EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Businesses interested in exploring whether they can profit from a landfill at the center of a debate between Gov. Paul LePage and Millinocket leaders will tour the 3,300-acre facility on Wednesday, officials said Monday.
More than a dozen firms have expressed interest in possibly owning or operating the Dolby landfill in some manner, but only a few have committed to attending the pre-bid meeting at the town library at 10 a.m., said George MacDonald, director of the community assistance program within the state planning office. A tour of the landfill will follow.
MacDonald hopes to see many potential landfill operators there and won’t know what they have in mind for the landfill until the meeting, if not later, he said.
The state’s request for proposals regarding the landfill “is written broadly so we would entertain any reasonable proposals,” MacDonald said Monday. “Whether a company wants to propose doing something at it, utilizing it in some way, who knows?
“We want to see what interest is out there,” he added.
State officials have been exploring what to do with the landfill since the Legislature agreed last spring to assume ownership of Dolby as part of the state’s efforts to find a new owner to run the East Millinocket and Millinocket paper mills. LePage and legislators wanted the mills restarted to restore the Katahdin region economy, but potential owners shied away from the mills, which for decades used the landfill, because they felt it was an enormous potential liability.
Previous estimates set its shutdown costs at $17 million.
A New Hampshire investor purchased the mills and restarted the East Millinocket mill in October, employing about 216 workers.
LePage had been in talks with East Millinocket and Millinocket leaders since fall over sharing landfill operational costs. But LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett announced earlier this month that the governor would withhold about $216,000 of a Sudden and Severe Impact Fund allocation because he felt Millinocket leaders had broken their word to fund landfill operations annually. He also believed that for many years the Millinocket mill was overtaxed.
Millinocket leaders said LePage had lied and they had agreed only to a one-time contribution to Dolby operations. State officials had proposed to allocate $150,000 annually to landfill operations, with East Millinocket and Millinocket contributing $50,000 each in cash or in-kind services.
If all goes well, a potential private mill operator will file a final proposal for Dolby ownership or operation by April 25, Bennett said.
“There will be a group of reviewers looking at their proposals. If we get a few proposals, it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks or a month to decide which should be pursued,” MacDonald said.