressed that such an ordinance is not necessary.

Fracking is a process of drilling into the earth and directing a high-pressure water mixture at the rock to release the 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.

Residents at last year’s Town Meeting voted to become the first town in Maine to impose a moratorium on the practice and asked the Planning Board to come up with a binding ordinance.

“Every time I think about the horrors of fracking throughout a big part of the country, it frightens me with the possibility that it could come to New England, it could come to Maine,” resident Frank Ridley said at last year’s meeting. “It’s as far east as New York state.”

Ridley had asked that the question be put on the Town Meeting warrant last year, and residents debated the question and its amendments for more than an hour, some saying it was a political statement with no meaning in Maine. Others said it was a wise move to adopt a moratorium, noting that some people in communities in other states wish they could go back in time and ban the practice.

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.

Use of a similar method to rejuvenate septic leach fields, increase the yield in drilled water wells and remove groundwater contamination are exempt from the ordinance, if it passes Saturday.

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

Aloes is running unopposed for a three-year term. Michael Foster is running unopposed for road commissioner, as is Leslie Giroux for town clerk and tax collector; and Deron Whittemore is seeking a three-year term, also unopposed, on the School Administrative District 74 board of directors.

The municipal budget by taxation is $10,337 higher than last year, Aloes said, but after using state revenue sharing and available surplus to lower taxes, the taxable budget is $8,526 lower than last year, not including spending from state grants, spending for schools and the county tax.

The amount to be raised from taxes last year was $501,733, according to Aloes. The amount to be raised by taxes if all articles pass as written on Saturday is $493,206. Voters will be asked to take $80,000 form surplus to offset taxes.

Spending articles on Saturday will include voting on proposals to raise $90,000, plus state reimbursements, for winter roads; $100,000 for summer roads; and $50,000 for the road paving reserve account. Residents also will be asked to raise $167,000 to pay the road paving loan. Selectmen and the Budget Committee also recommend spending $99,000 from the highway equipment reserve fund and to borrow $55,000 to purchase a new dump and plow truck and to trade in the town’s 2006 International truck.

This story has been updated to clarify the day and time of the town meeting.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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