MILLINOCKET, Maine — Richard Angotti is the town’s new top elected leader, and he hopes to face the town’s daunting problems slowly and calmly.
The Town Council voted 5-0 on Thursday to name the 63-year-old Angotti the successor to Council Chairman John Davis, who resigned his position that day to take a full-time job as Frenchville’s town manager. An electrical and instrumentation technician at Millinocket-based D&S Engineering Inc., Angotti has been a councilor since 2010, he said Tuesday.
Like the Katahdin region, Millinocket faces a variety of problems. Its unemployment levels are high, its population is declining and increasingly elderly and on fixed incomes. Much of the town and region’s future, Angotti said, rests on a proposal for Maine to guarantee a $25 million loan to Thermogen Industries LLC, so that the company can build a torrefied wood pellet plant on the former paper mill site on Katahdin Avenue in Millinocket. The Finance Authority of Maine is scheduled to act on that proposal in Augusta on Thursday.
Millinocket Town Manager Peggy Daigle is formulating a proposal to sell town-owned abandoned properties to adjoining homeowners at low prices in return for the homeowners’ guarantee that they would raze the properties. She said this would greatly help the town adjust from having had a population of more than 7,000 to a population today of about 4,500. No council review date has been set.
Angotti said the issues town leaders face are unprecedented and troubling but can be overcome if town leaders and residents face them calmly, directly and dispassionately.
“As a lifelong Millinocket resident, I respect the town and what it stands for,” Angotti said. “It is just a matter of putting our best foot forward, and we need to act together. We need to work together.
“We need to see what happens with Cate Street,” he added, in reference to the company proposing the pellet plan. “If we can get Cate Street, that would help. It’s a step forward.”
Cate Street Capital LLC subsidiary Thermogen Industries proposes to build the first torrefied wood machine in New England with newly-patented Scottish technology that has never been built to full scale. The construction of the pellet machine is expected to take two years. It will create or sustain as many as 125 well-paying forest-industry jobs, according to company officials.
The torrefied wood machine is no cure-all, Angotti said, but brighter things can lie ahead for the town if its leadership focuses on the problems and not on special interests.