Millinocket council delays decision on whether to sue state over funds dispute

Posted April 26, 2012, at 6:33 p.m.
Last modified April 27, 2012, at 5:45 a.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town leaders emerged from an hourlong executive session late Thursday afternoon and opted again to delay a decision on whether to sue the state over $216,000 in disputed state funds.

“We have to have a few more meetings on this to figure some things out,” Town Council Chairman John Davis said after the meeting. “We haven’t decided one way or the other.”

Rep. Herb Clark, D-Millinocket, attended the executive session in Town Manager Eugene Conlogue’s office and part of the council meeting afterward.

Adrienne Bennett, Gov. Paul LePage’s spokeswoman, has said she would no longer comment on the dispute between LePage and town leaders over the $216,000 in Sudden and Severe Impact funds.

The dispute between LePage and town leaders centers on LePage’s issuing $504,000 in Sudden and Severe Impact funds to Millinocket on March 7 instead of the $720,000 the town is owed. LePage claimed that Millinocket officials would have received more but they broke their pledge to pay $50,000 annually toward the operation of the East Millinocket-based Dolby landfill.

Town officials angrily denied LePage’s claim and produced a string of correspondence that showed they never agreed to more than one $50,000 payment. East Millinocket received its first monthly Sudden and Severe Impact payment late last month. More recently, Clark accused LePage of blackmailing the town and hurting town schools to get more money from town coffers to run the landfill. Almost all of the $720,000 would be for school funding.

Originally state officials said they sought to allocate $150,000 to landfill operations annually, with East Millinocket and Millinocket contributing $50,000 each in cash or in-kind services annually. The state’s taking ownership of Dolby was crucial to Cate Street Capital’s purchase last fall of the East Millinocket and Millinocket paper mills, which restored about 216 jobs to the region.

On March 22, the council twice voted 6-1 to table until April 12 orders to sue the state for the full $720,000 and to rescind a $50,000 one-time payment at the center of its dispute with the governor. Councilors again tabled the order to rescind the $50,000 payment when they met on April 12.

The $216,000 dispute was again on the council’s agenda on Thursday as an executive session.

The $504,000 check LePage had cut for the town early last month remains locked in the town’s safe, Conlogue said.

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