MILLINOCKET, Maine — Bruce McLean wouldn’t mind once again being the Katahdin region’s economic development agent, but said he doesn’t seek the designation or the $75,000 that comes with it.
A Town Council member and the executive director of Magic — an economic development agency that represents Medway and once represented the region — McLean said he told the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development that another agency would better serve the region than his or the town of Millinocket.
Eastern Maine Development Corp. “is also a good, legitimate economic development agency and I thought that it was better going to them than the town,” McLean said Tuesday. “Arguably, the town would not necessarily be considered an economic development agency and be able to claim to have the region’s best interests in mind.
“I said we [Magic] don’t ask for the money because I don’t want to start World War III,” he added.
Contention over the title of the region’s economic development agent appeared settled Monday when DECD Commissioner John Richardson ordered that $75,000 given to the town be frozen until town officials work out a regional economic development plan with East Millinocket and Medway.
If the leaders cannot develop a plan, Eastern Maine Development Corp. will do it, he said.
Medway and East Millinocket officials had complained that Millinocket had violated a section of the agreement between the state and owners of hydropower dams on the Penobscot River that complied the owners to pay $75,000 toward a regional economic development agency in the event of a paper mill shutdown.
The Katahdin Avenue paper mill temporarily closed on Sept. 2. Millinocket collected the money about a month later, with the town being designated the region’s economic development agent despite the other towns’ officials not knowing of the designation being awarded. Town officials have failed to return telephone calls or e-mails since the controversy began.
Criticism of Magic’s ability to bring business to the area, plus blame McLean felt was ludicrously attached to Magic over the Katahdin economy and any deterioration in the forest products industry, led the council to terminate its relationship with Magic in 2007. East Millinocket decided not to fund Magic this year and the agency didn’t seek funding from Medway.
Magic is not defunct, McLean said. As its sole worker, McLean still answers to its board of directors and is working with Eastern Maine Development Corp. on the second phase of a forest products study grant. He counsels fledgling entrepreneurs and teaches business self-reliance seminars. His next, for displaced millworkers, will be held Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Katahdin Region Higher Education Center in East Millinocket.
McLean, 40, who will leave the council next week after declining to seek re-election, is poised to buy the town Subway franchise off Route 11. The deal is due to close next week, he said.
“I enjoyed my time on the council for the most part,” he said. “I really don’t like the bickering and things but I think by and large that came to an end and we [councilors] were getting along … I just needed a change of scenery. Maybe I will pick it back up again, maybe I won’t.
“I needed to shift from being somebody who tried to create an environment for others to do business to being somebody who did business themselves,” he said.