June 19, 2018
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Mill closure money for Millinocket irks other towns left out of the loop

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

Millinocket was designated the Katahdin region’s new economic development agency and for that received a $75,000 payment — before the region’s other towns knew of it, officials said Thursday.

East Millinocket’s Mark Scally and Medway’s David Dickey, chairmen of the towns’ boards of selectmen, said they believed it was arrogant of Millinocket leaders to claim the designation and money without their consent.

“We can talk about being good neighbors all day, but the bottom line is that they [Millinocket leaders] protect their own interests and don’t worry about the rest of us,” Dickey said Thursday. “It’s what they have done right along.”

Scally was trying to learn why Maine Department of Economic and Community Development officials gave Millinocket the designation. Dickey wants to set a special meeting of his board to discuss the issue.

“I want some rationale,” Scally said. “There was no conversation with Millinocket [officials].”

Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue was out of the office Thursday. He, Town Council Chairman Wallace Paul and Councilors Jimmy Busque and Scott Gonya did not return messages and e-mails seeking comment. The four attended a Joint Municipal Elected Officials Board meeting Wednesday at which the issue was discussed briefly.

A Sept. 25 letter to Conlogue from state Economic and Community Development Commissioner John Richardson says, “We recognize that the Katahdin paper mill has shut down and [have] agreed to your request for designation as the economic development body serving the Katahdin region.”

Yet the Millinocket town charter — which effectively requires Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. to pay $75,000 annually over several years in compensation for any shutdown of Brookfield Asset Management’s Katahdin paper mills — doesn’t give Millinocket the funding, Scally said.

The charter, which was amended in 2002, states: “If there is a paper mill closing, the owner of the hydropower facilities shall pay an annual amount of $75,000 to the economic development body serving the Katahdin region as identified by” DECD to offset the impact of a shutdown.

Millinocket Town Councilor Jim Mingo, who attended the meeting Wednesday, said he didn’t know Millinocket had received the $75,000 or would become the region’s economic developer.

The Millinocket mill shut down on Sept. 2. Brookfield Renewable, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset, cut the check on Oct. 8. Millinocket cashed it on Oct. 14, a company spokeswoman said. Conlogue said at the joint meeting that the council would decide after the election how to use the money. He did not rule out using it regionally.

Scally believes the funds should be divided regionally. Dickey suggested they go to Magic, the former Millinocket Area Growth & Investment Council, or MAGIC, the last of several regional development agencies the towns used. MAGIC became Magic when Millinocket ended its relationship with the organization last year. But Dickey said Magic remains Medway’s agent.

Richardson did not appear to know Thursday that Millinocket officials had made claims without East Millinocket and Medway’s consent. Contrary to Dickey’s statement, Richardson said Magic is now defunct.

But Dickey said that “Magic still represented the town of Medway when that [Richardson] letter was sent. I am hoping no one was misled into believing Magic was not part of this.”

The impact of the paper mill’s shutdown is felt regionwide, so the money should be so distributed, Richardson said. As of Thursday, 77 of about 208 workers had been laid off from the mill, which is being winterized.

Scally said he could see claiming that Millinocket is hardest hit by the mill closure, but he insisted its charter doesn’t allow for that.

“We do not know what economic development we can bring into this area and there is no guarantee that Millinocket would be the place to set a business. The three towns have to work together,” Dickey said. “Economic development is not a Millinocket problem, it’s a Katahdin problem.”



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