MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town leaders will offer the state a $50,000 one-time payment to help it operate the Dolby landfill next year in an attempt to end negotiations with state leaders over the landfill’s future, officials said Wednesday.
With Councilors Richard Angotti and Michael Madore opposing, the Town Council voted 5-2 during a meeting Tuesday to allocate the money provided state leaders meet several conditions. The conditions include:
• A letter from the state completely indemnifying the town of responsibilities, other costs, lawsuits, or any other obligations that may arise in connection with the Dolby landfill.
• State acceptance of April 30, 2012, as the date when such payment shall be made in full.
• Gov. Paul LePage’s support of a bill by Rep. Herbert Clark, D-Millinocket, to have the state fund landfill operating costs beginning July 1, 2012.
Town leaders hope to hear back from the state within two weeks, officials said.
At issue was whether or how much Millinocket and East Millinocket would contribute to the operations of the landfill since the Legislature voted in June to take ownership of the dump.
State ownership of the landfill was seen as a key element to the revitalization of the two Katahdin region paper mills, as no would-be buyer wanted the estimated $254,100 annual cost of operating the landfill and the estimated $17 million it would cost to close and cap the landfill and contain leachate from the Dolby II and Dolby III portions of it.
But state leaders balked at entirely assuming the costs, arguing that the towns should help. Town leaders responded that while they were grateful for the new mills’ ownership, the towns lacked the funding, manpower, equipment or expertise to maintain the landfill.
East Millinocket’s Board of Selectmen met Monday to possibly vote on a proposed resolution to their negotiations with state leaders, a town official said. However, state officials had not yet replied to East Millinocket’s offer, so no vote occurred. East Millinocket leaders have declined to release details of their offer.
Madore said he declined to support Millinocket’s order because he felt the town could not afford it and didn’t want the town to assume operating costs for any entity town leaders didn’t directly control.
“The landfill is in East Millinocket and even in that case the people of East Millinocket do not own the landfill,” Madore said. “At a time when we have taken a $104 million hit in tax valuation [with the Millinocket mill resale], our schools are in financial trouble and we are looking at a financial year where things would be even tighter … than they are already, I couldn’t see supporting this.”
“When we went to Augusta, I felt that I as a councilor was attacked for not being grateful for the effort of the governor [to aid the mills’ sale], and nothing could be further than the truth,” he continued. “Gratitude comes freely. Everything else costs. They [state officials] were quick to point out to everybody that the state did this for us, and to some extent that’s true, but the state did it for the state, too. They need Millinocket and the mills to be an economic engine again to northern Maine, not just the Katahdin region.”
“This whole half of the state suffered when the mills went down,” Madore said.