AUGUSTA, Maine — Members of Gov. Paul LePage’s economic advisory team met with Millinocket Town Manager Peggy Daigle and Millinocket’s Town Council on an economic development matter that councilors will address in an executive session, officials said Wednesday.
Daigle and several council members left the meeting with George Gervais, Maine Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner; John Butera, senior economic adviser; and Rosaire Pelletier, forest products industry liaison, at 4:30 p.m. The meeting lasted 1½ hours.
The participants declined to discuss the content of the meeting, which was held in a conference room adjacent to the governor’s office. Daigle set the executive session for the Millinocket town office at noon Thursday. LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett amended an earlier statement about the meeting to say that LePage attended part of it.
LePage’s administration has most recently been working with Cate Street Capital, a New Hampshire investor in the Katahdin region mills. Cate Street also is backing a proposed $140 million pellet mill that would be built in Millinocket’s Katahdin Avenue industrial park.
Millinocket filed a lien seeking $2.24 million in delinquent property taxes from Great Northern Paper Co. LLC, a company Cate Street formed to run the East Millinocket and Millinocket paper mills after it bought both for $1 in 2011. Cate Street’s spokeswoman responded by saying that the lien interferes with the company’s efforts to revitalize the region’s economy. The company has at least $6.8 million in liens filed against it by the Internal Revenue Service and its creditors.
LePage said during a campaign stop in Gray on Tuesday that he hoped to make progress this week on getting the East Millinocket paper mill restarted. The mill stopped operating in January and 212 of its 256 workers were laid off on Feb. 6. GNP officials said then that they hoped to restart the mill in 16 weeks, a deadline that lapsed in mid-May.
When asked if there was any hope for the mills in the Katahdin region, LePage answered, “I don’t know.”
“I asked this morning that the economic development people come in and see me before Friday. We’re trying to set up a meeting. I don’t know. I’m very, very, very concerned,” LePage said Tuesday. “I’ve asked them to come in and let’s have a discussion and if need be I will go to Cate Street myself and sit down with them. I hope to do that this week.”
Maine’s constitution and Freedom of Access laws allow members of the executive branch of government to meet with the council in what might otherwise have been a council quorum that would require the posting of a public notice and meeting agenda in advance, said Mal Leary, president of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition and a journalist who owns and operates Capital News Service. The council is not allowed to take action during such meetings.
If they intend to do business during a meeting, then the meeting must be posted in advance with an agenda, Leary said.
BDN State House Bureau Chief Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this story included spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett's statement that Gov. LePage did not attend the meeting. Bennett has amended an earlier statement about the meeting to say that LePage attended part of it.