Katahdin mill purchase talks ‘very productive’

Posted Feb. 17, 2011, at 10:33 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A representative from the investment firm looking to purchase the Millinocket and East Millinocket paper mills indicated he was optimistic about the deal after a meeting with Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday.

Lee Hansen, a partner in the San Francisco-based firm Meriturn, said he and other company representatives have had a “very productive couple of days” as they met with LePage, town officials and millworkers in the Millinocket area and in Augusta.

Hansen said Thursday’s meeting with LePage and members of his Cabinet was intended to start a dialogue about what needs to happen for Meriturn to purchase the Katahdin Paper Co. mills.

“He was very responsive and willing to understand the issues,” Hansen said. “And he was determined to work through those issues with us.”

Meriturn has signed a letter of intent to acquire the mills as long as certain conditions are met. Those conditions include arrangements to establish a biomass co-generation facility at the Millinocket mill as well as tax deals with the local towns.

The deal could restore as many as 150 full-time jobs at the Millinocket mill.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us to address the challenges … but nothing we can’t overcome at this point,” Hansen said.

One local representative, Sen. Doug Thomas of Ripley, also walked out of Thursday’s meeting optimistic.

“It looks hopeful,” Thomas said. “These are serious people and it looks good.”

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